Down goes Diaby

I wasn’t going to do a blog today because A) there’s no evidence that the Fabregas quote about being tapped up is real (it’s been picked up but not widely AND Arsenal are being quiet on the topic) B) I got up late, owing to the fact that I now put in 14 hour days between work/school on Mondays and Wednesdays and C) because there should have been fuck all to report.

Unfortunately, there isn’t fuck all to report as Abou Diaby has picked up a hip injury during training for France. My regular readers know how highly I rated Diaby over the last few weeks, going so far as to say that he was the key ingredient to our midfield success lately. So, even with Cesc coming back I imagined Diaby would keep a starting spot. Especially with Arsene hailing Diaby as the new Vieira. In my dreams it would have been Cesc/Diaby in the “holding/box-to-box” spot and Arshavin in front of them. Now it looks like we’re back to defensive midfielder by committee for a few weeks.

No news on Bendtner and whether his national team will see fit to let the guy see the doctors on the team that pay his salary. Robin van Persie, on the other hand, has been flown back to London to have his groin looked at <insert joke>.

I would say “knock on wood” that no one else picks up an injury but each time I’ve said that we’ve picked up another so now I’m going with a more traditional English phrase: touch wood.

I’ll be touching wood all day today. Hey if that’s what it takes to keep Arsenal’s players safe, I’m willing to make that sacrifice, are you?

Injuries and Fabreflap make me Kroenke

...in a fire, after being shot out of a cannon

If today’s news reports can be trusted Arsene Wenger has his work cut out for him over the next few days.

First, and worst, is the injury flap surrounding Nicklas Bendtner. Bendtner was substituted at the 30th minute of their match against Malta (pop: 410,000) because he had suffered a knee injury. Word on the street is that Wenger/Arsenal tried to recall the player at that point, probably to do a scan and prevent further injury. Well, Danish national team sub-coach Peter Bonde responded with a huge middle finger to Arsenal, saying:

He is here with us right now, if he is ready then he is ready. We cannot be thinking about Arsenal. We treat players well, but we will play them if they are fit. We have set a deadline of Tuesday. He is not training today [Monday] but he is receiving treatment. We will see how he responds.

Now let me make myself very clear Mr. Bonde: go fuck yourself. Arsenal are the reason that Bendtner is even in your team, so you should be worried about Arsenal. If it wasn’t for Arsenal playing Bendtner week in and week out while he has sucked ass you wouldn’t have a world class striker on your team.

But more importantly, this should be Bendtner’s decision, not yours. If Bendtner wants to risk his football career in order to play Eastpodunkia in the next match, then that’s his choice. But he needs to be given a choice, without threats of losing his national team spot, you don’t own the player.

Also, please note in that story there’s an aside about Robin van Persie picking up “something in his groin.” At least it was against a team that had some chance of getting into the World Cup.

UGH

So far, Arsenal have suffered just two injuries, knock on wood that we don’t suffer any more. I guess we should be happy with just two injuries so far, some of these matches are starting with riots.

Meanwhile, Cesc Fabregas is embroiled in two, or even three, flaps at the moment. The Hull Shiatty flap is still ongoing, with Hull submitting their “evidence” to the FA that Cesc spat at one or all of their coaches — and that he also cursed out Ethel the tea-lady, after spitting all over her. I have no doubt that this is going to be a he-said-she-said case and will be dismissed by the FA. Though, there in the back of my mind is the fact that Cesc is not English and thus, unlike Rooney’s disgraceful and caught on tape disrespect of himself, his club, and the referee, there’s always a chance that the FA will punish Cesc based on Phil Orange’s good word — despite the fact that his word has been dragged through the mud and spat upon by the man himself.

A bit of a bigger story, though, is that swirling around the constant speculation that Fabregas is leaving is some quote attributed to Cesc that he was tapped up by Real Madrid last year. At the time of the supposed incident, Cesc denied Real contacted him and Arsene said that he spoke with Cesc and that Cesc denied contact was made and that for him (Wenger) that was case closed. However, Arsene did leave the door open for future action saying

I did not allow Fabregas to talk to anybody. He denies he did. If you can get the statement he has done that and that Real Madrid, more than ever, has done that, then we will sue Real Madrid (emph. added).  His agent might have spoken to Real Madrid. But Real Madrid are not entitled to do it without our permission.

Now, it could be a slip of tongue, could be a mistranslation, could be the media making up something but Cesc (ironically while trying to put transfer rumors to bed) is being quoted as saying

It’s true that the president of Real Madrid called me personally, we spoke on the phone, but I never gave him my word, I never said to him that I was going to sign for Real Madrid. He asked about my progress and that was it.

I have not given him nor anyone else the expectation that I will join them. The same goes for anyone who represents me. I am a person of my word and I can assure you that I have never given any club reason to believe that I would leave Arsenal. Nobody can say that they have agreed with me that I become part of their project. That is clear.

There’s something funny about the quote though, I don’t see a date associated with it like “Cesc was talking to a reporter on Friday and said…” so it is possible that this is just a recycled quote from last year making the rounds (I searched and found nothing). It could also be a mistranslation, misquote, or even something made up: the Spanish press are actually more notoriously cuntish about transfers than the British press.

That said, if it’s true and recent and Real Madrid did contact Cesc Fabregas without Arsenal’s permission and Arsenal have evidence of that then Arsenal should sue the shit out of Real Madrid. End of.

More on this story as it develops. My gut feeling is that this is a non-story. Let’s hope my gut is right. But if it isn’t then the road ahead is clear: sue them, sue them into submission.

Finally, in the “meh” news category and included here just to bring you down from your emotional high; Stan Kroenke has bought some shares from Danny Fiszman.  YAY! At least it’s not Usmanov.

Well, that’s it for today, let’s all hope that Arsenal escape the rest of the week without any more injuries and without any more stories about Phil Orange or Cesc transfer rumors.

Gods I hate the International Break.

Return of the Fabregas, plus I watch a Sounders game

Looks like we’re all on the same clocks again, well, the real world is synchronized. WordPress still thinks PST is GMT -7. So, if you get these articles in a news feed you might find some strangeness due to the clocks on WordPress being wrong. I suspect they will fix that in a few days.

Most of you have already read the News of the World kerfuffle. I don’t have anything to add, it looks like typical British sports journalism to me. As a side note, I used to subscribe to the NotW RSS feed and stopped because of their reporting on the Adebayor transfer and their constant misquotes of Gallas and others. NotW is basically one step up from The World’s Least Reliable News Source.

One thing that we have reliable information on is that Cesc is 100% available for the Citeh game. Wenger is being coy about whether Cesc will play but I have to think that if Cesc is available and 100% healthy he will get a run, maybe not a start, but at least a run.

That’s it for Arsenal news.  I could probably come up with some quotes about Arsenal buying someone or selling someone but it’s really rather pointless. I’d much rather sit back and bask in the idea of Adebayor scoring a goal for Togo, Cesc returning, Rosicky healthy, and some cat named Sylvestre joining the team, all giving Wenger a major selection headache.

Last night I heard that the Seattle Sounders (MLS Expansion team) were going to be on the television (in HD to boot!) and so I just had to tune in. I fired up the DVR, recorded the program and then as the night wound down, I sat back to enjoy some football.

I say enjoy rather loosely because the game was one step up from utter crap, but hey, let’s save that for The Good, Bad, and Ugly:

Match Report

ESPNSoccernet: Swedish star Freddie Ljungberg played his first MLS game and first game of any kind in nine months Saturday night, finishing a routine final 29 minutes in the Sounders’ 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake.

Match Video

You can’t be serious.

The Good

Seattle Sounders have a bright spot on their team and his name is Fredy Montero. Imagine if you took Carlos Vela and plopped him down in the 3rd division. His close control, runs, tactical awareness, and just pure class would shine though; though it could also be that surrounded by such a distinct lack of talent makes him look better than he is.

The goal he scored, for example, was pure class: dribbling through defenders he hit a stunning 35 yard shot that blazed over the keeper, dipped and found the back of the net. It looked easy.

Too easy.

The Real Salt Lake (Royal Salt Lake? huh?) keeper was way off his line and is a very small man (my size!) and I have to think that any ordinary EPL keeper would have easily claimed that ball.

Still, credit to Montero who recognized the vulnerability and took advantage of it. That’s what truly talented players do. Honestly I could see him playing in the EPL, he’s that good. He wouldn’t tear the league up, but I think he’d make the grade.

The Bad

The first 20 minutes were the ugliest football I have ever seen and I play pickup football on Sunday mornings with 16 guys who are either mortally wounded or are past their prime.

It was so ugly because every player on the field was terrified to hold the ball. The keeper would play a long ball and for the next 30 seconds the ball would be headed, volleyed, swiped, kicked, punted, and bobbled until it found its way either out of bounds or back to the keeper at which point this whole process would start all over.

After the first 20 minutes though, Seattle settled and there was some nice play: I think there was a point where they actually strung together three consecutive passes!

Let me give you another example: the fist goal came off a “cross” by Steve Zakuani (former Arsenal academy member). Zakuani plays on the left wing but is the single most right-footed player I have ever seen.  His “cross” came when he dribbled, sort of, past the pathetic Real defense, and with the outside of his right foot, flicked in a ball which found the shin guard of the Sounders huge striker. Every single cross from this player (who plays on the left, did I mention that?) came in off his right foot — no wonder he didn’t make the grade at Arsenal.

And poor Freddie Ljungberg… not only does he have to suffer the indignity of Kevin Calabro mangling his last name, but I don’t think he got a single pass from his teammates in the entire 30 minutes he played. Of course, it’s not like it would have mattered, he’s a shell of his former self. I still want to see him play but it’s sad to see Freddie lumbering around the pitch, ignored by his teammates, and complaining constantly about not getting the ball.It reminds me of Thierry Henry’s last season at Arsenal — minus the service, talent, and any sort of speed.

The Ugly

Remember when I predicted that the plastic pitch would suck ass and that there would be gridiron football lines? Well, it does and there are. They’ve found a way to sort of cover up the gridiron lines but on my broadcast they were clearly visible and quite annoying. The reality is that Qwest field is there to support the multi-million dollar Seattle Seahawks organization. The only way to get rid of the gridiron lines (and the even more distracting sideline area) is to bring in a dedicated football pitch. Since the stadium isn’t designed to have a real field, despite living in the world’s best place to grow grass, this is what you get.

And then there’s the crowd. A very enthusiastic Seattle crowd of some 28,000 showed up to cheer on the hometown kids, which is awesome.  My only problem is that the owners have decided to allow the fans to bring in those huge plastic horns. This means that for 90 minutes there’s a nerve wracking droning sound coming from the stands. After about 20 minutes, I actually just turned the sound off. Which is shame because they have Kevin Calabro doing the play-by-play and for those who don’t know, Calabro was the voice of the now defunct Seattle Supersonics and a local commentating icon.

Of course, I fast forwarded through 3/4 of the match anyway. So, I guess the annoying noisemakers are the least of their problems.

Conclusions

I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of stick for this post which, actually, I invite. It’s good to see Seattle supporters so passionate about football. They’ll need that passion to keep soccer alive in America because it’s going to be a long time before the Lebron James’ of America play soccer, rather than football, baseball, basketball or hockey.

As many of you who have talked to me over a beer already know, I think the MLS has a lot of work to do to win over Americans. But I think just a few simple things can put them on the right track.

  1. Grass fields dedicated to soccer. I know Seattle is planning on a dedicated stadium and they deserve props for that but the league should ban plastic pitches. This isn’t Moscow and there’s absolutely no reason to play on plastic with gridiron football lines.
  2. Ban noisemakers. Drunks blowing horns != fun atmosphere. Fans singing original songs about their players and their history is fun and unique to Soccer. It would be a great marketing angle to ban those noisemakers and encourage the supporters to sing along to local songs.
  3. Spend wisely on foreign talent. Put three mid-level EPL players on any team in this league and you will hoover up trophies for years. Moreover, buy mid-level European coaching talent and start developing academies and you will be an unstoppable force in perpetuity. The Arsenal model is very instructive here, this budding league can’t afford to go out and buy a bunch of Beckham’s. Rather, they are going to have to develop talent and that means a world class academy system. I think Seattle is uniquely positioned to do this: we have a long, proud tradition of loving soccer in the Pacific Northwest. But you have to get started right away, developing talent takes a long, long time. Jack Wilshere joined the Arsenal academy when he was 9 years old and now that he’s 16 still can’t get a consistent run in the first team. That’s seven years and counting, in case you’re bad at math.

To put it simply — Freddie will get me to go to one game, but a great team with a tremendous atmosphere and a bunch of world class talent developed from a great academy who challenge for trophies will get me to buy season tickets. I’m hopeful that the Sounders will choose the latter approach but it would be almost un-American: we are, after all, the land of the quick buck.

Right, that’s it for today, I’m off to run around in tights like a barbarian with a bunch of washed up gimps. See you later, and feel free to flame me below.