Wenger: “This year will be decisive”

arsene

Good day.

I can’t really say “good morning” anymore because, well, because I’ve been officially picked up by NewsNow and that means, starting today, more people from all over the world are going to be reading this blog. Kinda scary, kinda exciting, I better make it a good blog eh?

I do want to recognize my long suffering readers before the insanity of having a whole new audience sets in, you guys are the reason I do this. Your insights into the game, into Arsenal, into global finance, into the global nature of the game, and just into human nature in general are invaluable. When I write, I tend to speak with the voice of authority but really you all have taught me so much. Thank you and I hope you know that your comments will always stand out with me among the other voices that are about to join us. Now, on with the blog…

I was reading through the news feeds last night and came across a translation of an interview with le Boss on French Radio RMC via our friends at Gooner Talk. So, I did some digging of my own and found the original and ran it through my own translator (Google Translate!) and it looks like an important interview even if it is brief. I will rely on my French speakers to let me know if I missed something in translation.

The big bombshell that everyone is talking about, because it is transfer season, is that Wenger is actually looking at Chamakh as a replacement for Adebayor. Not going so far as to say that he wants to sell Ade, because that would be dumb, but he puts the ball in Ade’s court, saying:

If he does not want to stay, then we will start looking (for replacements) but I think he will be with Arsenal this season.

As I have said many times in the past, I like Adebayor. Owing to the fact that on my very few trips to see the matches in person I ended up being there when he scored his first ever home goal. Plus, for years, he wasn’t the best striker in England, but he worked his ass off and I appreciate hard work over lazy talent all day. So, I have been a staunch defender of Ade — until this year. Now that it seems the talent is there, the hard work has evaporated, leaving him as a guy who is basically disrupting Arsenal’s flow with his constant offsides and who occasionally puts in a world class, audacious goal.

So, I see Wenger’s point. If he WANTS it, he could be one of the top strikers in the world. In which case, let’s keep him. Conversely, if he just going to be a lazy loudmouth who disrupts what Arsenal are building, Wenger will find another tall fellow who can hold the ball up, stays onside, and works hard as the lone striker; Chamakh.

That’s the “bombshell” from the interview and what you’ll read about in all the papers but there’s some subtler things at work here that I think are equally important. Things like, what’s Arsene’s future at the club and what’s the long term plan for this team?

There is no doubt that Wenger had his head turned by Real Madrid this summer. Clearly they approached him and said “hey, we’ve got this plan to buy up all the world’s talent. How would you feel about coaching Ronaldo, Kaka, and Benzema?” His response is a bigger bomb than whether he wants to replace a wantaway Adebayor, in my mind:

Obviously, yes, because I’m at a point in my career where I must consider these things. I’ve been at Arsenal for twelve years and I do not want to become stagnant. But, I refused because I have built a young team and I wanted to finish what I started. There’s no doubt that this will be a decisive year. If this team is not challenging for a title, the club will rebuild everything.

In a lot of ways this isn’t anything new. Wenger has often maintained publicly that he is committed to the cause at Arsenal, that he started this youth project 5 years ago, and that he wants to see it through to fruition; a Champions League trophy. But what is new is the admission that this is it, either this team wins something this year or he’s blowing it up, “tout reconstruire” he says.

Complete reconstruction.

Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but that’s a bigger bombshell than whether we buy some replacement for Adebayor.

Complete reconstruction.

It makes sense too, with van Persie, Arshavin, and Cesc itching to add to their trophy cabinets I can’t see them being content with being out of the title race in November again. Which Arsene calls “ce qui a fait grincer les dents” it would feel like grinding your teeth.

So, maybe Wenger’s just being realistic and admitting that if we don’t get a trophy he’d need to let those three go and start over. Throw in Gallas’ contract situation (ending this year), Toure wanting away, and all the other experienced players who have been making smoke in the press and maybe this is an admission from Wenger that this is it, the last chance saloon. Win or go home.

What with Joan Laporta tapping up Cesc pretty much daily now and Arsene locking up the youth with all these long term contracts (Rambo and Wilshere) it looks like Arsenal are actually poised to blow the team up if needed.

That Wenger has admitted it publicly that’s the real bombshell to me.

David Beckham Superstar

Beckham has a question for the teacher

The other day I was at some giant box store buying some Chinese product and there was a little kid in an LA Galaxy shirt. Sandy blond hair, little square glasses, white LA Galaxy shirt. Now, in my imagination, the back of the shirt said “Donovan,” and I started imagining this little kid idolizing team USA’s captain and LA Galaxy mainstay Landon Donovan and I thought “that’s nice.” When he turned around I saw not Donovan or one of the other LA Galaxy players but “Beckham” and I actually laughed, out loud, derisively.

Beckham.

I hadn’t really thought of Beckham since the end of the season when he was “earning” his 100th cap for the England team and his face was all over the papers and now here was his name emblazoned on some unfortunate kid’s shirt.

Beckham, he’s like a cold sore, he’s always around when you don’t want him.

Beckham and that shirt encapsulate everything that’s wrong with world football; huge salaries, selfishness, mercenary players, the lure of the national team, media manipulation, lies, deceit, and ultimately, the way sport can both uplift and destroy a kids dreams.

Beckham and his flotilla of photographers docked in Los Angeles  last year and like the first Europeans who “discovered” America, he promised to bring us enlightenment. He was going to “bring soccer to America” he said. In essence he wanted to convert us from our backwards religion where we worship 500 lb behemoths who carry the football to the world’s religion, proper football.

Though he still called it soccer, which in retrospect was a blatant clue.

Before the ink was even dry on his multi-multi-million dollar contract the shirts were flying off the store shelves and Americans embraced Beckham, the savior of American Soccer. We bought the hype, and who could blame us? He and his media machine are master manipulators. So, for what seemed like an endless summer I, being the local “soccer guy,” was bombarded with questions about Beckham.

“You must be excited.”  Uhhh, not as much as I am that Arsenal signed Aaron Ramsey.

“What do you think, will the Galaxy win the league?” Beckham’s past his prime and never did defend well on the wing, he will be a liability on that team defensively, though they will probably get better from set plays.

“His contract is huge but the Galaxy seem to think they’ll recover the money, how?” HA! If I understand his contract, Beckham gets part of the gate receipts. THE GATE. This isn’t about business, this is a spectacle and Beckham is the rock star. He’s made a mockery of the so called “salary cap” in the MLS and pretty much insulted all of the decent players who work hard in the league and get paid a regular wage.

I’ll admit that I watched the first few matches, I mean “games,” and sure enough the cracks showed right away: he didn’t defend, he got stepped on by the big talentless defenders in the MLS, he was pretty much constantly frustrated with his teammates (who, to be fair, aren’t used to putting together more than 2 or 3 passes) and the comical announcers kept wondering why he hadn’t scored 30 odd goals in his first game. So, as he hobbled on and off the plastic pitches and the Galaxy started coming apart at the seams everyone started questioning the sanity of this experiment.

Then the England National Team had to go and hire someone with a spine and Beckham’s well orchestrated set play in America was dismantled. Capello basically said

American Football is shit and no one playing in the MLS will make this team. No one, not even Golden Balls. Oh and I don’t give two fucks if he’s approaching his 100th cap, I want to win something.

So, Beckham used the fact that the MLS starts and stops their season so that they don’t conflict with the more important sports in America (like college football, Olympic skeet shooting, and the World Series of Poker) and he orchestrated a “loan” move to AC Milan, where decrepit old pervert Silvio Berlusconi was assembling a hodge podge of washed up has-beens. All so that he could get his 100th cap.

It worked. Hooray for international football. David Beckham is now the most capped outfield player in England history. They should make a movie about it.

Having successfully gotten all he wanted he now returns to his club and the response has been, well, less than enthusiastic. Landon Donovan has this to say:

My sense is that David’s clearly frustrated, that he’s unhappy and, honestly, that he thinks it’s a joke. I also kind of feel (he has taken the team) for granted. I don’t see dedication or commitment to this team, and that’s troubling.

Let’s say he does stay here for three more years. I’m not going to spend the next three years of my life doing it this way. This is fucking miserable. I don’t want to have soccer be this way.

What do you expect? I can’t imagine an Arsenal player doing the same thing, hell, we boo guys who make bad passes, could you imagine the response that a lazy, selfish, pretty boy rich kid would get if he orchestrated a loan deal that took him away from the team for half the season, so he could earn some personal milestone in international football?

So, what has David Beckham taught us ignorant Americans about football? That the club doesn’t matter, so long as you get your caps. That you can get a huge paycheck and put in a half assed work rate. That you can screw your “teammates,” so long as you get your caps. That American soccer sucks so bad that it doesn’t rate as even decent practice for international games. That salary caps are a joke. And that in the end all that matters is one man’s ego.

Welcome back, Dave.

The First Day: the Good, Bad, and Ugly

The Good

As inauspicious as our last day over at the WordPress site was (what with the  loss of Felipe Melo as a potential signing) it’s looking like the first day of the new blog is inversely, erm, auspicious!

First off, we have some great news out of L’Equipe (whom T-Town Alex assures me is a very reliable source) that Mikael Silvestre is being tracked by Bordeaux. I’m not going to re-hash the whole “Mikael Silvestre was the one player who was involved in every Arsenal blow out last season and the worst signing in Arsenal history, ever” thing and instead will just simply say thanks for the “service” and good luck in Bordeaux — you’ll need it.

This is followed by the news that Cappy Gallas intends to honor the last year of his contract with us despite reports linking him to Inter.

I am at Arsenal, my contract is still valid for a year, so I am an Arsenal player. We have not talked about renewing the contract, but I am relaxed and looking forward to next season with Arsenal.

It’s funny, there was a time when I joked that William Gallas was a Chelsea plant, that Mourinho sent him to Arsenal to get in as deep as possible and destroy us from the inside. But as it turns out he’s a pretty damn stand up guy. He’s our best defender, probably the most experienced player on the squad, a man who wants to win, and a man who has shown honor in the face of huge criticism. To put it bluntly, I don’t think I would be half as respectful of a club that stripped me of the captaincy.

Anyway, the point of the two stories is that when we signed Vermaelen there was a lot of speculation about who would leave with people wondering if it would be Kolo or Gallas. Well, it’s looking like it’s neither of those two and it’s Silvestre who is headed out the door.

Good.

I mean… uhh… thanks Mikael! Have fun in France!

The other goods for the day are that with the press thrown off the Felipe Melo scent they have sniffed around and targeted three other potential midfield signings: Lorik Cana, Mesut Oezil, and Gaetano D’Agostino.

  • Cana: Big, strong, robust, churlish, talented, good in the air and Arsene even tried to bring him into the team when he was a lad. All of which point to Arsenal wanting to sign him, right? The problem is that Wenger has bought a “destroyer” since Vieira (you don’t have to tell me that Vieira was more than a destroyer, I KNOW) and it’s looking like he’s trying to build a more “continental” team one that challenges more for the Champions League than for the Premier League. So, I’m going with 6/10 on this one, which should be a 4/10 but every time I watch this video that number jumps up one point and I’ve watched it twice this morning. Hell, I might watch it at work again!
  • Mesut Oezil: So, a 20 year old attacking midfielder, silky passing skills, keeps the ball on the ground, destroyed Theo and Gibbs in the U21 tournament, and probably available for around £15m. Ladies and gentlemen, the only question left is how we pronounce his name! Is it “Weezil?” 7/10
  • D’Agostino: left footed, tall-ish, relatively unknown, late bloomer who currently plays on the wing for Udinese. Supposedly a bid has come in from an English team and “an important Italian club” and the speculation is that the bid is either Arsenal or Chelsea. I really don’t know of any Italians who have played for Arsenal, which could just be my ignorance, but seriously, can any of you think of an Italian who played for Arsenal? The only reason that I give any credence to this story is that Wenger has a history of plucking unknowns from the continent. 3/10

The Bad

Maybe it’s not really “bad” but just kind of funny; Aston Villa is reportedly linked to Senderos and Campbell. Welcome to Arsenal 2006, Villa!

The Ugly

Because when I think Arsenal, I think "white and blue"

I’m not sure what the execs at Nike and Arsenal are thinking. First they come out with a blue kit, which you could make an argument for, I’ve seen Arsenal in blue, I own a blue away kit with Henry’s name! There’s at least some historic precedence for the blue kit. Albeit, pinstripes are not historically an Arsenal thing, they’re more a New York Yankees thing. Still, I was only kinda put aback by the blue kit. I wasn’t going to buy one, but I wasn’t going to write some angry screed about it either.

But the white kit is just full of fail. First off, a white kit was first introduced the season that we lost Thierry Henry and there were pictures of Henry in the white kit right before he went off to the sunny beaches of Barcelona. That white kit also was the kit of the season where we lost Flamini and Gilberto as well. So, frankly, the white kit is a curse and I had hoped to never see an Arsenal player in a white kit ever again as long as I lived.

But, to introduce both blue and white in the same season? What the fuck are you thinking? White and blue are the colors of Chelsea, Everton, and Tottenham. Are we Chelsea North now? Tottenham 2? I mean come on, this is really a slap in the face of anyone who has supported Arsenal through these last 10 years or so. Especially since they ruined the home shirt by turning the white sleeves into stripes.

And then there’s the accompanying advertising spiel, which is both perplexing and insulting:

Further shirt details include a panel of horizontal stripes at the back of the shirt, to mirror the craftsmanship of a fine English shirt. Inside the collar is a high quality woven label that reads Arsenal, while engineered in to the side seam is a small red label featuring two Arsenal canons either side of the club motto, ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit,’ which translates as ‘Victory Through Harmony.’

What the hell is a fine English shirt and how, exactly, is it crafted? And what do horizontal stripes have to do with the whole thing??? And then, the coupe de grace, they explain to us what ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’ means… fuck me.

I buy a shirt every year when I travel to London to see the club, it’s one of my pre-match rituals, and I am seriously considering a boycott of the shirts this year. I can’t think of any way to get these folks to reign in the stupidity and give us a proper red shirt with white sleeves for home matches and a yellow away kit.

For the record, I’m not calling for a boycott, but Jesus, someone needs to tell them that this latest color scheme is a disaster. Maybe if a huge section of supporters all wore last year’s away kit for the whole season they would get the idea.

Maybe.