Fabregas v. Dynamo Kiev

Best.Poster.Ever

Good morning Cocksandwiches, are you ready for some football?

The Fabregas’ take on Dynamo Kiev today at 11:45 PST with the match being shown live on Setanta here in the states. It’s a good chance to don your Fabregas strip (mine’s an away), pour a pint, order a sandwich, and cheer on your “new look” Arsenal.

Before I get into all that stuff I need to give credit to Gunnerblog for the poster above. The poster and the attached parody article made me laugh, and with all that has been going on at the club it was a welcome relief. Check it out.

OK, now, where was I? Oh yeah, the “new look” Arsenal. Cesc rolls out in the armband for the first time to the relief of many, many supporters. The more I think about this selection the more I like it. Disregard the supposed “curse” that the last few Arsenal captains have left nearly immediately after they get the armband: Cesc has already put that rumor to bed saying:

By becoming captain it shows how much I’m committed to the club, I actually feel I’ve shown commitment since I arrived here. Each year people talk about me leaving yet I’m still here and I want to be part of the future of Arsenal. I love the club and I’m totally committed to it. I’m not looking to play anywhere else.

The real benefit of Cesc as captain is that he’ll be allowed to play a little more unrestrained. Captains get away with heavier tackles, they get to complain to the ref, and they can defend their teammates — something Cesc was not really allowed to do when Lampard attacked Kolo during the Carling Cup final a few years ago. It’s that incident that stands out as his most captain-esque moment. Irregardless the fact that he wasn’t wearing the armband, when Lampard got in Kolo’s face Cesc waded in and sorted it out. So, in addition to getting away with a little bit more foul play, he’s also the guy expected to sort out the team. Despite what Arsene says about how unimportant the armband is, that’s what the captain does on the field and I think Cesc is perfect for that.

The other thing the captain does is “other duties as needed” which is why I’d like to see Cesc become Arsenal’s temporary enforcer: just until Wenger brings in Appiah (joke!). We shouldn’t forget that Cesc was brought into the club to be the holding midfielder and what a job the kid did, too. Who could forget what he did against Patrick Vieira in the Champions League run that eventually led to a final appearance? It was masterful: a box to box midfielder who tackled the ball away from Vieira, scored the opening goal, and laid on the second. Lately, he’s been playing a very forward role, which does suit him, but as captain, I’d like to see him revert to the dirty job in defense and let Denilson go forward. Of course, some of that depends on who Arsene puts in there. If Denilson, then my idea is fine, but if Song, well… then it’s Song and frankly I don’t know what to do with Song to make the team better.  The point is that Cesc needs to lead by example and right now this team needs a holding midfielder, who better to do that than the captain?  At least temporarily.

For the opponent’s tonight Wenger has a bit of a headache selection with Nasri and Diaby adding to the injury list of Adebayor, Kolo, Eboue and Sagna. Plus long term injured Theo, Eduardo, and Rosicky. If you are wondering why Gallas was included in the squad, you need look no further than an injury list that is 9 folks long. How many clubs could survive with 9 injured players? It’s an amazing number.

The Beeb is reporting that Wenger will pick from Almunia, Hoyte, Gallas, Silvestre, Clichy, Ramsey, Fabregas, Denilson, Vela, Van Persie, Bendtner, Fabianski, Song, Djourou, Wilshere, Gibbs, Lansbury, and Simpson. How you line that up is beyond my powers of prognostication. I would slot Silvestre on the right and play Djourou in the middle, but that’s just me. As for the pairing with Cesc, I would certainly start one of the youngsters — Wilshere and Ramsey both? I dunno. And up front… well… I don’t think I’d play Bendtner. Which means we’ll see Lansbury start next to Cesc, Bendtner and Vela up front, Djourou in the back with Gallas out right… you get the point.

So, that’s what we have this afternoon. Despite the recent struggles, the change in captaincy, the injuries, and the fact that 9 of the 16 included for the trip are youth team members I’m hoping for a really gutsy performance tonight and a modicum of revenge for the 1-1 draw away earlier. A win here would see the club through to the knockout stages and give us a big boost to go with our long rest ahead of the St. Andrews day clash with Chelsea. Plus, what better way to see Cesc’s captaincy kick off than with a win?

Come on you reds!

Captain Fabregas, Gallas back in

cesc-happy2

I didn’t read a single opinion piece yesterday and it felt, well, it felt good. I did read all of your comments and I want to thank all of the readers who left comments yesterday and Saturday, I always read all of your remarks and enjoy each of your insights. But I stayed away from the Independents’, Suns, Beebs, Telegraphs, Arsenal.coms, Setantas, and Goal.coms, because I knew that it was just going to be a feeding frenzy by the press; blood is in the water after all.

One of the things that I noticed while scanning through the news stories this morning is that everyone thinks that they know what’s going on at Arsenal. Something is clearly going on, no doubt, but what exactly is happening is pure speculation.

The one story that we haven’t seen yet is speculation about why Wenger hasn’t bought big in the last five years. I have been very suspicious that Arsenal just don’t have the money that they keep claiming that they have. Whether there’s a drain on finances due to the Emirates, the huge payroll, or there’s some kind of dividend being payed, we just don’t know. The facts are very clear; Arsene Wenger has broken even or earned money in every transfer market for the last 5 years. Further, Wenger has admitted that he bid for Alonso (an experienced midfielder) and Chelsea have admitted that he bid for Malouda, but that both bids fell short and were not upped is telling. That behavior can’t just be explained away with Wenger’s insistence that he is pursuing a “youth” policy or that he doesn’t want to “pay over the odds.” There’s something going on, I suspect.

It seems I too can speculate with the best of them.

But instead of the finance story, there are dozens of stories about how Wenger is afraid of Gallas, how there are cliques in the dressing room, how they argue on and off the pitch, and the worst of all, how Wenger has lost the plot. The point of all these stories isn’t to really shed light on Arsenal, but rather just to draw you in. They take one quote and spin a yarn around it. Who really knows what’s going on in training? Arsene Wenger, and I trust him to make things right.

Which brings me to today’s press conference. Just a few minutes ago, Wenger announced that Cesc will be captain and Gallas will be included in the team. Time to drop the speculation over whether Cesc will make a good captain, we’ll see if he will or not. Last year I called for Gallas to be replaced by Cesc and I was roundly criticized so, despite my reservations this year, I have to admit that I see the quality in him. It’s a tough, tough time to take over as captain but, like President Obama, when you take over at such a pivotal time you will either pass with flying colors and be one of the greats or you will go down in flames.

Here’s hoping that Cesc is the former.

The very first thing I would do, if I was Cesc, is knock on Wenger’s door, close the door behind me, and tell Arsene Wenger to go out and buy an experienced midfield partner. I would not leave the room until I had a promise from him that he would buy that person. You all know that I want Stephen Appiah, he’s available right now and I think he would be magnificent for the job. But maybe Wenger has a January target, someone better, he needs to let Cesc know now.

The very next thing I would do, is I would squash the bullshit squabbling between RvP and Gallas — neither player is good enough to get away with this stupid bullshit and tear apart my beloved Arsenal. Wenger has stated that Gallas will be used for the remainder of his time at Arsenal saying:

William is a player that I rate and a man that I rate. I have a big respect for him. He was working as a captain in a very difficult media environment. He was under big pressure from the press. For me, the player is committed to the club and I think he can be stronger as a player because he took all the problems of the team to his heart. I think it can be a new start for him.

Given the fact that Wenger is determined to select Gallas (who is arguably the best defender on the team — I said ARGUABLY) Cesc’s second big challenge is going to be to support Wenger and Gallas in this. At least until the man can be moved on in January.

The last thing that Cesc is going to have to do is heal the wounds at the club. This is probably the most difficult task ahead because right now, the club and the fans are a club divided. If winning is the salve that heals all wounds then so be it, go out and get some wins. But I suspect that Cesc will need to do more than just win in order to keep this group together. He will need to put an arm around the shoulder of his teammates when they screw up, he will need to work a lot harder on the pitch than he has as of late, he will need to inspire his teammates, he will need to back his teammates up, and he will need to back Wenger up.

That’s what Cesc has got to do over the next few weeks. It’s a lot to ask any man at a healthy club, but it seems a superhuman task to ask a 21 year old at a club that is tanking games and in danger of losing their place in the Champions League.

Up next is Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League more on that tomorrow.