Will they fear us if we get Arshavin?

yawn

A West Ham team that is brimming with confidence  having dispatched 6 of their last 7 opponents comes in to the Emirates stadium to face an Arsenal team brimming with false hope after eeking out a 9 game unbeaten run.

It’s almost amazing to think that the team have remained unbeaten for 9 matches and on its face it’s a pretty good run of form and should see Arsenal gaining confidence. But these aren’t the awe inspiring games that we’re seeing from our rivals for the Champions League spot; a 0-0 draw to Cardiff is hardly the stuff of legends. In fact, closer inspection sees that Manchester United haven’t conceded a goal since Arsenal beat them 2-1 in November and Villa have taken all 12 points in their last 4 matches. So, you’ll forgive me if I have to have a laugh when Diaby proclaims the title race is within grasp or Nasri says that all we have to do is “keep winning without leaking goals” and we’ll be right back in it. No. You have to make opponents like West Ham tremble at the thought of traveling to your stadium, then you can start talking about winning the title.

West Ham, for their part, are playing some very good football and pundits are claiming they won’t have anything to fear from Arsenal tomorrow. No one is saying that Arsenal aren’t a talented side, or that there isn’t a threat that Arsenal will start clicking and destroy teams like West Ham; rather that right now, every team in the EPL looks at our past performances and has to be licking their chops to come here and “pull a Hull.”

Ultimately, I’m not going to say it’s a crucial game because, frankly, it looks like the board and the team have thrown in the towel on even achieving 4th place. When you see the board sitting on £90m in cash reserves and not strengthening the squad when it is plain for everyone to see that the squad needs strengthening there’s a disconnect and Peter Hill-Wood revealed exactly what that disconnect is yesterday. As it turns out, the club (payroll, transfers, etc.) is being run as if we didn’t earn £30m a year in Champions League money.

There is no denying that it would be a real financial drain on the club if we didn’t qualify for the Champions League next season. Even if we were in the Uefa Cup and enjoyed a long run in Europe, that would not come close to making up the shortfall.

But although missing out on the Champions League for one year would be a big disappointment, it would not mean financial Armageddon for Arsenal. When we worked out the budget, and did our fund-raising calculations in respect of the new stadium, we did not assume we were going to be in the Champions League every season. That may be an assumption at other clubs, and it’s not for me to comment on the way they are run, but we did not want to get out of our depth in terms of paying our bills. So although it would certainly hurt us in the pocket to finish outside the top four, it would not be a huge shock to the club’s finances. (Emphasis added.)

Suddenly everything makes sense. We’re running the club as if we are West Ham, not as if we are a top four club. No wonder no one fears Arsenal: they are fielding a team, with but maybe three exceptions, is a mid-level squad. You could say that in a sense, we’re punching above our weight, up there in 5th place. We bought a mid-table squad and are nearly up in the Champions League, impressive.

What isn’t impressive is that we’re already seeing some fallout from Arsenal’s failure to re-invest in the team with Robin van Persie reportedly refusing to sign a contract extension unless Arsenal win 4th place. You need look no further than that fact to see why the Arsenal business plan was severely flawed. Because, while it’s a good idea to practice fiscal austerity and Arsenal seem to have that down pat, hell, they could probably last 10 years as a mid-level team in the EPL with the £90m (which will probably be like £110m after this season is done) they have stashed under the mattress, it’s a terrible idea not to re-invest in your company while all of your competitors are growing around you. Already the Arsenal brand has seen some of the shine come off which means less shirt sales and even though they may “sell out” every game due to counting ticket sales rather than the turnstiles, people are already not attending matches, which means less concessions, etc. I’m not suggesting that Arsenal should have spent all £90m on transfers, but some prudent re-investment was clearly necessary as our slump in sales, and slump in performance on the pitch certainly shows.

Where would Arsenal be right now without Robin van Persie? Shudder to think, eh? The thought of losing van Persie might explain why the team seems to be increasing their price in the Zenit deal to get Arshavin on the pitch — going so far as landing the Russian a work permit already. With Wenger stating that the club are going to know before kickoff tomorrow we should finally have an end to this saga one way or another.

The problem is that Arshavin is, in my mind, too little, too late. While undoubtedly a quality player, and certain to add some goals, he’s lacking match fitness right now and still doesn’t solve the problem of Arsenal’s porous defense. In the end, Arshavin won’t be the man to make teams like West Ham fear us again. That’s going to take a whole lot more than just one wing player can deliver, which means prying open the coffers. Unless, of course, they have thrown in the towel on this season.

It sure looks like it to me. Which is a real shame.

Right, so a 7am kickoff tomorrow, the match is live on Setanta, and I will be at Doyle’s. See you there?

Everton 1-1 Arsenal; "We're watching the season unravel"

how-to-play-defense

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Late van Persie Blockbuster

Telegraph: Robin van Persie Rescues Arsenal at the Death

Match Video

Always go to the Arsenalist for your match video! Also give him a clickthrough to his sponsor so he can keep the site going one dime at a time!

Quote of the Day

Timmy knows where the ball is going to land every time, if I could learn how to do that, it would be great. I’m learning from all my team-mates. They are all older than me with greater experience and I am picking up things off them.  But Tim has a similar role to me and I watch him very closely in games and during training. He’s the main man and is so decisive in front of goal. Long may that continue.

Marouane Fellaini attributes hard work, having experienced players show you the way, and good team spirit to his success. Who’d have thunk it?

The Good

Robin van Persie has now had a hand in every single goal that Arsenal have scored in the month of January. Everton, aware of that threat, used three players at nearly all times on Robin and he still scored.

Good? No, great.

He is 25 years old and reminds me so much of Dennis Bergkamp in his first season at Arsenal (who was 26 then). Just a month ago or so, I had a chance to watch those old tapes courtesy of my friend T-Town Alex and at the time I think I said something like “man, Arsenal could use a guy like that now.” If you remember Bergkamp’s first season started out rocky and then he took off, put the team on his back and went on to become an Arsenal legend. I think RvP is doing that same thing right now. While some of the players were sniping at each other yesterday, Robin was busy working hard, tackling, playing defense, making runs, and more than once I saw him leading the team. Where would we be without him? That’s not a pretty thought is it?

I also want to single out Fellaini here, because, well, there isn’t much else positive to say about Arsenal. Here’s a guy who is a central midfielder and Moyes had him playing Adebayor’s role, which he did with aplomb. But worse than just being embarrassed by having a central midfielder making the target man role look easy he made Adebayor, Song, and Diaby look like shiat with his work rate, tackling, ball handling, well, in just about every way. It seems like I say this week in and week out but seriously, Arsene, you’ve got to see that Arsenal need a player like that.

The Bad

If Song and Diaby are the “engine room” of Arsenal, then the engine room has thrown a rod. Put aside for a moment the fact that Diaby got the assist and was Arsenal’s top passer at 86%. He doesn’t dominate anything. Maybe that’s just his personality but he doesn’t act like a central midfielder; he acts like a center forward.

Worse, he’s often guilty of trying cute passes instead of just making the easy pass. These cute passes never work and are frustrating to his teammates. You could see it on their faces and in the way that Adebayor threw his hands up after yet another easy pass was overlooked in favor of some crazy back heel flick.

Your center forward is the guy who makes the crazy back heels, your holding midfielder is supposed to be the rock. The guy who you can count on to make the good decision, the easy pass. You know, keep possession, not throw it away in a dangerous area.

Song, well, when Song tries hard I like him, when he doesn’t try hard, he’s fucking useless. Since we don’t know which Song we’re going to get then overall Song’s just a little bit crap isn’t he? He’d be good on a team like Charlton, we should let him go back there and dominate league 1.

Unlike Song, I feel bad for Denilson. He is a feisty little player who may turn out to be one hell of a central midfielder one day, but he will never, ever, ever, be a wing player. I knew Wenger was going to play him out wide too. Wenger loves playing “defensive” players in the wing role it’s one of the many in his growing list of insanities.

And hey! What about that Nasri, eh? I actually don’t blame him for yesterday’s performance. If Wenger kept Clichy back, once, maybe twice, in a game, then Nasri wouldn’t be called upon to play fullback for 3/4 of the match while Clichy foraged forward and put crosses out of play. One of these days though, a strong wind will knock that ball down and that cross is going to find one of our players and BOOM Clichy will get an assist.

The Ugly

What the hell happened to Adebayor? Last year he played nearly every game like Fellaini did last night and this year he seems like he just doesn’t care. Worse though, he’s now turned to complaining at his teammates when they play a ball in to him and he stands stock still and watches it roll past him.

I literally did a facepalm in the first two minutes of the game when he and Clichy combined on a throw in and Clichy played an excellent ball into space that any striker should be able to reach and Ade just kind of stood there and shrugged his shoulders as the ball went out of play.

I would be tempted to say that Arsenal should have cashed in on him in the summer, except then we’d be left with Bendtner as our target man and, well, Bendtner is crap. And don’t even try to tell me that Wenger would take the money and buy someone else, we all know that’s just not true.

But the worst part of all this is that the goal that Arsenal conceded was just downright maddening. Leighton Baines, who I suppose is Denilson’s marker (who knows anymore, what with Wenger playing a modified 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1)  was left alone in the box for so long that I think he finished the first two chapters of Ivanhoe before putting in a cross that fell to the unmarked Tim Cahill. Disgusting, couldn’t he read something with a little more literary merit than Ivanhoe?

Conclusion

Everton is a tough team; they have a lot of heart, and they are well organized. Given that Arsenal don’t have a lot of heart beating outside of the chest of maybe three players and are in utter disarray as far as formation it was a lucky escape for Arsenal.

In fact, as I sat there watching Everton outplay Arsenal at every turn, and score despite the fact that they were using two midfielders as strikers, I couldn’t help but think “this is what it looks like to see Arsenal’s season unravel.”

But here’s the silver lining to all this. From now on, whenever Clichy plays a ball into row Z, or Diaby plays a back heel that goes straight to the opposition, or when Eboue is mysteriously introduced, or Adebayor is seen balancing his checkbook on the pitch rather than getting back and trying to win the ball, I’m just going to accept that this is the team that we have.

What else can I do? None of this makes any sense. Arsenal say they have a huge pile of cash reserves and yet they act like a team on the verge of bankruptcy. I mean, surely if I, some cock sandwich AMERICAN blogger, can scout Fellaini over the internet Arsene Wenger, a God among coaches (right?) with a vast scouting network, can see that Arsenal need a quality player like Arteta or Fellaini or Lucas or Diarra or Flamini or FUCK ANYONE BUT SONG in the midfield and go out and buy that person and bring them in and save the season.

No. I’ve resigned myself to the reality that they don’t want to save the season. Either that or the whole club has come down with acute Neurosyphilis and are barking mad. I’m going with the latter, it’s the only thing that explains anyone at the club still thinking they have a chance to win the title.

Everton 1-1 Arsenal; “We’re watching the season unravel”

how-to-play-defense

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Late van Persie Blockbuster

Telegraph: Robin van Persie Rescues Arsenal at the Death

Match Video

Always go to the Arsenalist for your match video! Also give him a clickthrough to his sponsor so he can keep the site going one dime at a time!

Quote of the Day

Timmy knows where the ball is going to land every time, if I could learn how to do that, it would be great. I’m learning from all my team-mates. They are all older than me with greater experience and I am picking up things off them.  But Tim has a similar role to me and I watch him very closely in games and during training. He’s the main man and is so decisive in front of goal. Long may that continue.

Marouane Fellaini attributes hard work, having experienced players show you the way, and good team spirit to his success. Who’d have thunk it?

The Good

Robin van Persie has now had a hand in every single goal that Arsenal have scored in the month of January. Everton, aware of that threat, used three players at nearly all times on Robin and he still scored.

Good? No, great.

He is 25 years old and reminds me so much of Dennis Bergkamp in his first season at Arsenal (who was 26 then). Just a month ago or so, I had a chance to watch those old tapes courtesy of my friend T-Town Alex and at the time I think I said something like “man, Arsenal could use a guy like that now.” If you remember Bergkamp’s first season started out rocky and then he took off, put the team on his back and went on to become an Arsenal legend. I think RvP is doing that same thing right now. While some of the players were sniping at each other yesterday, Robin was busy working hard, tackling, playing defense, making runs, and more than once I saw him leading the team. Where would we be without him? That’s not a pretty thought is it?

I also want to single out Fellaini here, because, well, there isn’t much else positive to say about Arsenal. Here’s a guy who is a central midfielder and Moyes had him playing Adebayor’s role, which he did with aplomb. But worse than just being embarrassed by having a central midfielder making the target man role look easy he made Adebayor, Song, and Diaby look like shiat with his work rate, tackling, ball handling, well, in just about every way. It seems like I say this week in and week out but seriously, Arsene, you’ve got to see that Arsenal need a player like that.

The Bad

If Song and Diaby are the “engine room” of Arsenal, then the engine room has thrown a rod. Put aside for a moment the fact that Diaby got the assist and was Arsenal’s top passer at 86%. He doesn’t dominate anything. Maybe that’s just his personality but he doesn’t act like a central midfielder; he acts like a center forward.

Worse, he’s often guilty of trying cute passes instead of just making the easy pass. These cute passes never work and are frustrating to his teammates. You could see it on their faces and in the way that Adebayor threw his hands up after yet another easy pass was overlooked in favor of some crazy back heel flick.

Your center forward is the guy who makes the crazy back heels, your holding midfielder is supposed to be the rock. The guy who you can count on to make the good decision, the easy pass. You know, keep possession, not throw it away in a dangerous area.

Song, well, when Song tries hard I like him, when he doesn’t try hard, he’s fucking useless. Since we don’t know which Song we’re going to get then overall Song’s just a little bit crap isn’t he? He’d be good on a team like Charlton, we should let him go back there and dominate league 1.

Unlike Song, I feel bad for Denilson. He is a feisty little player who may turn out to be one hell of a central midfielder one day, but he will never, ever, ever, be a wing player. I knew Wenger was going to play him out wide too. Wenger loves playing “defensive” players in the wing role it’s one of the many in his growing list of insanities.

And hey! What about that Nasri, eh? I actually don’t blame him for yesterday’s performance. If Wenger kept Clichy back, once, maybe twice, in a game, then Nasri wouldn’t be called upon to play fullback for 3/4 of the match while Clichy foraged forward and put crosses out of play. One of these days though, a strong wind will knock that ball down and that cross is going to find one of our players and BOOM Clichy will get an assist.

The Ugly

What the hell happened to Adebayor? Last year he played nearly every game like Fellaini did last night and this year he seems like he just doesn’t care. Worse though, he’s now turned to complaining at his teammates when they play a ball in to him and he stands stock still and watches it roll past him.

I literally did a facepalm in the first two minutes of the game when he and Clichy combined on a throw in and Clichy played an excellent ball into space that any striker should be able to reach and Ade just kind of stood there and shrugged his shoulders as the ball went out of play.

I would be tempted to say that Arsenal should have cashed in on him in the summer, except then we’d be left with Bendtner as our target man and, well, Bendtner is crap. And don’t even try to tell me that Wenger would take the money and buy someone else, we all know that’s just not true.

But the worst part of all this is that the goal that Arsenal conceded was just downright maddening. Leighton Baines, who I suppose is Denilson’s marker (who knows anymore, what with Wenger playing a modified 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1)  was left alone in the box for so long that I think he finished the first two chapters of Ivanhoe before putting in a cross that fell to the unmarked Tim Cahill. Disgusting, couldn’t he read something with a little more literary merit than Ivanhoe?

Conclusion

Everton is a tough team; they have a lot of heart, and they are well organized. Given that Arsenal don’t have a lot of heart beating outside of the chest of maybe three players and are in utter disarray as far as formation it was a lucky escape for Arsenal.

In fact, as I sat there watching Everton outplay Arsenal at every turn, and score despite the fact that they were using two midfielders as strikers, I couldn’t help but think “this is what it looks like to see Arsenal’s season unravel.”

But here’s the silver lining to all this. From now on, whenever Clichy plays a ball into row Z, or Diaby plays a back heel that goes straight to the opposition, or when Eboue is mysteriously introduced, or Adebayor is seen balancing his checkbook on the pitch rather than getting back and trying to win the ball, I’m just going to accept that this is the team that we have.

What else can I do? None of this makes any sense. Arsenal say they have a huge pile of cash reserves and yet they act like a team on the verge of bankruptcy. I mean, surely if I, some cock sandwich AMERICAN blogger, can scout Fellaini over the internet Arsene Wenger, a God among coaches (right?) with a vast scouting network, can see that Arsenal need a quality player like Arteta or Fellaini or Lucas or Diarra or Flamini or FUCK ANYONE BUT SONG in the midfield and go out and buy that person and bring them in and save the season.

No. I’ve resigned myself to the reality that they don’t want to save the season. Either that or the whole club has come down with acute Neurosyphilis and are barking mad. I’m going with the latter, it’s the only thing that explains anyone at the club still thinking they have a chance to win the title.