Arsenal make a signing, plus Appiah comes to North London

It’s a Sign

Arsene Wenger signed his first player of the transfer window when 17 year old Jack Wilshere agreed to professional terms yesterday. I feel better knowing that Wilshere agreed to terms because in 10 years he might be one of the greatest players ever. And I’m not the only one who thinks that, Wenger is highly impressed with Jack’s potential and had the following to say about the kid:

We are delighted that Jack has signed a professional contract with us. Jack is a player with great potential, with an ability to find the final ball and also score goals. Jack is a passionate and committed young player, he is not afraid of tackles and I am convinced he will have tremendous penetrative power in a few years. We have already seen Jack’s qualities in both his first team performances and in training on a regular basis, and we look forward to Jack being an important part of our first team for years to come.

Jack is so strong that three days ago he picked up a small motorcycle and lifted it over his head, doing a set of 10 Military Presses before setting the bike down unharmed. He also can kick a ball 122 yards and is a world class sprinter who is expected to run for England in the Olympics.

Also he swum the English Channel last week.

And he bakes great cookies — next term’s red level members all get a packet of Jack’s homemade cookies upon renewal of their annual membership.

I might have made that last bit up.

Jack is 100% a product of Arsenal’s academy (joining at age 9) and judging by what we’ve seen so far he’s certainly something to be proud of. So, kudos to him, to the academy, and to everyone involved. Now the hard work starts, keeping his ego in check.

Now, if only there was an experienced holding midfielder available. Someone to add some steel to Arsenal’s soft center. Someone who could come in and start playing right away and show the youngsters like Denilson and Song the ropes.

I wonder who could do that?

Appiah to Sign With Spuds

OMG this ear infection really BURNS!

Ok, now this really pisses me off. Tottenham are expected to give Appiah a trial and I have a really bad feeling that Appiah is going to be this season’s Diarra. That means that Harry Redknapp is going to start looking like a genius instead of “the guy who made a name for himself by signing Arsenal’s cast offs.”

Worse though is that I was really, really, hoping that Tottenham made the drop. I know it’s not realistic but after their brief run of good form they are now 2 points off the bottom of the table and losing to squads like W.B.A. Moreover, they are flailing around in the transfer market, looking to re-sign former players like Defoe.

Come on… if there was ever going to be a season that Tottenham makes the drop, it has to be this one, right?

*sigh*

I guess I’ll have to hope that Appiah is an utter failure, which I hate to do because I really wanted him to come play for Arsenal and I hate rooting against a guy who’s had the medical problems he’s had. But I’d hate it even worse if Redknapp saves their season, Appiah goes to Barcelona for £100m, and Spuds make a push for top 4 again.

The Arshavin Deal Starts to Rot

I think being a Gooner stands for something; it’s a way of playing on the pitch and a way that the club treats our players with respect off the pitch. Arsenal FC might not lose gracefully but there is no doubt that this is the classiest organization in the EPL. It also means a host of seemingly small things like honoring our contracts, not dealing with disreputable people, and stamping out racism.

So how is it that this club is still linked with Andrei Arshavin?

I’m not surprised that Arshavin is now threatening his club with a buyout of his contract, the kid is obviously very, very desperate. He’s offered to take a salary cut, he’s threatened his club with a strike, and now he’s threating to buy himself out and leave his club high and dry. After what happened with Hleb this summer and after Wenger’s statements about honoring contracts, I don’t know how Arsene could sign him and keep a straight face next time he talks about the transfer market.

And honestly, I don’t care if he’s the next Kaka, which he isn’t or someone would have already paid the £20m asking fee, all of the press around this guy is so negative that there has to be something wrong with this deal.

So, if I had cold feet before because Zenit is a bunch of racists and their owners Gaszprom a bunch of thugs I have, erm, even colder feet now that Arshavin himself is revealed to be a waffling crybaby who threatens his club and refuses to honor his contracts.

Mark my words, this would be a bad signing for Arsenal.

Players Not Coming to Arsenal

So far this month, I have added Inler, Upson, and Appiah to the massive list of people who won’t be playing for Arsenal.  You know, so many people are linked to this club that you could have a blog just about the players NOT coming to Arsenal. And today that blog could add three new names: Rosina, Scott Parker, and Yaya Toure.

Rosina is easy, the club have come out and said the player is not leaving Torino. Yay, Arsenal aren’t going to sign a second-string player from a crappy team in a crappy league!

Scott Parker, well, I’m adding him because I don’t see Arsenal getting into a bidding war with Manchester City. He was already overpriced at £10m or whatever City offered the first time and now that they are up to £12m, there’s no way Arsene would pay that.

Yaya Toure is a similar story except with a bigger price tag and an even more improbable team to leave. City have reportedly offered £24m for the player. Which, if true, plus a huge compensation package, could be enough to prise the player away from Barca. But if I was Toure, I would stay: Barcelona are favorites to win the Champions League this year, they are on top of their league, plus, I don’t know if you know this but Barcelona is in sunny Spain. Who the hell would want to come to the freezing cold of Manchester in the middle of winter to play on a team that has more problems than Plaxico Burress handling a gun in a strip club?

Irregardless, he’s not coming to Arsenal.

We’ll all have to wait for the inevitable denials about Niko Kranjcar.

That’s it for today, Arsene supposedly has his eye on someone and only time will tell who it is(n’t). See you tomorrow!

How to get there, see a match, have fun, and get home alive.

There’s nothing going on today. Well, Wenger said despite his summer attempts to get the player he’s no longer interested in buying Inler and is holding out for someone of “special class” and we all know that means the press expects Wenger to nick himself Arshavin for the cut rate price of £15m.  Wenger mentions this season’s Champions League qualifications as no obstacle because this player he’s got his eye on is one for the future so I have to wonder if he isn’t going to up his bid for Alonso. Liverpool have several holding midfielders and seem to be stockpiling them so I’m going to say my feeling is Arsenal are going to spend silly-ish money and bring Alonso to the club for £20m. Either that or they are going to get downright stoopid and bid £75m for Ashley Young. I don’t know, he might be worth it, the English refs love to give him and Villa the benefit of the doubt on every questionable call — going so far as to overturn their own decisions in his favor. I mean, £75m to buy every English ref? That’s not a bad price at all.

Since there is precious little going on and since I have been asked several times for my expertise in traveling to London and seeing matches I figured I should write a piece to help you get there, see a match, have fun, and get home alive. So, without any further ado…

Travel

I hate flying. More specifically, I hate taking off, landing, and the middle part where you’re stuck in a cramped space for 9 hours. I also have a lot of anxiety over flying which is why my first tip is: drugs, get some drugs. You’re not cheating the system if you go to your doctor and say “I have travel anxiety” and he prescribes you some Lorazepam. In fact, you’re making the flight more enjoyable! Not that airlines lack entertainment: now days, all British Air intercontinental flights have some insanely cool entertainment options. Last time, I watched like 4 movies, an FA cup final replay (Arsenal and Man U) and some television programs — all for free, all from the “comfort” of my chair.

Other than drugs, the other thing I recommend is to use Orbitz or one of the other online places to figure out which days are cheapest to fly in your area. Over here, non-stop flights to London that depart and return on Mondays through Thursdays are the cheapest. Figure in one day of travel to fly from America to London (from Seattle, it takes 17 hours to fly over there and like 1 hour to fly back) and plan accordingly. If you leave on a Thursday night you will arrive on Friday morning. I like to leave on Thursdays and return on Tuesdays: 4 nights is more than enough for me.

Once you land, you will need to get into town and to your hotel (I always stay in London proper) save your money and take the tube — the express train is very fast but it costs like $60 and the tube costs like $10, cheaper if you buy an Oyster visitor pass. I buy a daily pass every day so that I can go to all the places I want without hassling with buying tickets every time I go somewhere. This year I’m going to try the Oyster pass — it looks like I’ll save some coin. Also, the daily tube passes are good on the buses as well. Public transport in London is pretty much awesome.

One other trick that I can pass on is that since you’re going to be there for just 4 nights you need to acclimate yourself to their time quickly. What I do is 100% opposite of what all the travel places recommend: I don’t drink on the plane but when I land, I get settled in, then I go out and drink a lot. A LOT. This makes me pass out and wake up at a normal-ish time. Works for me.

Lodging

Skip the “Bed and Breakfasts” and stick to a package deal. If you look around enough you might save a few dollars by staying at some place that sounds quaint but trust me, nothing beats modern amenities — like having your own toilet. Oh and you will see the words “en suite” when the hotel room you are staying in has its own bathroom.  Trust me, not sharing a toilet with 30 other people is totally worth a few extra dollars.

Technology

I bring a laptop, a camera, and two cell phones. The laptop, obviously is to get directions, write my blog, check my email, etc. Just make sure that you bring proof of ownership with you because when you land in the States, customs can make you pay tax on the item. Also, clean off any files that you don’t want the customs agent to look at, in America the border agents can now look at every file on your computer if they want. Most hotel lobby’s have free wifi but everywhere else is pay as you go and it can get very expensive.

I bring two cell phones because I need a phone here and a phone there and because unlocking your cell phone can be a pain in the ass and is no guarantee that the sim card you buy in London will work. So, I bring my regular phone and a cheap-ass Nokia that I got last time I was there.  I know the cheap phone works over there and I can get a sim card with 60 minutes on it for $15.

Trust me, it’s worth it to have a cell phone: everyone in London has them so you won’t be able to hook up without it and pay phone prices are retardulous. I had to call my bank once from a pay phone (because they cut off my card when they saw it get used in London — which I could have avoided by simply calling them and alerting them that I was going to London) and I swear to you it cost me $30 to make a 10 minute international call.

Match Tickets

There are basically four ways to get match tickets: become a red level member and buy them through the club, become a member of your local official supporters club and get them through them, get them from another member, or go to a scalper (they are called “touts” in England).

I have done all of these and by far the easiest is the first. Yes, you have to wait until a month before the match to buy the tickets. Yes, you cannot get away tickets. Yes, you would be very lucky to get tickets to a big match (Man U, etc). But, it’s easy and requires no special paperwork. Pick a match that won’t be sold out (I’m picking Sunderland this year) book your flight and don’t worry — you will get a seat at a match like that. Just remember to logon as soon as the tickets go on sale (local London time) and you’ll be fine.

In the past, I got tickets on Craigslist but that was because I needed one for me and my girlfriend and when you buy tickets through the club everyone needs to be a member. Rather than buy her a one year membership and the match tickets I just went on Craigslist and bought them from another season ticket holder. Technically, buying tickets this way is only illegal if the owner sells the ticket over face value.

I’ve also gone through a “tout” and my only advice is that if you’re going to do this, use your hotel concierge.  Reselling tickets above face value is highly illegal in England, if you get caught you can be banned from the stadium for life, be made to pay a fine, and go to jail. Also, be prepared to pay a huge “tax” on the cost of the ticket — they know you’re a foreigner and charge accordingly. Finally, I can’t dissuade you enough from doing this, when I did it I carried around some dude’s season ticket (basically his membership card) for two whole days and I was terrified of losing it, or having it stolen. That kind of thing can ruin your trip.

Your official supporters club ticket agent can get tickets to almost any match, but you have to ask two months in advance. This is completely legal and grants you access to some of the more difficult match days. Check their local charter for details.

One final thing, there is a huge price difference between the upper bowl and the lower bowl and there is a reason for it. Contrary to the way we design stadiums here in America, the upper tier seats offer a much better view of the match action and thus are much more costly than lower tier seats. You may think you’re “in the nosebleeds” but really the game is much more enjoyable to watch from the top. Of course, the fan participation is much more “colorful” down below. Whatever suits you.

Having Fun in London

Everything is free!

Seriously.

All of the national museums are free to the public and you will have a really hard time seeing more than 2 museums in a day, unless you just breeze through them. Throw in the public markets, the walks, and just stopping at eas many little pubs as you can and  filling the days are no problem. Personally, I love the national portrait gallery and always make a stop there to see their current exhibit. Also, the British Museum is insanely large and nearly impossible to get through in a single day, plus spending all day looking at antiquities can get a bit boring.

Here’s what I do: get up, go to Starbucks. Back to the hotel and write the blog. Out to breakfast at a local joint, some place where the construction guys are all eating. To the tube and off to say, the British Museum. Kick around there for a while and then off to lunch. London food is not as bad as everyone likes to make out and there are these things called “gastro pubs” which is just a fancy pub with really good food. Yes, they are a bit expensive but they have solid food and good beer. Of course you can always stop at some fish shop and have a good meal, but for me the key to the whole London experience is to stop some place, have a beer, move to some place else, have a beer, eat lunch, have a beer. You get the idea! I’ll even eat at Square Pie if there’s one in the area because, you guessed it, they serve beer.

The other thing I like to do is walk. I walk a lot in London. There are two really fun walks along the Thames, both north and south banks. They are like 3 miles long and there are all kinds of cool things to see. I’ve walked from Trafalgar square all the way along the river to the Tower of London and also along the south bank also to the Tower. The south bank is by far the better walk just because there’s so much more to see: the Tate Modern, the government buildings, etc. There’s a Young’s Brewery called the Founder’s Arms right there next to the Tate that offers some good food, great beer and a welcome relief from the seriousness of the Museum.

Yes, I’ve been to the Tower of London, it’s OK if overpriced. You should go at least once.

Local Customs

One of my favorite parts of London is that no one tips. The servers are all paid a living wage, they get sick leave, vacation time, and have health care so, living off tips in just not done. If someone, like the concierge, does something really nice for you you might give him a £5er and say, “have a pint on me” but other than that no one tips and, frankly I’d like to keep it that way.

Some people see tipping as a class issue — it’s like you’re saying that you’re better than they are — so don’t tip. EVER. Even when you have lunch somewhere and you pay with your credit card and there’s a tip line. Don’t tip.

On match day, the local custom is to get nicely pissed at a pub before the match. Drinking in the stadium is strictly regulated and very expensive anyway so save it for before and after. I like the Famous Cock because it is right outside of the Islington tube station and a short walk to the stadium.

The other thing you need to know is that standing in your seat is strictly forbidden — in fact, just read the “Terms and Conditions” set out by the club and follow them religiously. The last thing you want to do is something stupid that gets you kicked out of the stadium and banned for life.

Conclusions

Well, that’s pretty much my summary of how I get there, what I do, how I get tickets, and hopefully how I get home alive. This year I’m going over to see the Sunderland match and I’m making a point of visitng the Chelsea market and the Imperial War Musuem. Drop me a line if you’re in London at that time and I’ll see if I can’t pencil you in.

Also, if you have any suggestions of places to eat and things to do, please share them in the comments.

Sorry for the late blog but I just got to work and checked the site and noticed that I didn’t publish this.  I thought I pressed the “publish” button but I gueess not! Oh well…

See you tomorrow when Arsene Wenger reveals that he’s signed David Villa and Ashley Young for a combined total of £200m.

Kolo gets a touch of the Irish, plus the FA Cup draw

You know a story has credibility when you read about it in the last paragraph of a story that quotes another story that quotes anonymous sources.

See, it turns out that Theo Walcott’s cousin’s sitster’s boyfriend saw Theo at 31 flavors last night and Theo is really mad that Arsenal haven’t opened negotiations over his contract which expires in 18 months.

He was doing well for both his club and country but still nothing happened on the contract front. The fact is, he feels as if he’s being taken for granted at the moment, as if people simply expect him to sign a contract.

Theo’s anonymous source is absolutely correct, Wenger is taking advantage of the player by giving him playing time when he’s healthy and paying him a salary while he’s out with a shoulder injury.

Seriously though, my suspicion is that Arsenal were waiting for new CEO Ivan Gazidis to come on board before negotiating contract extensions with Theo and RvP. Given his comments earlier in the week about how he’s building this team on a budget I’m 100% certain that Wenger wants to keep Theo at almost all costs. Comically though, the Telegraph raises the spectre of Theo pulling a “Webster” and buying out the final year of his contract. I’d be worried about that happening if all signs didn’t point to Theo Walcott being a very well balanced young man who appreciates all that Arsene Wenger and Arsenal FC have done for him. You know, if he was more of an asshole like Alex Hleb.

As if that story wasn’t funny enough, the Telegraph throws in a transfer bone at the end there, linking Arsenal to Stephen Ireland in a straight swap for Kolo Toure.

I hate Stephen Ireland… when he plays against Arsenal.

Ireland’s a good little player who has some steel in his game, a decent passing range, a good shot, an understanding of the game, and is having a career season on a dreadful Citeh squad. Why Citeh would let him go for Kolo Toure is beyond me. Also, there’s no evidence that Arsene Wenger would buy a player like Ireland, he’s just a little too, well to be frank he’s not continental enough. Also, his character is questionable and Wenger has placed a very, very high value on character.

The story that surfaces every time there is a transfer window is that N’Zogbia will be coming to Arsenal. This transfer window has the player speaking to the French press and describing Arsenal as his dream club: it’s all cotton candy clouds and technicolor dreamscapes for Charlie! Unfortunately, N’Zogbia as a player is more of a nightmare than a dream so this transfer has -0% chance of happening — no matter how much the player dreams of it. Hell, I dream of being on the Arsenal board, eating prawn sandwiches with the big boys while we take in the game from a luxury box.  IT COULD HAPPEN.

My other favorite story is Mathew Upson coming to Arsenal in exchange for Bendtner. I just want to remind you all that Arsene Wenger has categorically ruled out taking players back once they have left and so there is no chance that Upson will come back to Arsenal.

Further, add in that Arsene Wenger has ruled out anyone leaving the club over and over this week and the fact that Silvestre picked up an injury that will see him out for 3 weeks in yesterday’s match and you have to think that rather than a defensive player leaving, Arsenal will be bringing one in. I mean, where do they get these stories? Don’t they read their own press reports?

FA Cup Roundup

Arsenal swept aside Plymouth with either a commanding performance or a steaming pile of shiat, depends who you ask. I didn’t watch it, but did listen to the match on the BBC5 online audio stream. My only impression is that we went into the half at 0-0, came out and got 2 goals, and then did the thing that is now epidemic at this club: lost concentration immediately after scoring and let our opponents back into the game.

Losing concentration and conceeding goals in general is now a hallmark of this team. This happens when a team has no leader or when a team has other internal problems. It’s also something that can’t be solved by bringing in new players. I’m not saying Arsenal don’t need new players, rather that just bringing in some new faces won’t fix the concentration problem.

Chelsea seem to be suffering from the same problem, managing only a 1-1 draw against Southend United at home. It’s so bad over in West London that pretty much everyone is claiming Scolari’s reign is over. They just seem to throw good money after bad over there, don’t they?

Anyway, the Arsenalist has the highlights of the Plymouth match, saunter on over there and take a gander if you are so inclined.

Right, that’s it for the day, oh yeah, I nearly forgot, Arsenal travel away to Cardiff in the next round of the FA Cup.  I’m sure Aaron Ramsey will get a warm reception on his old stomping grounds and here’s hoping that Arsenal get a win as well.

Now… see you tomorrow.