Captain Fabregas, Gallas back in


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.

City 3-0 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

I’m publishing this today (Saturday) because I’m taking tomorrow off to gather my thoughts, regroup and start fresh on Monday. After this week’s events, Arsene Wenger might want to follow my lead.

The Good

Here’s what I learned today…

  1. Stephen Ireland was great today.  His work rate and commitment in the match eclipsed the thrashing around of Alex Song and Denilson. Arsene Wenger surely saw that, which means that a change has to be coming, right?
  2. We only lost 3-0, the way that those guys played we probably should have lost 5 or 6 to nil.
  3. If you watch an Arsenal match with Yakity Sax playing in the background the game is much more enjoyable. Turn down the commentators and turn up the Boots Randolph — it’s the only way to get through the rest of the season.
  4. Does anyone still doubt the value of Adebayor? Seriously?
  5. There’s no question now, the experiment has failed. It was audacious to try and kudos to Wenger for having the balls to try it but a youth team just can’t do it. No hard feelings for Arsene trying it — he gets all the leeway he wants from me — but I suspect that he knows that the experiment has failed and will now move on.
  6. Tactically, Arsenal have been found out as well. Teams are now playing the same defensive scheme over and over against us and it works perfectly. Let Arsenal attack, there’s no teeth there, and since the defense is comical, prone to mistakes, and likes to dribble the ball out you don’t need much possession to get a goal. Once you get the first, just sit back and counter, more goals will come: Arsenal play a comically high line and with with 8 Arsenal players in the opponent’s box, you just wait and lob it out to a speedy attacker who will get you a break away goal.

Learning things is always a good but only if you capitalize on what you learned.

The Bad

I totally want to rip Song here but what’s the point? We all can see his limitations.

Same with Bendtner, Arsene says that the sign of a great player is that they know what they want to do with the ball as soon as they receive it and Bendtner hasn’t a clue. That’s pretty much all you need to know about Bendtner. But so? Adebayor can’t play every game, so I guess we’re stuck with Bendtner until Eduardo rides in on his white horse and saves the world.

The Ugly

So, what the hell happened to Clichy? Last year he was a revelation and over the last few matches he’s been completely unreliable at back. Today he had one of his worst matches I’ve ever seen. I’m not mad at him, I don’t want to fire him or anything, but rather, it makes me sad. What the hell is going on at Arsenal that we’re burning out so many talented defenders?

In my mind this whole bizarre defensive merry-go-round started with Campbell. When he walked out after shipping 2 goals against West Ham and we all said that maybe he just didn’t have the mental strength it took to play for Arsenal.

Then we lost Senderos and we all said that maybe he didn’t have the mental strength it took to play at Arsenal.

Then Toure…

Then Gallas…

Now Clichy?

What the living hell is going on with the Arsenal defense? I don’t have an answer, but I suspect that the “total football” approach exposes the defense to attacks that require 100% from our defenders. Since no defender can be perfect, these players are occasionally exposed, then they make a mistake and that leads to them doubting themselves and so on. I hope Arsene sees this and starts making some changes tactically.

Anyway, that’s enough for the weekend. There will no doubt be stories and quotes from the boss but I’m just burned out.

There really isn’t much more to say right now, is there? Try to have a good weekend, I’m going to take my frustrations out on Sunday — I’ve got a match.

Citeh v. Arsenal Preview — "We need a massive commitment"

Before you start a football game there is always a good chance to win it, but we need massive commitment on Saturday. — Arsene Wenger after the loss to Aston Villa talking about today’s game against City.

Officially, nothing has happened: the lineup reported by The Beeb includes Gallas, the dot com is silent on the issue, and even The World’s Least Reliable Newspaper (I don’t link to The Sun because I find that paper to be vile and won’t generate a single click for them) is left making up quotes that they heard from “a close family member.” That said, this is exactly how I would expect Arsenal to handle this situation. It would be undignified of the club to strip Gallas of the captaincy for publicly humiliating his teammates by releasing press statements and then turn around and publicly humiliate Gallas by releasing a press statement. That’s the kind of thing that a classless organization like Chelsea would (did) do.

So, if he has been dropped (we’ll find out in about an hour) I would be surprised if the boss says anything about it other than a terse “this is an internal matter, we are dealing with the situation” type of statement.

I will admit that I have taken some cheap shots at Gallas the last few days, really it’s been a long time coming. As I said before, I felt like I needed to bite my tongue about the man and the player for this whole season and so in a sense it was a great relief to finally be able to just let it out.

gallas-protestAfter a few days distance from the whole thing I can say that some of what Gallas said was spot on, if it’s true. If there are players who feel like at the age of 22 they have arrived and don’t need to put in any more work, then they should be sorted out. If there are players who feel like they are equals with greats like Thierry Henry, then they too should be sorted — and by sorted I mean sold to also-rans like Tottenham. And, of course, there are players who need to show more fire in their belly — I’ve been saying that for a month!

The problems with Gallas’ statement are multiple though. First, is the problem that Gallas is one of those players who needs to show some passion and I don’t mean just yelling at his teammates, or throwing a temper tantrum ala the Birmingham protest. I mean he needs to be the one attacking the ball in the final third. He needs to be the one who is willing to risk injury to himself to claim the ball in the air and I think he hasn’t been willing to do that lately. Second, is, well, DON’T RIP THE GUYS TO THE PRESS, DUMMY.

I’ll even throw Gallas a bone — one of the things that Gallas probably doesn’t understand is that this generation isn’t like his generation. Growing up, I was never praised unless I did something extraordinary but this generation is radically different: they need constant praise (link to first article I found — it’s a well documented phenomena). Gallas’ authoritarian leadership style just doesn’t work well with people born after 1979. Growing up being told that they were all precious little snowflakes, constantly praised for just doing their job, treated equally, and having rules and ideas explained to them rather than forced on them shaped the way that they expect to be treated by their work place. You can’t scream at Clichy when he makes a mistake that costs Arsenal the game — if you do, you risk losing him forever. These young men need mentors, leaders who lead by example rather than authoritarian dictators who scream at you for every mistake you make. So, maybe Gallas didn’t understand that generational gap, his interview sure seems to indicate that he didn’t get it; wanting players to respect him just because he is older. That’s just not how it works any more.

That said, Arsenal gave Gallas every chance. The moment that will be iconic of the Gallas reign was the Birmingham Sit In. Universally condemned by everyone outside the club, Arsene Wenger protected him and explained away his behavior by saying that he is just a passionate player. Then, this year he’s caught out late smoking a stogie before a match, the boss again defended him. And those are just the highlights. After all the chances he’s gotten I can’t see how he would get away with this latest event.

What happens next is being speculated on wildly. T-Town Alex reports that L’Equipe is linking Gallas to Bordeaux. Some other blogs are speculating that he might have his contract terminated and become a free agent. Doing that would free up $160,000 a week in wages, which could be used to bring in Stephen Appiah. Or, Arsenal could loan him to a French side, or Arsenal could sell him on in January. I find the last option least likely since Gallas is such damaged goods right now. The most likely scenario is a loan or free agent situation… then he can re-join his mates at Stamford Bridge.

I’m sure we’ll all know more about Gallas’ situation at the club here over the next few days. Today, the team has to somehow put all this stuff behind them and come out to play. Citeh has been struggling as of late — since their 6-0 win at Pompey, they have gone L-L-D-W-L-L-L-D. Of course, on the other side teams have been licking their chops to play Arsenal lately as we have put in some very ordinary performances.

The good news is that defensively, Arsenal are actually a better away team than they are at home so far this season — conceding 10 goals at home and only 5 goals away. Add in the lift that sometimes happens when a team has a massive change (if Gallas is actually dropped — which the Beeb is now reporting Almunia as captain and Gallas being dropped) and we could see a real classic today.

To get there, though, “we need massive commitment” from these young lads. There is not doubt that there will be a strange lineup today, some kids may be drafted in to fill the gaps due to injury and big mouthedness. Those kids are going to have to be 111% committed to get a result against City at home. I know that they can do it: Arsenal are a machine, one cog breaks, you insert another. They all have the talent, they have the ability, and today they need to show that they have the desire.

There have been many pivotal moments this season but I think we’re reaching the pinnacle of pivotal moments today. The game that sets the course of the season? Maybe. Go out there and win it!