The Savage of The Cup

Stop staring at his penis.

What’s an Arsenal supporter supposed to do on a Saturday when there’s plenty of football but none of it features our beloved Arsenal? I suppose we could watch some FA Cup matches.

Here in the States the early match is Soton v. Pompey and it’s a decent contest between two mid-table League One sides. There’s little chance that we’ll see the Pardew Shuffle because the chances are pretty good that Avram Grant’s Portsmouth might just bury them.

Overshadowing the actual football match is Portsmouth’s deep financial troubles. They are currently on a 7 day stay of execution by the tax-man and it’s looking like the FA might step in and put them in administration rather than let the club go out of business and subsequently throw the Premier League into turmoil.

To hear ole Harry Redknapp tell the story, he did nothing wrong building this team and doesn’t know where all the money went from his “wildly successful” team from which many profits were generated. Of course, Harry is full of it. Fratton Park has a capacity of just over 20,000 and even a Liberal Studies Major could figure out that even if you pack the stadium for every match you still couldn’t afford the salaries that were being paid to the FA Cup winning side. In fact, in that season, they spent £87m and earned… just £70.

It was like that, but worse, for Harry Redknapp’s entire tenure and the fact is that Portsmouth fans look like they will be paying a long-term price for Harry’s short-term success. That’s what happens when a club doesn’t plan for the future, when they simply placate their fans, and when you have a manager who cares more about personal glory than the bottom line.

It’s a story that is playing out all over the country at the moment with Notts County, West Ham, and to a lesser extent Crystal Palace and Cardiff all showing signs of financial trouble. Don’t be surprised if you see clubs like Sunderland and Fulham and Villa added to the list here in a few years. Those clubs are in a similar situation to where Pompey was a few years back: rich owners piling money into the club in order to help them build success despite relatively small turnover.

You won’t see that happen at Arsenal, thanks to Wenger and this board’s very conservative approach.

The other game on today is the Derby v. Birmingham match and the big story is that Robbie Savage is still playing football!

Not only that, but did you know that Robbie Savage is also very wealthy, has a hot wife, a huge house, is one of the keenest footballing minds on the planet, is well hung, has wonderful teeth, perfect hair, top notch cars… I could go on, but why bother when Robbie Savage will tell you himself:

Robbie Savage is the overall package. He likes doing the television, he likes doing the radio, likes being in the headlines. When all that’s flowing it’ s fantastic. I remember when I was doing a column in FourFourTwo magazine, Brucie said to me: ‘Any chance of you concentrating on your football?’ But it was the whole package. That’s what it’s like here now. I enjoy my media work but it doesn’t affect my football. I love football, that’s what people don’t realise. They just see the hair and the teeth and the tan and the big house and the car and the Dolce & Gabbana clothes, the model wife and houses all over the world. What they don’t see is when I go home. I go for a dip first in the indoor pool, look out over my golf course – what they don’t see then is that I watch ESPN, Spanish, German football. everything. Since 1990 I just watch any league in the world, any football all the time. My knowledge of the game is up there with the best and that’s why I want to stay in it.

Wow, Robbie Savage is such a douche that Robbie Savage referrs to Robbie Savage as… Robbie Savage. Read the whole puke inducing interview over at the Daily Fail.

Who says that there’s no magic left in the FA Cup?

Arshavin’s injury, Arsenal’s #1 fan, American Footballers, and more!

Good morning, how’s everyone then? Still basking in the afterglow of beating Liverpool 1-0? Me too, unfortunately there’s injury news and whatnot to report so, let’s get right to it.

Injury Update

According to Andrey Arshavin’s own web site he suffered a hamstring injury against Liverpool and will probably be out for two weeks. The player wants to come back on the 20th for the Premier League game but how long he’ll be out remains to be seen.

I’m not surprised that he pulled his hammy because the strain of playing center forward the last few months had to have taken a toll on him. It will be a well deserved rest and now that the majority of the team are healthy he will be missed but he’s not as crucial as before. Get rested and come back for the run-in, Andrey.

The Run-In

I’ve been sitting here looking at the table and the points and trying to figure out how the title race is going to shape up and to be honest, it’s looking like a crap shoot. Arsenal, ManU, and Chelsea all have 12 games left and I’d be lying if I said that I thought any of those teams will win out.

On paper, Arsenal have the easiest run-in, Man U the second, and Chelsea have the hardest. It’s true that in the last 12 games Man U play Everton, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manciti but they have the edge there because they are playing Liverpool and Chelsea at home. Chelsea on the other hand have to play those two away and their away form has been hit or miss. Arsenal’s toughest matches are the North London Derby away and Manciti at home but there are other teams in there which have caused us trouble in the past and we play them in quick succession; Stoke away, Hull away, and Birmingham away.

I’m not going to make a prediction, I’ll leave that to you, but I will say that it’s going to be close and probably all three teams will be within 4 points of each other at the end of the season. Hey, maybe Arsenal will win out?

Arsenal, I’m Your #1 Fan

Those of you who were watching the Liverpool game probably saw this guy on their television screen before kickoff:

Arsenal's Number 1 fan

His name is Aby Baby Kuruvilla and he won a competition called “Barclays Fan of India” by submitting this video and an essay and some other stuff.

Here’s the thing… I’m not going to make fun of him for the video. Yes, it’s a bit wild and there’s weird aspect to the video with the homemade paper scarf, the Arsenal shirt with a Puma logo and the fact that he’s obviously whispering his enthusiasm so as not to upset his neighbors. No, kudos to him, he got to go to Emirates and watch the Liverpool game and even correctly predicted the final score.

What I do want to point out is that it’s easy for Arsenal supporters who don’t live in England to go online, look up the lyrics to the Arsenal songs and then go to YouTube and find video of someone singing that song. So, for example, he starts the video singing Good Old Arsenal which is actually one of the easiest songs to find on the internet.

It also happens to be properly sung to the tune of “Rule Britannia” which, uhhh, is a bit odd for an Indian to sing, much less an Arsenal fan. I mean, well, let’s not get into the whole colonial past, shall we? Suffice it to say, that song isn’t sung much around the Arsenal stadium anymore. Here’s a song that I can proudly recommend

LOL ‘MERICAN FOOTBALLERS R BIG!

It’s one of those misconceptions that a lot of people hold and a question I get a lot; what would happen if America’s top athletes played “soccer” instead of football?

The question is based on the assumption that all American athletes are 6’6″ weigh 220 lbs and are chiseled out of solid alabaster. But the reality is that that American Football physique is not something inherent to America but rather just that our training regimens that are different.

You could take any American football player and if they had been raised in England and wanted to play Football proper, their diet and training regimen would sculpt them into the types of players you see week in and week out.  American football requires sprinting speed and brute strength to play so players lift weights for bulk and work on sprints for speed.

English Football requires more stamina and stamina and bulk training regimens are at odds with each other. The example used in Studs Up today was a comparison between Drogba and Chad Ochocinco and it illustrates my point exactly: Drogba is 6’2″ and weighs 185, Ochocinco is 6’1″ and weighs 192.

You put Drogba on the same weight training program that Ochocinco is on and he’ll be 6’2″ and probably weigh 199. You put Ochocinco on Drogba’s diet and regimen and I bet he’d weigh 170 or so. Basically, your average footballer.

Now, Sol Campbell? Hell, he could probably come in and play linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks.

Locker Room Clearout

In yesterday’s post match write-up, I mentioned that it looked like the players had had a no-holds barred discussion about defense and that it seemed to help the team perform more as a unit than they had over the last 2 matches. Several of us even saw Gallas and Almunia fist-bump at one point which was bizarrely refreshing!

Well, Almunia confirmed that prior to the Liverpool match there was indeed a team discussion.  He’s not exactly forthcoming with the details of what was said and that’s fine with me. What is great, though, is that it’s looking like Cesc is maturing into a real captain and little things like this go a long way to confirming that.

It’s amazing to think that one of our most experienced and mature players is just 22 years old. Well, it would be amazing unless you already had put the pieces together as Grimbo pointed out in his guest column today. It’s all been part of Arsene’s plan for 10 years and will be part of the plan for the next 10.

And that’s why I love the Arsenal!

Thoughts on why Arsenal chose the ‘youth experiment’ by guest columnist, Grimbo

It’s amazing what a win, a draw and a loss in our favor will do to the state of affairs eh? However, this isn’t about the recent perfect results Nirvana of Wednesday although the Spud’s loss was particularly sweet after ‘arry said this – no, this post is about me being pissed off but possibly not for the reasons you might think. Yes of course I’m non-chuffed with pre-Liverpool match performances. I hated being in the Gooner pub in San Francisco (Maggie McGarry’s) to watch ManUre wipe us out at home and listen to the Manc supporters cheering in the Gooner’s home pub in the Bay Area (wouldn’t happen in the Gunners Arm’s), then watching the Chelski debacle at home, sitting in front of the tele watching that utterly despicable but brilliant Drogba(stard) knock yet more goals past us, whilst mothers passing in the street outside cover their children’s ears at the vile profanity being hurled at the screen, I was only just a Drogba dive away from throwing solid objects such was my ire at the jumpers for goalposts defending on display. However, despite this; never would it enter my thoughts to rip into the club and it’s management the way that some Gooners have in recent times…rightly or wrongly, because I understand the unbelievable achievements of the last decade, and I think the bigger picture. The other day whilst talking to some fellow Gooners over here it occurred to me that perhaps others don’t fully understand the full implications of what’s happened at the club since our departure from Highbury was announced.

As we all know in 1999 saw the announcement of plans to build a new stadium, the stadium that became the Grove/Emirates that is our current home. The Emirates is the third biggest football stadium in the whole chuffin’ country behind Old Trafford and Wembley, which by the way doesn’t count because it’s England’s home, not a club’s own ground, so essentially this means the Emirates is the second biggest football stadium full stop. Look around the premier league at all the clubs that are currently crapping their pants in the knowledge that they too must build a new home or be left behind. Maybe not this year, or next, but inevitably their positions at their aging stadiums will become untenable. Old Trafford is the largest stadium in the country by club standards, and has been ManUre’s historic home that has been constantly developed over a the period of a century now to it’s current capacity which was possible because of it’s location as it’s not really in Manchester City’s official boundaries as Citeh fans love to point out (it’s in the Trafford borough of ‘Greater Manchester’), and is therefore not surrounded by houses and businesses – Newcastle’s St James’ Park is similar but much smaller in capacity. Seriously – take a look at a Google map of Old Trafford – there’s room in all directions for expansion, and so they’ve been able to grow in smaller steps due to their location from the very beginning; a new stand here, a new entrance there, paid for over decades from profits from their success.. Our own historic temple of worship; Highbury, because of it’s location, could not be expanded in the same manner because there was no room to grow due to it’s location in London, and in a heavily populated part of the city at that. In fact the only reason that ManUre is in as deep shite as they are financially is because their owners are dodgy as phuck and left ManUre deep in almost three quarters of a billion quid (that’s well over a billion bucks) of deep debt doodoo as they didn’t want to stick their necks out to own the club – up to the point where the Glazers took over ManUre was run within it’s own means.

When the decision was first made to build the Emirates, the Footballing landscape was completely different. Clubs pretty much had to get by on their own earnings or suffer the fate of Leeds Utd. ManUre had the biggest Stadium and so could generate the most cash – if Arsenal wanted to continue to compete then we had to expand. However since then we’ve seen a revolution in the way clubs are owned and run: A certain Russian Billionaire bought a mediocre club in West London and rewrote the club ownership landscape. Then a few years later some dodgy American Businessmen started buying and then mortgaging out clubs at minimal risk to themselves and of course more recently Middle Eastern Oil money came in and showed just how greedy many players in the current game can be. So now there are essentially three business models in the Premier League:

  1. Get some rich Billionaire to buy the club and sink buckets of their own money into the squad as their personal plaything. Buy as many big players as possible, install an expensive (and equally expendable) manager and essentially try to buy the Premier league. Essentially turning what should be an sporting institution into a Billionaires plaything.
  2. Have some rich businessmen buy the club, then after purchase recoup the costs by saddling the club with the debts accrued in buying it and bank upon winning consistently in order to keep the creditors at bay, all while they rape the clubs coffers for their own needs and assure fans that all is well (no it effing well ain’t) which only works while they’re winning. See the juxtaposition of ManUre and the Scousers for the best/worst case scenarios.
  3. Figure out how to compete with the above twats over inflating the prices of players, their wages and everything else associated with football and then try to compete on the uneven playing field that the above circumstances cause – this covers the majority of clubs in the EPL.

Arsenal FC chose a strategy that competes with the first and second scenarios before they even existed…we had no choice but to move anyway; we needed more bums on seats to keep up with the costs of top flight football and made the decision when field of play was very different from today. Regardless of the above, personally speaking I’d rather eat a plate of assorted animal testicles then have my beloved Arsenal owned by those from scenario’s 1 or 2. Also when we built the Emirates we didn’t have the ‘hand out’ option like the one ManCiteh got when they were basically given a new stadium in what’s become the Eastlands Ground (before the Abu Dhabi wallet turned up) which was originally built for the commonwealth games. Now clubs like Everton, Liverpool (poor bastards have scenario 2 to deal with as well), the Spuds & West Ham are all waking up to the same problems that Arsenal saw in the late ’90′s – smaller capacity stadiums means less gate money – forcing clubs to borrow or find outside investment in order to keep up in the escalating spending war. Everton are walking a tightrope and Moyes, it has to be said, has done miracles there with what little he has;  they might even have to move out of Liverpool, their ancestral home (they are the original Liverpool team). As for Liverpool themselves…they’re already lumbered with a manager that is shite at buying players (Torres aside) and, well we all know what else is happening there. The Spuds have been through a a ton of managers and players and are still chasing our shadow and only recently came up with their own stadium plan which looks like a lot of hot air…we’ll see how they fair when; a) they come up against the 6 years of crap in planning permissions that we did and b) they actually make the transition and have to tighten their belts which will see old ‘arry will pack his bags because he doesn’t do frugal. West Ham on the other hand will try the Citeh route and ponce a stadium on the cheap from the UK Government (the new Olympic Stadium)…while everyone else scratches their heads.

Only Arsenal figured out a way to do it off their own backs and with a strategy that completely flies against most popular thinking. A strategy that relied on; a) the redevelopment and sale of Highbury as opposed to just flattening the stadium and it’s immense history and flogging the land, b) developing an academy so we weren’t reliant on the increasingly volatile player market c) building and moving into a new Stadium, all while d) Wenger didn’t piss cash away needlessly on mega expensive players as we needed to pay off the loans to pay for all this. Can you name ANY other manager that could have juggled this scenario?

Since the Invincibles began to disband we have slowly been moving towards the completion of the plan. It does resemble a more Barcelona based model that sees more self reliance on building talent from the academy and hand picking one or two players that Wenger famously likes to call ‘world class’… A plan as ambitious as this was probably figured to take in the region of 10-15 years to come to full fruition and I guess we’re still about 3-5 years from seeing the full benefits of the switch – THIS is why Wenger keeps talking about ‘long term’. When players like Watt, Wilshire, Mannone, Eastman, Coquelin, Afobe, Frimpong, Barazete, Nordviet, Lansbury and Sunu (to mention a few that are in their late teens in the academy) are in their early to mid 20′s, have been playing together for 10+ years and therefore have the sort of mental click that Messi, Xabi, Inesta, Valdes, Puyol et-al have, we will see the true value in the audacious plan that was embarked upon… Keeping Barcelona’s academy as the example you must remember that it’s been up and running, pumping out players for so long now that Pep Guardiola (the current Barca Manager) was himself a graduate… Now; take a few minutes to digest all that information….and then think, when you take all of the above into account don’t you think it’s a miracle that Arsenal have never been out of the top 4 and have been the only team in England to qualify for the CL for 10+ years straight and still have seen the Invincibles and two doubles…all while the stadium and Academy was being built, Highbury was redeveloped and we switched to a new system of player sourcing development. Me? I’m gobsmacked.

So to summarise all the above, the problem I have with all that simply write off Wenger claiming his ‘experiment’ is a failure is that this argument is too simplistic. It’s not an experiment it’s a strategy and one that cannot be judged as one that’s complete yet: players take time to grow…. I get annoyed at the inability to look and appreciate this big picture; a plan that has far broader reach then just the last five trophy dry years. Plans like these take time to perfect and fully take hold, but will be worth it in the end. Arsenal will survive the rough waters of Billionaires and dodgy businessmen and overspending and will come out stronger. Perhaps Wenger is to blame for all the flak he gets because in his fist 6-7 years at the club he set the bar impossibly high. This dry spell has not been during a time of relative stability like the ’80′s and ’90′s, where fingers could be pointed more levelly at a manager as all he had to worry about was building a team and the next match. During Arsène’s reign the club has been completely re-invented and the footballing landscape that Arsenal inhabit has changed beyond all recognition and all this without any example to draw from in the Premier League; Arsenal ARE the example and proof that with clever plans and a steady hand and fiscal responsibility you don’t need to bankrupt a club to compete.

Now before anyone kicks off calling me a blind idiot…Yes, I too hate that ManUre and Chelski have bragging rights over us right now…Yes, I too am sick of some of the weird tactical decisions he’s made…and yes I’m aware that we might just end up empty handed again this season, but we’re still at the right end of the table and although Football is of course about winning Trophies you have to exist to win them in the first place… Ask Pompey or West Ham fans. All the feelings I had during the recent losses are overwhelmed (when I’d calmed down) by the sheer pride I have in the club and the magnitude of what’s been accomplished. I feel happy and a little smug, that our future is secure; a future that will see the academy pumping out more players then we can possibly handle, selling the excess on to other teams for a major profit all after picking the best of the litter to stay at the club.

The final justification I see in this plan sadly requires me to use Barca as the example one last time (yes it does leave a foul taste in the mouth, but bear with me). Do you honestly think Inesta or Xabi or Messi will ever play for another club regardless of the money waved in their faces? THAT is a true backbone with which to build a team around. I despise Barca for constantly unsettling our players which makes me look forward to the day when they can no longer do this, well not with those that are coming through the academy at any rate. For when the Stadium’s almost paid off and all the ticket receipts are going straight into the coffers, I’m fairly certain there’ll be a big kitty marked “phucking brilliant player transfer fund.” On that day we’ll be able to compete with the wage structures of Madrid, Chelski & Citeh, buying a great player here and there while most importantly having the foundation of a team, that bleeds Red & White; players that cannot be tempted by the likes of the aforementioned rich twats. On that day, I’m fairly sure that all those that call Wenger a crackpot will feel a teensy bit stupid, for we’ll have players that eat, shit & breathe Arsenal – just like those that support the club.

Grimbo.

A few words about Grimbo…

Transplanted to the San Francisco bay area seven years ago, Grimbo is a Londoner by birth although one that was born on the wrong side of the River Thames. He survives the immense sunlight exposure of North California by being coated in sunblock and regularly marinaded in beer, he hopes that one day his immense freckle collection will all join together so that he can claim to be tanned. He’s both a player and sometime manager of Sunday League clubs all over the region and semi regular patron of Maggie McGarry’s in San Francisco, home to the infamous Bay Area Gooners many of whom marvel at his ability to scream “you c**t” in the correct accent while remaining blissfully ignorant of how unacceptable the c-bomb is to those around him.