Barnet v. Arsenal Preview: it’s just a friendly but it’ll have to do

He's not human. He's like a piece of iron.

Whelp, here we are, the brink of another season and the Arsenal find themselves facing a familiar opponent to kick off the pre-season friendlies; Barnet. After that, Arsenal will string together a series of matches 3-4 days apart as Arsene Wenger puts his team through their paces and prods the players to see where they fit best. All the while bringing along a smattering of youth players to test their mettle against these, let’s face it, lesser teams.

But first up, Barnet, those pesky bees. Well, they haven’t been all that pesky to be honest, more of like a cute little bumblebee bumbling along from clover to clover. But they are a gracious host and as evidenced by their web site, they love having Arsenal come out and play, even if they do lose pretty much every time.

Leading up to the match, nearly every Arsenal player has been interviewed (Arshavin, via Gunnerblog) over the last few days and they are all really excited for the season and ready to kick this year off better than last (Almunia, via the dot com). That’s perfect, I think they lost focus at the start of last year and overlooked teams like Fulham so, making sure that they are all on the same page and up for the task from the onset is absolutely crucial if Arsene is going to see this youth project of his pay off. A good win tomorrow will send a very clear message that Arsenal are focused on the season.

The club announced the squad today, and I’m excited for the opportunity to see Thomas Vermaelen in his first action for the club. There’s been a lot of speculation that he’s going to be Arsenal’s midfield hard man and given Arsene’s track record in transforming players I wouldn’t be surprised by that at all. Still, if he just plays at center back then that too will be just fine: top quality depth at that position was lacking at the end of last season with injuries forcing Wenger to use Silvestre in crucial matches and that proving fatal to Arsenal’s season. So, even if he’s just cover for Gallas and Toure and he’s half the quality that Wenger usually spots, then he will be a welcome addition indeed.

The other player that everyone is talking about is Thomas Rosicky. Our little Mozart has been out for what seems like a dog’s year but he’s supposedly ready to go. Cesc gave an emotional interview in which he described Rosicky as a great footballer, a great friend, and a man with nearly unparalleled perseverance. I say “nearly” because I think Eduardo would give him a run for his money in that category. I am absolutely stoked to see Rosicky back in action, his width on the right, crosses, and ability to get by defenders was missed last year. Welcome back, Thomas, here’s to you being 100%.

Also included is Andrei Arshavin and I’ll be expecting a cool dozen goals from him; William Gallas, and I’ll be expecting an on-camera chat up of the players from him; Manuel Almunia, and I’ll be expecting him to have a union jack tee-shirt on under his kit; Johan Djourou, and I’m expecting him to be tall; Jack Wilshere, who I’m expecting to be fast and stuff; and Nacer Barazite, who has scored in the last two of these friendlies so, I’m expecting that Arsene Wenger will switch him to holding midfielder or something equally bizzare.

On a serious note, the squad is a bit odd, with no less than 6 youngsters named in the squad who the dot com says, or I have seen, play the holding midfield role: Randall, Cruise, Eastmond, Coquelin, Emmanuel-Thomas, and Frimpong. Admittedly, I don’t read the blogs about the youth teams because that seems just a little bit too obsessive. So, I have to go by what the dot com says. I do know that Wenger has spoken highly of Coquelin and Frimpong, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of those two start next to Wilshere in the center of the pitch.

One cool thing about these pre-season matches is that I get to approach all these youngsters with “fresh eyes” having only seen a handful of them in Carling Cup matches so, it’s exciting for me to see the likes of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Jay Simpson on the list.

That’s about it, the only other thing to mention here is that you can only watch the match on ArsenalTV, which, if you get for the rest of the month is only £4. I’m no shill for ArsenalTV but £4! That’s a pint! And for that you get to watch every one of this month’s pre-season matches, plus other incredibly cool videos, like Henry’s goal against Real Madrid, or Tony Adams’ goal against Everton, plus interviews, and old matches… Come on, it’s four quid well spent to get you excited for the season.

DO IT.

If you don’t get the video, you can tune in here, I will be liveblogging the match, and kickoff is at… 7am (PST).

Finally, I’m not doing a gods damn transfer roundup this morning, I’m burnt out on all that shit. I will say this, Carlos Vela’s reported injury is not as bad as, erm, reported which is good. With Adebayor leaving for bluer pastures, we’ll need him healthy.

See you tomorrow, first thing in the AM, here’s to Rosicky scoring 100 goals!

Up the Arse!

Confused Christiano Ronaldo Allows Woman to Sniff Him After Practice

The "Ronaldo hair joke" the lowest hanging fruit of all jokes, hey I can't be full on red hot maximum at all times, can I?

Yesterday, as £80m world record signing Christiano Ronaldo and his new Real Madrid teammates were put through their paces in Ireland, a woman stood among other people and waited for an opportunity to have her picture taken with any and/or all of Los Galacticos Dos.

As practice wound down, a clearly confused Ronaldo wandered too near the cougar den and suddenly was accosted by Aoife Finneran who, with cell phone cam at the ready, thrust her head near the mega-super-star and screamed “SAY CHEESE!”

Afterwards, Aoife, described the experience thus:

As he neared me I could see his rippling muscles, his confident swagger, the swagger of a man who’s wallet is so thick you could club baby seals with it. As he approached I think he sensed the danger and flinched as if to flee but my cat-link instincts took over and I pounced. As I thrust my head into the frame of the photograph, I noticed that he smelled of lovemaking and raindrops. It was the most sublime experience of my life. I tried to bite his neck and go for the kill but he escaped by quickly falling over and clutching his ankle — dead animal pose stops a cougar every time.

A clearly shaken Ronaldo was immediately whisked off to the first aid tent where he received some water, a hair cut, and a pedicure. He’s said to be recovering in hospital and should be fully recouperated in the morning, after a hot bath, with fresh flowers, and bubbles.

Going once, going twice…

Meanwhile, Arsenal super star and the world’s most wifi-enabled player, Emmanuel Adebayor was reportedly being offered by Arsenal to every other team on the planet, but most notably to Manchester United. Pundits believe the move by Arsene Wenger is in retaliation for Ferguson giving Arsenal Silvestre last year.

The player, who is widely recognized as a “tender and considerate lover,” is currently mulling over his options in the Algave, sipping Sancerre. The sticking point seems to be that he loves Arsenal and Arsenal supporters so much that £170,000 a week, making him briefly the highest paid player in the EPL (until City sign Terry next week), is not enough to prise him from the warm embrace of his beloved Arsenal.

Coincidentally, that the exact plot line from The Merchant of Venice, from whence this quote floweth

What’s here? the portrait of a blinking idiot,
Presenting me a schedule! I will read it.
How much unlike art thou to Portia Adebayor!
How much unlike my hopes and my deservings!
“Who chooseth me shall have as much as he deserves”!
Did I deserve no more than a fool’s head?
Is that my prize? Are my deserts no better?

It is, perhaps, one of The Bard’s finest tragedies.

David Beckham Eats Dedication and Craps MLS Teams

A clearly remorseful David Beckham was interviewed yesterday and when asked how he felt about leaving his teammates for six months while he pursued the dream of being part of the England World Cup squad, he responded with tears in his eyes:

I think what you’ve seen is that I’ve been very dedicated to the Galaxy, dedicated to the fans. I’ve always been committed to every contract I’ve ever had, and that hasn’t changed. I’m a very committed person. If people want to question my commitment and my professionalism, the fact that I’m willing to travel thousands of miles to play for my country says it all.

I hate to editorialize in the middle of such a serious column, but I have to agree with David here; nothing says “honoring your committments” and “dedication to the cause” like leaving your team on a loan and promising to return when your team’s season starts up again, and then negotiating a special loan deal to extend your stay at the other team, then when their season is over, reluctantly re-joining the team you are contracted to half way through their season.

Beckham saves his most scathing criticism, however, for people who say he hasn’t helped American Soccer while on loan in Italy:

What I’ve done for the league so far has been very successful, I’ve had a successful effect on the game here. You know, there are eight new franchises coming into the league, new stadiums going up (and) attendances, wherever we’ve played as a team. If you look at the attendances we have had throughout the seasons, there’s not many Premiership (teams) that get the average attendance that we’ve had, excluding Manchester United and Arsenal and teams like that.

It’s true, in his brief stint in America, all 26 games, Beckham has been extremely effective. He has swept through the land and like a modern day Johnny Appleseed, crapping out stadiums and teams left and right. Moreover, excluding Arsenal and Man U, the Galaxy’s attendance is better than 7 of the 20 teams in the EPL; edging out West Bromwich Albion by just over 180 folks per game.

It’s clearly a footballing revolution when the biggest name in world football can go to a city of 10million souls and draw nearly the same attendance as a Stoke-on-Trent with their massive population of 240,000.

Another Shakespeare play comes to mind here, I don’t remember the name right now, but I think it’s the one about hubris.

Thank you for bringing football to America, David!

Why I’m not going to the Sounders v. Chelsea

I’ve tried to explain this to my friends and no one seems to get it, but maybe you all will. See, I’ve been offered tickets to see the Sounders (the local MLS team) play Chelsea (a huge pile of Tottenham) multiple times and each time I’ve steadfastly refused.  Well, I say “offered” and I mean “hey, I’ve got some tickets to this game, do you want to buy one?”

Hell no I don’t want to buy one, why on Earth would I give money to Chelsea?

This, of course, always elicits the response, “well you could support the Sounders.” Which is true! I could go and pretend to be a Sounders supporter for a day, like Halloween, and root against Chelsea. But that’s just it, I’m not an actual Sounders supporter (yet) and so I’d be pretending, fooling myself while shelling out some cash to Chelsea. Honestly, I just can’t do it.

The other thing that bothers the locals is that I didn’t just jump on the Sounders bandwagon the moment they announced they were forming. In fact, I was openly cynical about the entire experience: I doubted that they would get the gridiron lines off the field, I poo pooed the fact that they play on plastic, I have seen proper football in that stadium before and I thought the seats were too removed from the pitch, and I worried that American fans can be a bit annoying with their drums and horns in lieu of actual support.

Since then, I’ve watched a few matches and I have been pleasantly surprised. They’ve done a pretty good job getting the Seahawks lines off the field, though the end of season will coincide with the start of Seahawks season and so I wonder how they will handle that. They are building a custom “soccer” stadium and hopefully installing grass will be a priority and they will design it in such a way that supporters are close to the action. And the fans, well, they seem to be actually a pretty good lot and the drums and horns are kept to a dull roar.

Moreover, I think the Sounders have some really spectacular talent in Freddie Montero and can be fun to watch after they get the ball settled and start making a few passes.

Still, I’m not one who rushes in to these sorts of things. It took me several years of watching various clubs on the television before Arsenal finally won me over. So, to my local buddies, you’re just going to have to have some patience and know that I will be watching the match on the television — ESPN2, noon local time. And yes, I will be rooting for the Sounders to stomp the guts out of Chelsea.

Now, when Barcelona comes to town… anyone have tickets to that?

OK! Basically, yes, I’m a football snob. Arsene made me this way, with his beautiful game, what can I say.

Transfer Roundup

You guys seem to know more about this stuff than I do, but hey, what the hell. So, my personal Arsenal target, Lorik Cana, is involved in a deal with Hamburg and there has been some kind of snag, which has opened the door for… Everton. *sigh* I guess I have to give up on this one, eh?

…and turn my sights on Jeremy Toulalan! No one, and I mean NO ONE is linked with Toulalan, which obviously means that he’s coming to Arsenal, RIGHT?

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wenger waits until after the Adebayor deal is done to make his moves.

Not the badge, NOT THE BADGE, damnit, he's kissing the badge... ugh

That deal, by the way, looks like it has some serious legs and could even be done today or tomorrow, which is nuts. I’ve never seen a deal move this fast, which is probably indicative of Wenger’s desire to unload him, and the player’s desire to kiss the three decorative stars above the chickenhawk on Money City’s badge.

I’m being cynical, in actuality I feel more like Gunnerblog. I feel like I’m losing someone who I supported despite all the detractors: people who said despicable things. I feel like I’m losing someone special, a guy I saw score his first ever home goal in my one and only magical trip to Highbury. And finally, I feel like he’s kind of a sad case. Someone who listens to the people around him who don’t have his best interests at heart, people who want something from him not for him.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, I’ve seen a lot of sports stars like Adebayor, Shawn Kemp comes to mind, they have a few good years and suddenly they think they are the best in the world. Then when the fans turn on them, it gets ugly and they start acting out. Before you know it, they’re in rehab, fat, old, and deeply in debt.

I hope he ends up better than Kemp but given the fact that he couldn’t hold it together and act professionally for one season, I have to think that there’s something deeply disturbed in there. Best of luck Ade, except when you play against us.