USA dot Arsenal dot Com

Great news for American Gooners today, Arsenal has officially made a foray into our market with an American fan focused dot com. The site is usa.arsenal.com and though it’s a little light on content and is clearly geared towards new fans it is exciting that the club is taking a keen interest on growing the brand here in the States.

There are some really great features on here for the novice fan. For example, to this day I have American friends who confuse the  League Cup, the FA Cup, and the Premiership, and thankfully the usa dot com has a feature which helps explain a bit about the tournament that is currently called the Carling Cup.  Or how about a thumbnail sketch of Arsenal’s history? Imagine some guy goes to his local pub for a sandwhich at lunch and there I am screaming about what a genius Eduardo is. He gets interested in the sport and decides to check out this “Arsenal.” That guy doesn’t need to read Rebels for the Cause, just yet, but a nice introduction to the club might just bring him on board.

Now, before you American fans who have been around the block a few years get too critical about the focus of the site and the amount of content, think about it for a second: it takes time to develop content, they have to get American correspondents (ahem, AHEM, must still have a little bit of that cold from last week, sorry about that) or at the very least divert resources from their London offices to fill pages that are geared specifically for Americans. And before you get up on your high horses, I know you guys, about how the site leans too much toward new fans, that too will surely change as time goes on and our fellow fans become more mature and demand different content.

One other thing that I absoultely must mention is that they got an interview with Freddy Ljungberg. I am so absolutely green with envy that they got to interview Freddie because when I spoke to the Sounders media relations department they treated me like I am some kind of Sounders fanboy who just wanted a chance to meet one of my heroes. I tried to make it clear that I am actually an ARSENAL fanboy who wanted to catch up all my readers on what Arsenal’s #11 Greatest Ever Gooner was doing over here in the States but they were having none of it. Oh well, congrats to Kevin Mooney for the interview, it’s very well done and all Gooners, even my English readers, should check it out.

As for other features, there’s a link to Arsenal’s official partner club in the US (the Colorado Rapids), there’s a competition guide to all of the competitions that Arsenal and Arsenal Ladies play in,  the Arsenal Ladies are featured prominently to capture some of that key soccer demographic in the States, and Arsenal’s schedule is even listed in Eastern Standard Time. There’s plenty of content there to keep even my most jaded reader poking around for a bit and more, no doubt, is on its way.

When Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis talked about increasing brand awareness earlier this year, people speculated that the club would look to penetrate Asia first and might neglect the American market. This new endeavor puts that rubbish out to the curb; Arsenal are here in America, they are targeting us as fans, and that means that right now it’s not only goo goo good to be a Goonah with the team’s sparkling on-pitch performances it’s a good time to be an American Goonah.

Who knows, we might even get a pre-season American tour one day.

Arsenal 2-0 W.B.A.: Mia gives an account of the action

It’s a strange life we lead over here as Arsenal fans in the USA. For many of us, getting up at 5am to go to the pub to watch Arsenal play Blackburn is not unusual. Nor is it too strange to take a long lunch and catch a Carling Cup match, or knock off work early to get home and catch the highly promoted ATVO replay of that same match. And now, I guess it’s not unusual for us to be promised a replay of that match only to have to wait hours before we could get to it.

From what I can piece together some people did get to watch the match in extremely low quality right after the final whistle, as ATVO promised. But when I got home at 5pm local time (3 hours after the match ended) I turned on the computer and was shocked to find that the game wasn’t listed. I looked everywhere, every single tab on ATVO (there are a lot of little nooks and crannies there!), and found nothing.

Eventually they started putting up 3 minute highlights and then 12 minute highlights and when I got up this morning and checked they had both halves available. I didn’t watch it, I don’t have time, so you don’t get a match replay from me. Instead, you get an eyewitness account from frequent blog commenter and friend of 7amkickoff, Mia.

So, without any further ado.

Mia’s non-match report

The thing is, you actually see less when you’re there than you do on tv. Or rather, you see different things in a different way. Television highlights the significant action and it gives you multiple camera angles and replays of that. What you see in the stadium is the entire pitch but from only one angle – which in my case was high up, just to the right of the centre circle. It was a great place to be, just over the media (I think), but how they manage to write what they do is beyond me – ‘In the seventh minute an incisive pass from Ramsey found Wilshere…’  type of thing. They, of course, are tapping their laptops at a hundred miles an hour, but since I didn’t take mine along and wasn’t contemplating giving you a report, you’ll have to make do with a few hazy impressions.

We played 4-1-4-1, at least I think we did (see what I mean about clueless). Vowel-less or Voosheck (that’s how Wenger pronounced him in the pre-match thing shown on the big screen) in goal, with the very young James Shea on the bench; Fish-head and Senderos in central defence; Gibbs and Gilbert at full back; Coquelin holding; Traore on the left; Ramsey and Wilshere central, Sunu on the right (or perhaps in the deep-striker role), with Watt up front.

I was excited about Sunu. He was spotted at some minnows French club, apparantly so minnows-ish it was impossible to get an accurate idea of his quality, so we sent our reserves/academy team over to France to see what he looked like against proper opposition. Pretty good, evidently, because we paid 2 million for him and Barca and Milan were in competition. What was he like yesterday? Young, is the answer. I think he’s barely 17, so against an experienced, big, muscular West Brom side who battled very hard, he didn’t shine as he did in the youth cup. He made some good runs, however, and he looks very intelligent. Quick, like Thierry; a close relative of a panther. I was sorry when he was substituted soon after halftime. I was also sorry to see Coquelin come off. As far as I could see he did nothing wrong defensively and his passing was mostly superb – unlike Ramsey’s, who I barely noticed in the first half apart from when he misplaced a pass. Gibbs was fierce. Traore made a fantastic run down the left and I thought he would score, but he crossed (like his elders and betters so often do) and the chance was lost. West Brom were tough; they pressed us hard and it looked like they would score. But Voo-shek made a couple of good saves – he looked massively better and steadier than Mannone – and Gilbert made a goal-line clearance. Senderos and Fish-head did OK.  Wilshere? This where being at in the stadium comes into its own. What you see of Wilshere on tv are the best bits, his fighting qualities and prodigious skill, but what you see better when you’re looking at the entire pitch is that his decision-making isn’t always that good. I now understand better why Wenger thinks he still isn’t quite ready.

The Good

The substitutions were right. I’m not a fan of Mark Randall but he was a more attacking option than Coquelin and he did very well with a brilliant chip that should have been a goal. The whole stadium lifted and the game came alive when Vela came on for Sunu. With West Brom down to ten men and tiring, the goals were only a matter of time. Vela was amazing, lithe, dancing, phenomenal skill.  The keeper saved but Watt tidily knocked in the rebound. Then Vela got his deserved goal. Game over.

The Ugly

Jerome Thomas had been niggling at Wilshere the whole game. Envy, resentment at our upcoming star? No, I didn’t see the slap that led to the red card. The game had moved on and the first I was aware of it was when the section of the stadium near the incident started roaring, and I looked back and saw Wilshere on the ground holding his head. I gather Thomas had kicked him, sneakily and not for the first time; Wilshere had said something and Thomas blew a fuse and gave him a slap and a push.

The Flat

‘The Wonder of You’. Whoever chose ‘The Wonder of You’? It should give you goose bumps but with that fat green mascot swaying in the middle of the pitch it’s just embarrasing. Think about it. What that song says is: I (fan) am a poor miserable creature unworthy of your (the players) love. The second part of this is a lie – the players don’t especially love the home fans, not when they boo and wander off at half-time. And though the first part may be true – we aren’t that worthy of the beautiful football we get – singing about it doesn’t make us more attractive. And anyway, what’s Elvis got to do with the Arsenal? The fans were fine yesterday. Packed stadium, good atmosphere, but not very much noise. Why can’t we have a better song to start off with?

Arsenal v. WBA; The Carling Cup Kicksoff Senderos 2.0

Senderos Own Goal Aston Villa

You could put 100 Arsenal fans in a room and 97 of them would think Senderos isn’t Arsenal quality and the other 3 are me, Arseblog, and Arsene Wenger. Wenger has his reasons, he’s Phillipe’s coach so he knows this player’s qualities and frailties inside and out. Me, I don’t have reason, I have emotion.

I’ve followed him as a player since he first broke into the team and had the pleasure of actually being in the Emirates on a freezing Monday night in February when he scored a rare goal against Blackburn in 2008. It seems almost inconceivable that since that exact moment his career has basically disintegrated in front of my eyes. You’ll remember that February 2008 was THE season, Arsenal were 5 points clear of United on that night, playing very well, and everyone had high hopes that the club were going to really push for the title.

I flew back to America, adjusted time zones, and nipped off to the pub to watch the Man U-Arsenal FA cup match. Disaster. That was the Nani “seal dribble” match, if you’ll recall. A match which saw Eboue sent off, which saw United send an emphatic message that they weren’t done yet, and left the club thoroughly eviscerated. That was followed by a poor 0-0 draw at home against Milan and then the match where Martin Taylor broke Eduardo’s leg. I don’t have to remind you how much that effected our season.

For Senderos it might have been a case of too much too soon.  Thrown in to the center of defense on an Arsenal team who’s whose attacking philosophy often exposes center backs to route one embarrassments. But the thing is, he did really well during that time. He started the FA Cup final in 2005 which saw Arsenal win our most recent piece of silverware and then continued in a rich vein of form throughout the next season when Arsenal had a record breaking run of 10 consecutive clean sheets in the Champions League. In fact, many people think that Wenger’s substitution of Senderos and Flamini for Campbell and Cole in the final is what cost us that match.

But it was the 2007/08 season mentioned above which seemed to be his undoing. After Taylor broke Eduardo’s leg, Arsenal played Villa to a 1-1 draw and Senderos scored an own goal. From there, it seems like it was all down hill. He lost a large part of the crowd and for a 22 year old, under enormous pressure, at one of the biggest clubs in the world, the crowd is simply vital. I don’t have to remind you about the rest of that season, it was simply disastrous, and by the close of the season, Arsenal fans from nearly every quarter were calling for Senderos to be sold. He went off to Milan where he mostly sat in the dugout and a year later and really not much more experienced he’s back here.

This is his second chance, Senderos 2.0. He’s only 24 years old and though the boss isn’t calling it a second chance he is highlighting the fact that Senderos was once a player who he thought could be Arsenal captain and pointing out that this guy, this central defender no less, is just 24 years old.

I don’t believe he is starting his career with us again because we know how good he is but it is a new start let’s say. We have already seen his quality and he is still very young for a centre back. He’s 24 years-old and he has the future in front of him. The best 10 years are now coming for him.

His position at the moment is that we have four centre backs and he is one of the four because Djourou is out for nearly the season. In this job you have always to be ready and the day you get the chance you can do well. If you are not ready, everybody will say he is not good enough to play for Arsenal Football Club.

Now he is back with us so we will just give him a chance.

Just Give Phillipe a Chance, wasn’t that a song by Yoko Ono?

Seriously, I think a lot of the criticism of Senderos has been over-the-top and I’d love to see him prove the critics wrong. At the very least he’s a better replacement in central defense than Silvestre (his partner today) and has as much potential to be a great squad player as anyone in the team… if we can just forgive him and get behind him.

As for the rest of the team today it seems that Wenger might have learned some lessons from the Senderos saga and is refusing to throw Wilshere in the deep end as he did with many other players. That said, he’s a certain start tonight on the right side of the attack.

On the left (yes, they’ll be playing a 4-3-3) I think we’ll see Traore. Le Boss was talking him up in his pre-match interview and I can’t see any reason why he wouldn’t start him.

In the middle, Wenger tipped his hat the other day and said that Sanchez-Watt will get the start. I don’t know anything about him apart from what I’ve read and what I saw in pre-season. I guess he’s got incredible pace.

The middle three will be Randall, Ramsey, and Merida with Randall and Ramsey holding and Merida in Cesc’s spot. I have seen plenty of these fellows and I can say that they are up and down, as will happen to youth players. Let’s hope that are up today, they’ll need to be because WBA are no slouches.

At the back will be Szczesny, (who would like to buy a vowel, Pat) the aforementioned Silvestre and Senderos, Gibbs, and Hoyte The Younger. That’s about as strong a defensive team as we could field given injuries and the approach Wenger takes to the League Cup.

West Brom for their part reportedly have a gritty AND flowing attacking team who can grind out results, which is what I would expect if the terminator cross-bred with all of AC Milan.  They are currently leading the Coca Cola Championship and they are both scoring loads and conceding few goals. They beat Middlesbrough just a few days ago 5-0 so they will not be an easy match by any stretch of the imagination.

In the season preview I mentioned ease of schedule as a crucial factor to the youngsters advancing in this tournament and it looks like we’re not going to have that this year. So, it looks like “old fashioned ass whuppin” is our route to the next round. I have no doubt in the quality of all of these youngsters and I’m sure they can do it.

Unfortunately, the only way to watch the match is going to be via Arsenal TV Online, after the match is done.  That’s what I’m going to do today after work; get on over to the market, pick up a 6 pack of Carling (actually Carling is hard to find here, so any lager will do in a pinch) and fire up the ole computer and watch some red and white blobs play against some blue and white blobs — should be a real good time.

See you tomorrow for the Good Blob, the Bad Blob, and the Ugly Blob. Until the UP THE ARSE!