F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5… meh

That’s it folks, deadline day has passed and Arsene Wenger has stayed true to his word and is standing pat with the team he has. I already know that this is a minority opinion among Arsenal fans but I am ok with this squad the way it currently stacks up and in fact, I’d go a step further and say that Wenger’s had this planned all along.

First off, the criticism from all quarters is that Arsenal failed to replace two key players this season: Adebayor and Toure. On paper this seems a valid criticism since both players left in the summer but I think that the paper view is distorted. Look at the difference between the Adebayor who was offside 40 times last season and the Adebayor who’s current form has him scoring three goals in three games. If you ask me, apart from that one brilliant Champions League goal, Adebayor was lost to us early last year. That means that Arsenal’s purchase of Arshavin was actually in order to cover for the lack of goals from Adebayor. Moreover, when Adebayor was at his best he worked hard and was a disruptive force with his creativity and runs up front. Arshavin is not as direct a replacement since he’s not a big target man but what he lacks in the center forward department he clearly make up for in his unpredictability and his pure goalscoring ability. So while the two players are vastly different, it seems to me that Wenger brought Arshavin in to make up for Adebayor’s absence and in the 6 months that followed he played Bendtner as much as possible to groom him for Adebayor’s job as target man.

Similarly with Toure, Arsene knew that Toure wanted to leave when the latter turned in his transfer request in January. Somehow, Wenger convinced Toure to stay until the end of the season and then immediately set about finding his replacement. Sure, it’s only 3 games into this season but so far Vermaelen looks to be more of an upgrade than a straight replacement for Toure.

Moreover, Wenger had to have taken a look at the fixures list and seen that the single most crucial part of the season coincided with the Africa Cup of Nations. With Adebayor, Toure and Song as key starters who would be gone in January, when they were most needed, then in that case bringing in Arshavin and Vermaelen looks even more important.

All this is to say that the press’ constant hand-wringing over Arsenal “failing to replace Adebayor and Toure” is disingenuous at best. As far as I’m concerned Arsene Wenger did better than replace those two positions.

That leaves just the one spot that Arsenal fans have been worried over since Patrick Vieira took his big shoes to Juventus 5 years ago; holding midfield.

I’ve had more than a few regular readers disappear from the blog over my position on this, which is strange because I think I’m pretty mainstream. Basically, I would have welcomed a player like Felipe Melo with the same open arms and wild eyed opTIMism that I’ve adopted for the rest of the squad this season. A guy like that would really push Song and Denilson for their starting spot and add real quality to this team. I think Wenger did try to sign him, in the same way that he tried to sign Alonso last year; by putting in what he felt was a solid bid and no more.  The problem is that after Felipe Melo there weren’t a whole lot of options for Wenger. Notice I didn’t say “for us” but rather “for Wenger.” Like it or love it, this is his squad and he has very strict rules about what kinds of players he’ll bring in and what price he’s willing to pay for them. So while you and I can point to Veloso or Cana or hell 50 defensive midfielders, Wenger has no doubt passed the rule over them and for some reason found them wanting. He’s not a stupid man, he obviously has the money, and he admitted that holding mid and center back were places he was looking to fill, so something else stopped him from taking one of the many players that a lot of us would have embraced.

We’re going to have to leave it at that. There’s an avoirdupois assload of things that could happen from here until the end of the season, some of which could be repercussions from his reluctance to fill that spot, but that’s all speculation and second guessing. What we know for a fact is that he did not fill the spot. Alex Song and Denilson are the lone two out-and-out holding mids on this team now. When Song goes to the aforementioned ACN, Wenger’s going to have to shuffle, Denilson and Cesc, or Denilson and Nasri, or Denilson and Diaby, etc. Since we’re only playing three midfield players we have (as I like to say) A LOT of options but one option we don’t have is some new guy coming in. This is a done deal folks, Alex Song is our Lorik Cana.

One last position that causes a lot of consternation is the center back position but again Wenger feels like he has options there already. We’ve kept Senderos and once Djourou gets fit we have another player we can put in there. Song and Silvestre (in that order) are both, erm, centery-backery kind of players and can fill out the team sheet if needed. Again, obviously, I would have been happy to see a signing here but as with the holding midfield spot Wenger had a look and decided that there were no goldilocks signings to be had. Hangeland, for example, looked like shite against Chelsea and at £14m (or whatever Fulham ”didn’t” want to sell the player for) was never going to be a good signing as a back up to Vermaelen. Subotic, the other oft linked player, was quoted at £20m which is a princely sum for a player of his modest abilities.

So what do we have? Well, we have a solid team from front to back, we also have a new look formation that I think exploits our talents better than the stodgy 4-5-1 that we used last season , and we have a team that has subtracted two unhappy elements and added in two guys who are ready to be rebels for the cause.  As my regular reader knows, I’m fucking excited for this season. With our experience, our youthful vigor, our desire to prove ourselves, and Wenger’s preparation I think we are one of the strongest teams in the EPL and will be pushing Chelsea for title honors on many fronts this year.

That is, if we can avoid more retroactive punishments from UEFA.

See you tomorrow, when I report that Wayne Rooney has received a lifetime ban for massive cuntitude.

Caption this “Special One”

Good morning divelings, today we have a special one treat. A caption contest… WITH VOTING!

All you have to do is take a look at this picture, come up with a caption, and then put it in the comments section. You can then take a few seconds to read others’ captions and “like” their comments by clicking on the thumbs up picture. At the end of the day, whoever has the most “likes” is the caption winnar.

What do you win? Erm, three tickets to your local swimming pool so you can practice your diving form. You have a lot of work to do if you want to be a world class diver like Wayne Rooney: he’s on the English national team for f*ck’s sake!

Anyway, without further ado here’s your image, caption away…

Ten, I need to win 10 trophies.

Mike Dean 2-1 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and the Rooney

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: United are hairy cunts.

Telegraph: I said HAIRY cunts. (The Telegraph gave MotM to Clichy, they couldn’t very well give it to a United player.)

Match Video

Arsenalist, who else? Though if anyone can recommend cheap (or free) video editing software, I’m very interested. Now that the dot com offers up the whole match, it would be fascinating to edit together a video of, say, all of United’s fouls and send it to the league.

Man of the Match

Mike Dean handed out 9 yellow cards, awarded 1 non-penalty, failed to award another stonewall penalty, and in the final 30 seconds expelled Arsene Wenger to the seats, no wait, the stands, no, I mean the standing area in front of the stands, or maybe it’s just best to go to the dressing room.  It was a masterful performance from Man U’s 12th man who was right where he likes to be, the center of attention, in the spotlight, dishing out yellows and handing out penalties.

Mike Dean is the most controversial referee in the league. He hands out more yellows than any other and assigns more penalties than any other. As I’ve said already, he loves to be the center of attention and yesterday was no different than any other Mike Dean match.

That said, the big decisions are always the stuff of controversy but the subtle decisions are often more, erm, decisive in the total tally. So, if you don’t want to use the Rooney decision, or the Arshavin decision, you could point to several other early calls by Dean which radically changed the game.

For example, there was an early elbow by Valencia into the face of Vermaelen which went unpunished. It was pretty clear that Valencia led with his elbow and had no hope of getting the ball. Dean even took him aside and explained at length how he had violated the rules, miming why the way he used his elbow was a foul. Not but a few moments later, on LITERALLY his first foul, and for an action that was far from dangerous, Mike Dean gave Alex Song a yellow card.

I’m going to say that again, because I think it’s mildly important: in the 23rd minute of a crucial match and for his first infraction, Mike Dean gave Arsenal’s defensive midfielder a yellow card for a minor challenge. At the same time Darren Fletcher was fouling people all over the pitch, consistently making dangerous tackles. By ESPN’s count, Fletcher ended the day with 6 fouls (which doesn’t even count the two-footed tackle on Arshavin which didn’t get called as a foul) and Song ended the day with 3 fouls — and only Song got the caution. It was a critical decision which left Song hampered the rest of the match.

So, since he was the most important person on the pitch and since his calls so consistently and demonstrably favored United, Mike Dean wins Man of the Match.

In fact, he was so bad that I heard UEFA is going to investigate him for simulating being a referee.

The Good

Don’t let anyone bring you down, Arsenal should have won that game. Against a very average looking Man U team Arsenal put on a hell of a show and outplayed Man U on their home patch. How many teams could boast that they went to Man U’s home, in front of 75,000 hostile fans and went toe to toe with them as far as shots, shots on goal, time of possession, corners, and even forced Man U into more fouls (always the sign of a lesser team)? All the while missing their captain and best player, their captain’s backup, a critical wing player who has single-handedly won games for them against United, their fastest player, and at least two other players? How many teams could do that? Man U were less than ordinary, they were below average. Arsenal should take solace in the fact that Mike Dean won that match, not Man U.

Song and Denilson in the middle of the park were magnificent. Denilson, in particular, hardly put a foot wrong. Moreover, he was a man in constant motion, nipping in to steal the ball when United’s midfielders lost control, then playing the perfect pass to start the attack, dribbling to create space and even had a shot. Neat, tidy, and more than once his vision forward nearly led to a goal.

Song meanwhile tracked back, covered defense, and even with a yellow card was still strong in the challenge and still bossing Man U’s midfield around. But my favorite part was how Song made Giggs look old and obviously outclassed.

And Andrei Arshavin… the English language does not contain enough adjectives to describe how brilliant he is. I mean, all he did was receive a two-footed lunge from Fletcher and promptly dust himself off and rifle home a shot that silenced Old Trafford.

This is a great team, guys, let’s be proud of them, they will do something great, this year.

The Bad

I’ve already heard enough complaints about Diaby and I’m done with it. I don’t really want us to start that trend over from last year when we shredded Eboue on a weekly basis.  Diaby made a mistake, so what? He’s an Arsenal player, he’s a very talented player, with amazing touch, who is working hard on his strength and speed. As far as I can tell his major flaw is that due to his size and shape people keep comparing him to Vieira. Well, he’s not Vieira, he’s more like a Fellaini and it’s unfair of us to be getting on his back. We need to accept him for who he is, not for who we WISH he were.

And for the record, I though he was fantastic today. My big beef with him has always been that he looks lazy some times but today he ran for the full 90 and it showed.

You all can say what you want and it seems endemic to Arsenal fans that we love to hate our own men. Perry Groves talked about it in his book, how people would come up to him and tell him he was shite. But me, I’m not going to get down on Diaby, I don’t feel like I’ve earned that right. Besides which none of you could possibly be more down on Diaby than he probably is on himself at this moment. What he needs from us is support right now, look what it did for Eboue.

The Rooney

Rooney’s “penalty” was a dive. It was actually, in many ways, a worse dive than Eduardo’s and is exactly the type of intentional deception that needs to be stamped out of the game, right?.

Here, watch it again.

Notice the following things:

  1. Rooney does get to the ball first, but he is always looking for the contact. He went into that challenge with the intent to get a penalty, the same that has been said about Eduardo.
  2. Rooney’s touch is so astonishingly poor that he knocks the ball nearly out of the park, there’s no way he could have gotten to the ball, so even if there’s contact it shouldn’t be a penalty. We see that decision waved off for that exact reason pretty much every weekend.
  3. It’s a dive for the exact reason we’re told that Eduardo’s is a dive, watch it again, Rooney is nearly to ground before Mooney gets anywhere near him. In fact, it seems to me like he screws the ball out of play because he was on his way down when he kicks the ball. Rooney goes down before the contact, he was simulating all the way, thus it’s a dive and should be a yellow card.

So, Mike Dean’s only excuse to give the penalty? Dangerous play. What’s funny is that might be what he called because “dangerous play” would explain the strange yellow card. Mike Dean saw Almunia racing out to get the ball and decided that Alumina went out, head first, with intent to injure Rooney. Probably with his head. In which case it IS a penalty and Almunia deserves a yellow card.

Now, I’ve just gone and done a lot of logic there to explain how it’s not a penalty but there’s a simpler way to look at this and that is to apply the “Rooney test.” The “Rooney test” goes like this: would that have been a (foul, yellow card, penalty, etc) if Wayne Rooney did it? Now, take that same test and skew it a bit and ask; would Man U fans have been so certain that this was a penalty if Eduardo was the one going down?

Exactly.

Conclusions

Well, we got fucked.

And now we have a week to lick our wounds. Hopefully, key guys like Cesc, Walcott and Rosicky get a rest, though you can’t count on it because they are still included in their national sides. Wenger’s got some thinking to do this week and the team is going to be coming in for a lot of criticism for all that;s gone on this week. The thing is, this is a young side and they are challenging the status quo. When you do that, when you’re the up and coming side, and when you’re challenging the very fundamentals of the way the game is played, managed and financed, you’re going to get a lot of stick and you’re going to have a lot of games where cunts like Mike Dean screw you over. The only way to beat that is, well, to overcome it. The players, managers, and fans all need to stand up, as one, and keep pushing. Because when we win something, and especially when we win many things, then we will become the status quo and then we will get the benefit of these calls and people like Platini will get off our backs.

Notice I said “when” and not “if.” I still believe in this team with all my heart, this match didn’t lessen that belief. If anything it strengthened it. Arsenal are a massive threat to the footballing order. If we weren’t we wouldn’t be in all the papers. I’m full of belief that this team can do it. Fuck… if I can become an Eboue supporter then anything, and I mean ANYTHING is possible.

Right… I’m thinking I might not post every day during the inter-lull. I hate writing about the daily nothing that happens during inter-lull and refuse to suckle fools and chronicle small beer.* I’d rather, and I think you’d rather, get one or two good articles that week and maybe a caption contest. Sound fair?

Too bad! It’s my blog and I’ll take time off if I want!

*Yes, that is William Shakespeare, from my second favorite play “Othello.”