Arsene Wenger sat with the media ahead of tomorrow’s AZ Alkmaar clash for a mere 15 minutes today and it seems to be the interview that launched 1000 news stories, so there’s lots to get to today. We’ve got Kroenke, injuries, Robin, AZ, Diaby, and an invitation from me to help write a bit.
Kroenke increases shares to 29.6%
Wenger was asked about Kroenke’s share-buying activity this week and in typical fashion deflected and suggested that the reporter ask Stan the Man himself about what his intentions are. When pressed by the reporter Wenger jokingly said that at the moment Kroenke “flirts” with the 30% mark, but has not gone all the way. Personally, it looks more like he’s gotten to 3rd base than just flirting.
All signs point to a shareholder who is consolidating his position rather than moving in for a hostile takeover. There’s good reason for Kroenke to purchase loose shares: to consolidate his and the board’s grip on the shares needed to keep control of the board, and to prevent his main boardroom competitor from getting a larger foothold in the club.
It cannot be stressed enough that even if he reaches the magical 30% threshold, the other shareholders are not obliged to sell to him. This means that it looks like a plurality of ownership will remain. His business model is a combination of co-ownership and outright ownership — with the bigger ticket items co-owned and the smaller, more risky, teams owned outright. Thus, Arsenal as a huge and safe bet fits right into his co-ownership model.
The Arsenal Supporter’s Trust released a statement today which outlines their position on any possible takeover and, having spoken with representatives of KSE and Stan himself, has stated directly that they do not feel a takeover is imminent:
The AST has repeatedly stated that we are generally opposed to a takeover and would fight any plans that require the club to incur debt to pay for a takeover as has happened at Manchester United and Liverpool.
Two red lines that cannot be crossed are the use of debt secured on the club’s assets to fund a takeover and an ownership structure which excludes small shareholders.
The AST’s own assessment of today’s development is that a takeover is not imminent and that today’s purchase is the consolidation of an existing position.
I agree with everything they have said.
Wenger described Bendtner as “quite seriously injured” which won’t surprise anyone who saw the way he was holding his adductor on Saturday — I’m not calling it a groin pull, that sounds childish, it’s an adductor pull which sounds serious, or at least studious. Bendtner is out for “at least” 4 weeks.
As I know from T-Town Alex, who is French, French time is different from English time. If T-Town Alex says he’ll be there in 15 minutes, it actually means 30 minutes. So, Wenger’s “4 weeks” puts Bendtner back in the team in January.
The good news in that position is that Rosicky is back but will not get the start to cover on that right hand side. I like the idea of bringing Rosicky on late on the right against Alkmaar because his close control and dribbling will be essential for breaking AZ’s 10 man defense, especially when they have tired legs.
Clichy is the other big surprise injury and Wenger said he suffered a “stress fracture” in his back and will be out for “a few weeks.” A few weeks? I seriously doubt it. If this is a recurrence of his back problems of last year, we’ll be looking at more like “a few months” or maybe “the rest of the season.” I’m not trying to second guess or hype the injury but I’ve broken my back and it takes more than “a few weeks” to recover. Gibbs, future England number 3, will be called upon to step in and Traore will provide cover with Wenger joking that this club is fortunate to be gifted with left-backs. I was sort of joking about an England call up, but just today, Gibbs was talking about how he needed to prove something for Arsenal before he could even start thinking about the England side. I guess he’ll get his chance?
In the keeper spot Almunia is now and forever Arsenal number 1 and Mannone is backup: until Almunia makes a mistake.
Half Henry Bergkamp Half van Persie
Wenger wanted to clear up the notion that he claimed Robin van Persie is “Half Henry — Half Bergkamp” and did so in typical AW fashion:
He’s a little bit of a mixture of Thierry Henry and a little bit of Denis Bergkamp because he’s not purely a target player like Thierry was and he’s not a runner of the ball like Thierry was but he can play up front on his own. And he’s not a Denis Bergkamp because he’s not purely a passer of the ball, a final ball giver like Dennis. He’s a bit of both, he’s also a sexual tyrannosaur, half shark alligator half man, and a sprinkle of piranha, that’s why he’s van Persie.
I understand he’s also a considerate lover.
On tomorrow’s match
As I pointed out in yesterday’s “10 match review” this Arsenal team have been bitten a few times from lack of concentration and focus in games. So far, this disease has been exclusively the domain of away games where our record in the EPL is 2-1-2 and our goal differential is a measly +3 which includes a 6-1 win over Everton. Since that opening win over Everton, Arsenal’s away GD is -2. A lot of people can point to what happened at AZ Alkmaar and rightly say that it wasn’t as much of a blip as a continuation of poor away form. So, while I agree with Arsene that this team needs to show focus and resolve tomorrow, I’m not worried that they won’t because our home form has been spectacular. In fact, in 9 home games in all competitions Arsenal have scored 32 goals (avg. 3.5) and allowed just 6 goals. Given the level of competition we saw from AZ in the last match, I’m just being honest, I suspect a 3 or even 4 to nil score line.
Winning tomorrow would basically qualify Arsenal for a 10th consecutive knockout stage berth, but Wenger wants more, he wants to win the group. I completely agree with this philosophy. Great teams don’t back into a tough competition, they go out and crush their enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women.
The Hollandaise press are making a big deal of Ronald Koeman “never losing to Arsene” and even going so far as to suggest that Koeman has Wenger’s number. Arsene just laughed about this and said that Koeman didn’t score the last minute equalizer at AZ. In a sense he’s right, but in a sense he’s wrong. Koeman has played a very specific tactic against Arsenal one that even a novice manager can see and it’s been pretty effective — if by effective you mean “securing a draw at all costs and sneaking a win.” Don’t be surprised if there’s a “park the bus” tactic for all 90 minutes followed by a brief flurry of activity as AZ try to steal a goal on a set play at the end.
Put down your coffee…
When asked whether Diaby has proved himself in the absence of Denilson, Arsene Wenger said
I think he has done extremely well. He is a player who is good in the challenge, which we have been criticized for lacking in the past. He is good in the air. He has a high work-rate and he gives us a good balance in the midfield. He likes to play up front behind the strikers but because he’s so strong in the challenge, I see him, later, a bit deeper, in front of the defenders because he’s very good in the air, he’s very quick, very strong in the challenge, and when he wins the ball, he can accelerate the game.
This has to be the most egregious example of Arsene Wenger blowing smoke up our asses I have ever seen. I know that he protects his players, I know that he likes to talk about the positives, and I can think of a lot of positives to say about Abou Diaby but I can’t think of a single person on this earth who thinks that Abou Diaby is good in the air. He is very tall and he jumps very high but his timing is terrible. He’s more likely to put a ball off his shoulder than his head.
Incredibly, Wenger does then go on to criticize him, by saying that he’s “attracted like a magnet” to the goal and that we don’t need 7 players going forward. But… but… but… THAT’S HIS BEST QUALITY!
It’s really incredible stuff. Maybe he’s using this as an opportunity to try to mould this player into something different than he already is? Maybe by “good in the air” Wenger meant that while on the airplane from London to Europe he’s always very polite, unlike Sp*s who are utter cocks wherever they go? I don’t know, but it’s mind boggling to think that Wenger would actually say that Diaby is good in the air and not burst out laughing.
Oh, and if you were hoping for a January signing of a hard man in the middle of the field you might as well put that wish list away — Diaby looks like he’s going to be our man when Song is gone.
“Man” on the scene
And finally, I’d like to extend the offer to anyone who attends any game to help write a section of the Good, Bad, and Ugly which I am tentatively calling “‘Man’ on the scene. ” A lot of my readers are foreigners (as far flung as the Philippines and Thailand) and what we get on television is a watered down snippet of what happens when you actually get to a match. So, if you’re going to a match and you’re willing to write a few hundred words about the atmosphere before, during, and after the match or pretty much anything you want to write about (around match day) drop me an email:
7amkickoff at gmail dot com
I’d love to include some match reporting from the actual matches.
Right, that’s it for today. Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 11:45 am PST and I know for a fact that Doyle’s in Tacoma is playing it live. I also know that I cannot watch the match live but my good friend Russ at Doyle’s is taping the match for me and I’ll get to watch it after work. Drop me a line if you want to get together tomorrow afternoon and watch the match.
I’ll probably do a brief blog tomorrow followed by a full on internet blackout (by me) until after the match. So, see you tomorrow, and UP THE ARSE!