Bolton v. Arsenal Preview

Back on the 6th, when the Arsenal v. Bolton match was called off for, uhh, weather, one reader suggested I cut and paste that preview for today’s match.  Today is a day that I wish I could, but can’t because things have changed: they have a new manager, we have a healthier squad, it’s an away match, and Phil Dowd is the man in charge instead of the hapless Howard Webb.

The whole idea of the new manager syndrome is complete and utter Tottenham. Remember when Kevin Keegan brought his god-like powers to Newcastle and was promptly whupped by Arsenal 3-0 in the FA Cup and followed that up, three days later with another 3-0 whupping? I bring this up because it’s a very similar situation to Coyle and Bolton: both clubs were built on “direct” football and both clubs brought in an iconic former player who wants to play a more attacking style. The point is that Bolton is still Bolton, Kevin Cyrill Davies is still a huge, well, you know what word I want to use there, and the rest of the squad is going to play the game the way they have always played the game; by kicking lumps into everyone. So, while they may “give 10% extra” 110% of crap is still crap, it’s just a bigger pile of crap.

Frankly, I hope they get relegated, it’s a side with absolutely no redeeming qualities and they and their fans don’t deserve to even be on the same pitch as clubs like Hull, who at least bring us great joy in laughing at their crazy orange manager.

As for the injuries situation the Theo Walcott injury continues to perplex everyone. The press is reporting it as an abductor strain or an abductor strain related to his shoulder surgery, or alien abduction, no one seems to know what the deal is with England’s greatest hope for a World Cup. Arsene puts him back in 1 to 2 weeks, which some suggest will see him play in the aforementioned FA Cup match. I remain skeptical, the Arsenal sick room just doesn’t work like that. He’ll be back in training in two weeks (maybe) and then it’ll be another week or two before he gets on the pitch. Basically, I’m saying that he’ll come on as a sub against Chelsea, the only team he’s ever scored a goal against.*

The good news is that Cesc is back in the squad as well as Clichy. There’s not much to say about Cesc, obviously it’s a huge boost. As for left-back, Wenger said that Clichy will make the bench “at least” which means that he’s battling Traore for the starting spot. I’m not ripping Traore here but he’s had a few poor defensive outings the last few matches and it’ll be good for he and Clichy to push each other for starting spots there.

Just having Cesc back, alone, is enough to cause me to re-write the whole story, isn’t it?

Then there’s the fact that it’s an away match, in January. Remember back in August when Tony Cascarino was making his bold predictions that Arsenal would struggle, oop norf, in the dark days of Winter? Well, it’s time to shove that column down Tony’s throat and beat the piss out of Bolton. Wenger puts it much more diplomatically than I

Every team is highly motivated against us. So, we are used to that. We don’t expect any weakness from Bolton, we just know that if we play at our best we can win.

Right then, let’s do it. I don’t have to tell you that this is an important match if Arsenal have title hopes. Arsenal are just 3 points below league leaders Chelsea and we no longer have that magical “game in hand” to bandy about as if we were going to automatically get three points. So every match counts from here on in. With the game in hand gone, we now have two tough matches against a “committed” Bolton side who will be looking to get points from us. Meanwhile our opponents have a bit easier road. Man U has a guaranteed 3 points in the Burnley match on Saturday, in fact, I’d be surprised if Burnley don’t take Mick McCarthy’s model of playing Man U to it’s logical extreme and just forfeit, thus giving their whole squad valuable rest.  That said, Chelsea have been making noise lately that Arsenal are the team to beat this season (they must have read my column) and they have a tricky tie against Sunderland on Saturday. You can bet your ass I’ll be watching that, it’s live on Fox Soccer Channel over here.

By the time Arsenal kick off on Sunday, we’ll know more about the league picture and will come out fighting for all three points.

For my American readers the Arsenal match is live on Fox Soccer Channel on Sunday at 8am (PST) which means no dicking around with Setanta this weekend and it means that I will try to do a liveblog. Those are usually fun, tune in here if you remember.

*This is patently untrue, though his goal scoring record against Chelsea is very impressive. Oh and we always lose to Chelsea when Walcott plays.

Injuries, transfers, and transfer kitty follow-up

Injuries

Good news everyone! This weekend will see the second coming of Jesus! That’s right, Arsenal’s captain and inspirational midfielder, Cesc Fabregas will be returning to play against Owen Coyle’s Notlob. Meanwhile, Gael Clichy might be fit, but Wenger is taking it a bit slow there and unless Traore picks up an injury expect to see Gael on the bench at the start of the game. Denilson’s mystery injury gets more mysterious as it’s now migrated from a rib muscle injury to a stomach injury to… well, I suppose we’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s presser to find out how long he’ll be out. And as you already know (since I reported it last week) Bendtner has started training and will be back in a couple of weeks — which as I pointed out before means some time in February before he’s a regular starter.

Transfers

Nothing today, no official announcement on the Galindo deal. No official announcement that Sol has signed and there isn’t even any fresh speculation.

Booo….

FC Twente might take Jack Wilshere on loan, yawn. Ok, it’s not like he’s ready to step into the first team at Arsenal a loan would be good irregardless the injury situation. Wenger can’t seriously be thinking of using him in the EPL right? I mean, he’s prodigiously talented and all but I think it would do more harm than good at this stage of his career to get kicked around the pitch in the EPL. Naw, let him go to Twente!

Jay Simpson

There’s a piece on the dot com today about how Jay Simpson wants to put his mark on Football by scoring 20 league goals this season and with his tally already at 9 you might just see it happen. But what I found truly amazing is that according to his ESPNSoccernet stats Simpson has scored 9 goals in 9 shots on goal. In all competitions, he’s scored 10 goals in 28 totals shots or 1 goal every 2.8 shots.

I wanted to compare him to Drogba (who scores a goal for every 5.2 chances he gets) but that’s not fair because the leagues are so different. So, I looked at the top scorers from the English League Championship and they are Peter Whittingham who scores a goal every 3.7 shots, Darren Ambrose who scores a goal every 4.5 shots, and Michael Chopra who scores a goal every 3.9 shots. It looks like the standard in the English League Championship is about 1 goal for every 4 shots for the league leaders which puts our Jay Simpson at the very top among goals per chance ratio.

Don’t be at all surprised if Wenger rules out buying a big striker this January and points to the progress of Simpson and Bendtner as the reason why. Moreover, I’d put money that if Simpson can manage 20 goals this season, Arsene will call him up over the Summer and give him a shot to compete for Bendtner’s starting spot.

And as a kid who’s come up through the ranks it would be a great story.

Transfer Kitty follow-up

Last week I reported that there were a spate of stories claiming to know how much money Arsene Wenger had in his transfer kitty. The Independent went  so far as to tally up the amount that they thought Wenger had and it came to total £35m. That in itself made the story stink to me, we all know that the last thing Wenger needs is for the amount of money at his disposal to be made public. It’s a sure-fire way to drive up the cost of any potential transfers.

The story went like this: there’s a special bank account at Arsenal into which 70% of all proceeds from player sales must go. This account is “ring fenced” from other accounts in the Arsenal Holdings company meaning that banks cannot access this account, which is a measure to prevent what they call “asset stripping.” In other words, if Highbury Square were to go tits up, the banks couldn’t force Arsenal to sell players to pay off that loan, since 70% of the proceeds from those sales would go into this special account.

But what made the story intriguing is that in other places the journalists reported where they got the information about this special bank account; the Arsenal Supporter’s Trust. So, I did what any responsible adult with a blog would do and I emailed the AST! Here’s the response from Tim Payton:

When the Stadium financing was signed in July 2006 the Club signed up to the following agreement …it protects lenders against asset stripping / fire sale of players:

AFC must ensure that, if it transfers the registration of a member of the playing staff of AFC to any other person, not less than 70% (adjusted for tax) of any transfer receipt is deposited in a Transfer Proceeds Account (TPA) , with amounts standing to the credit of any TPA available to be drawn by AFC only for certain specified purposes, including the purchase of certain fixed assets or registration rights of a new member of playing staff for AFC.

I really doubt that “certain fixed assets” include Highbury Square!

Which means that 70% of the money that came from the sale of Toure and Adebayor must have gone into the TPA, right? Well, not so fast there chief! The fact is that we all don’t know. What we do know is that the debt from Highbury Square was going to be made due on April 30 of this year, and it stood at £120m last year. We also know that they found a way to reduce the debt to £47m and extend the loan until December 2010. This has led some to speculate that player sales may have funded the debt reduction on Highbury Square and honestly, I bet a part of it did. That 30% or so that is allowed to.

Using ballpark figures we can easily get to the £73m needed to reduce the debt on the HS development from £120m tp £47m. What you have to remember is that according to the last public report Arsenal have huge cash reserves, some £100m or so, and they have an annual operating profit of over £30m (depending on how far we go in the Champions League). Plus the official statement from Ivan Gazidis is that they sold a large batch of condos to a single investor. That means that it isn’t impossible for Arsenal to have paid this debt down, rather easily. £13m from the Ade and Toure sale, £30m in profits from last year, £23m in condo sales, and £7m from cash reserves would make it happen pretty easily.

More importantly, it would have left the TPA intact and that means that in all likelihood Arsene does still have his transfer kitty and that’s what he’s been using to sign all of the Arsenal team to extended contracts.  How much is in there? I don’t know. No one outside the board knows. It could be anywhere from £27m to £10m to I don’t know, £50m? You have to remember that this account has been building since 2006 in which time Arsenal have sold more registrations than we have bought so the number could be bigger than £27m. We don’t know.

And frankly, I don’t want us to know. It’s good for it to be a bit of a mystery. That’s how we get players like Arshavin for a coupon book and few bob found underneath the seat cushions.

What we do know is that the board is officially committed to making sure that Arsene has money for transfers. According to page 15 of the latest financial announcement (September 09) the board’s official position is that player transactions are Wenger’s business and they stay out of it.

All proceeds from player sale transactions are made available to Arsène Wenger for re-investment back into the development of the team.

That’s good enough for me.

How to dive and cheat, Arsenal sign a midfielder and other mid-day distractions

Start with a video

Thanks to long time reader fourstar for the link to a funny video about how to cheat and dive in football:

It’s a Sign!

According to the Mirror, “Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has signed Bolivian wonder boy Samuel Galindo.” 17 years old? Check. Precocious? Check. Cheeky transfer right under the noses of Everton? Check.

Might as well announce it already.

One problem though, according to many sources the kid was in England to sign for Everton and Arsenal scooped the lad from under their noses. Reportedly Everton are furious. Rightly so, I’d say. Will this scupper the supposed swap of Senderos and Saha? I think so and I’d go so far as to say that if this story is true, then Arsenal never had any intention of taking Saha.

Seattle might get World Cup!

Well, to be more accurate, Seattle has not been ruled out as a city that could host the World Cup IF the USA wins the rights to host the World Cup… in 2018 or 2022.

2022, eh? That give the Sounders 12 years to pray for a miracle so that they can grow grass in the harsh climate of the Pacific Northwest.

Fellaini Coming to London?

The Good: Pretty much as soon as I mentioned Marouane Fellaini should be an Arsenal target, the powers that be in the Fellaini camp (his dad) have linked him to a move to London.

The Bad: It’s South London, Chelsea in fact.

The Ugly: His hair.

A second Marouane in England?

If everything turns out the way I think it might, Marouane is about to be a surprisingly popular name in the EPL: Liverpool are reportedly ready to pay an astonishing £25m to land Marouane Chamakh for 5 years.

Ok, that’s not really fair. They are willing to pay him a £12m signing bonus and £60,000 a week which over 5 years would TOTAL £25m, but still, a £12m signing bonus? Really?

I guess it makes sense, after all he’d be going from a Champions League club to a Europa League club, they need something to entice him.

That’s just how we talk in the States

Studs Up has a comical take on Tom Hicks Jr. rant.