What’s Past is Prologue

She that is Queen of Tunis; she that dwells
Ten leagues beyond man’s life; she that from Naples
Can have no note, unless the sun were post—
The Man i’ th’ Moon’s too slow—till new-born chins
Be rough and razorable; she that from whom
We all were sea-swallow’d, though some cast again
(And by that destiny) to perform an act
Whereof what’s past is prologue; what to come,
In yours and my discharge. — Antonio, The Tempest, Act 2 Scene 1

Nationalism week is finally over. The body paint has been painted, the flags waived, the drums beaten, and the vuvuzelas annoyingly blown. Some teams, ranked teams like Croatia, won’t be going to the World Cup leaving Messers Eduardo, Vermaelen, and Ramsey to play Scrabble with Almunia and Denilson this Summer. Though, if Oliver Kay had his way, Ole Manny Pickledickle would travel to South Africa and be in a pretty good position to win a World Cup from the looks of that team.

Oliver Kay does make a rather compelling point about Almunia; that if you look at Germany, their 4 man strike team consists of just one German-born player, Mario Gomez and you could look at pretty much every squad and see a naturalized player. But, that Scotland is just now letting all of her citizens play for the national team, coupled with the statements of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, John Terry and pretty much all of the English players (except Theo Walcott) I think says a lot about the attitude of the United Kingdom toward foreigners. As I have said repeatedly, Almunia would need one hell of a spine to bear the tempest of scorn and play for England. As I have also stated repeatedly, if chosen he should accept.

Whilst away on their Nationalism duty on Wednesday both Ramsey and Arshavin  scored goals, with only Rambo’s being noteworthy. Arshavin got a tap in and if you want to see that, go over to 101 Great Goals and check it out. I want to post the Wales v. Liechtenstein match here, though, because I absolutely love this video. It’s about 5 minutes long, shows all the highlights, has absolutely no commentary, and there’s a nice light sound track which doesn’t drown out the crowd noise. All football videos should be made like this. ALL OF THEM

But that’s all behind us, if you want to live in that past, the dot com serves up all the Nationalism Team action for all of Arsenal’s players last week. What we’ve got to look forward to is a month of Premier League, Champions League, and a whopper of a Carling Cup match before our next Nationalism break.

In the distant haze of my memory is this one match against a team called Birmingham. I wrote passionately about that match in January, when I was doing my round up of the most important moments of the year. I don’t think I can improve on what I said there so I won’t even try. My main points were that it was a moment that altered Arsenal history, that it should have been remembered for Theo’s performance but it never will be, and that the press’ constant sniveling about how hard it is for TAYLOR to recover from this mortal wound was about as disgusting as I have ever seen from them. The British press still, to this day, refuse to use the active tense when describing the incident, saying things like “Eduardo broke his leg” rather than the more accurate “Taylor broke Eduardo’s leg.” As if Eduardo tripped and fell on Taylor’s outstretched leg, thus placing the blame entirely on the Croatian.

This will be the first time that the two teams have met since that day and I have no doubt that the incident and subsequent disappointing 2-2 draw will be very much on the minds of every Arsenal player on Saturday. In fact, if I was a Birmingham player, coach, or supporter I’d be happy to have just a regular 2-0 loss rather than the absolute hiding that I suspect Arsenal will want to give. An absolute hiding: that’s how much emotion I expect this Arsenal team to have ahead of this match.

Funny thing, though, Taylor is pretty much completely out of contention for the match with an injury and poor form which has kept him out of every match this season. And Eduardo didn’t play on Wednesday, still suffering from a bit of a thigh strain. So, it’s entirely possible that neither of the two actors in that infamous incident will get on stage. That fact could drain some of the emotion from what I expect will be a heated match though how much remains to be seen. We’ll find out more about the lineups when the boss gives his Friday presser tommorrow.

In the end, I am hoping that Eduardo gets on in the last 20 minutes and scores a goal, there would be no better way to both honor the past and look to the future and thereby make what’s past truly a prologue.

4, 5, 5, 5, 1, 0: how many losses will win the league this year?

invincibles

4 losses, 5 losses, 5 losses, 5 losses, 1 loss, 0 losses

That’s your last 6 Premier League winners’ losses tally. Yesterday Perry Groves made what on its surface seems an incredible claim; that this year the title winner could lose as many as 6 matches and still win the title. Most people would think “6 losses? that’s crazy!” and historically they’d be correct. Arsenal lost 6 last year and it was only good enough for 4th place. After thinking about it, though, I’m going to agree with Perry for two reasons; first, because of the challengers to the top four, and second because it’s better to lose a match while going for the win than it is to sit back and go for the tie.

So far this season several teams have looked very impressive; Sunderland looks like they might be the type of team that will push all of the title challengers — with their stropping two center forwards and a middle of Cattermole, Cana, and Malbranque they are a no nonsense squad and will turn over top four teams this year. Their draw against Man U was no fluke, they earned that. Villa are still a dangerous team and folks would be silly to write Martin O’Neill and his squad off as an easy three points. Everton are constructed to grind their opponents down and with news that Phil Jagielka is ready to make a comeback they should look to make up for their poor start to the season with some solid play. Tottenham is a squad that wants to score a ton of goals and that will surprise a lot of folks. And, of course, City look like they are solid enough to push teams, at least until the infighting starts. All this is to say that beyond the usual surprises, such as Wigan stealing one against Chelsea, there are a lot of teams who are built to challenge, if not beat, the top four clubs. None of which even mentions the fact that the top clubs will fight tooth and nail for all three points when they face each other. so, 6 losses each for the top clubs is by no stretch of the imagination infeasable.

But really it’s not losses that matter so much. Sure, it’s dropped points, but so are draws. The old adage is that top four teams sees draws as two dropped points while smaller clubs tend to see it as a point salvaged. How important are draws on a final tally? Well, a team that draws every game gets 38 points and probable relegation. Whereas a team which wins half, and loses half, ends up on 57 points and playing in the Europa League. As for the title challengers, here’s another way to look at it: during Arsenal’s unbeaten season they went 26-12-0 and garnered 90 points. Man U lost 4 matches last year and got the same point total, because they won more, going 28-6-4. They drew half as many and won just two more games, and they got the same number of points! Incredibly, in that unbeaten season, if Chelsea had converted just 4 of their draws to wins, they would have beaten Arsenal to the title by one point — while losing 7 matches to Arsenal’s 0. Clearly, winning is everything. This sounds almost stupid to say but, 6 losses won’t matter to the league winner as long as they win more games. Win more games, win the title, as it should be.

I’m not saying that draws are useless. They can be a good result, say, in a comeback from a 2 goal deficit. Rather, that top clubs and title winning clubs approach nearly every match as a chance to get three points. It’s early in the season but I think Wenger’s approach to this problem is pretty clear: you need to score goals to win and we’re going to outscore you. Yes, this means that like the City game, we’re going to go into the game saying that we’d rather lose 4-2 than get a 2-2 draw. Under that system, and the way that we are playing defense, I can actually see Arsenal losing 7 or 8 this season — and still challenging for the title. Since our comptetitors will be looking at 5-8 losses as well, it will be the win to draws ratio that will decide this season.

All we have to do is win more!

Arsenal get fit, what’s your dream XI?

Your Dream Lineup

Arsenal are on the verge of being the healthiest I have ever seen them. Rosicky is healthy and playing both for club and country. Cesc is back with the club tonight after some personal problems saw him jet back to Spain. Almunia should have recovered from his “affliction” by now. Nasri is set to return to training and should regain match fitness in time for the December run in.  Eduardo is on the mend much to the consternation of Slaven Bilic. Song is in such good form at the moment that Frank McLintock  compared Alex Song to the rapacious Peter Storey, who ranked 26th on the Times list of 50 greatest hard men. I could go on.

Incredible as it might seem, having suffered the last few seasons with such devastating injuries,  Arsenal could very quickly find ourselves with lineup congestion! Knock on wood that the boss has this problem.

So, that raises a question; if you have everyone fit, where do you play them?

Now, obviously, this question has a ton of answers. Against a tall opponent you will want to include taller players. Against an opponent who parks the bus, you need skillful players who can break down defenses. Against Chelsea you need a bazooka, three gallons of rotted fish, and a voodoo doll. You get the point, and I concede that no single lineup is best for all circumstances. But you still have one, maybe even two! If so, share them below.

Here’s mine to get you started:

dream-xi

On the bench I’d take Mannone, Eduardo, Djourou, Eboue, Denilson, Walcott, and Wilshere.

Almunia: despite some incredible performances from the backups, he’s our most experienced and solid keeper.

Clichy, Vermaelen, Gallas, Sagna: is there any question that this is our best defensive lineup?

Nasri, Cesc, and Song: Nasri is an underrated defensive player who has a bit of bite to him and also is able to get forward and score goals from long range. Add in his dribbling ability and he is one of our most dangerous players in breaking down the purely defensive teams. Cesc is a no brainer and Song is vital in shielding the back four, don’t believe me? Ask Frank McLintock, he knows a thing or two about football.

Arshavin: why wouldn’t you pick him?

Rosicky and van Persie: picking these two leaves the team without a real target man up front, which means that there will have to be… more passing in order to get the ball up front. But that’s ok, the whole team is built for that!

So, who do you pick?

Transfer Rumors

The Inler to Arsenal rumor has gained ground again, mostly due to his agent’s refusal to negotiate a contract. I do think that Arsenal need a holding mid for when Song goes to the ACN and maybe there’s some truth to this? The rumored asking price of £13m might be a bit steep but as far as I can tell he’s not cup tied in the Champions League. Does anyone know if he played in the Europa League?

Wenger’s going to sign Merida to a long term deal. That’s like a new signing, right?

And finally, in the shock move of the century, Patrick Vieira is not coming to Arsenal in January.

Short blog today, there isn’t much to say (that never stopped me before AMIRIGHT???). See you tomorrow with more of the same.