Tag Archives: Arsenal

Image and phrase "Cesc la Vie" copyright 7amkickoff.com and Tim Bostelle, no use without permission

Follow up to yesterday’s Liverpool-Arsenal article

Yesterday’s article has sparked a lot of debate, some name calling, and an interesting reaction from Arsenal fans on both side of the supposed divide. I want to follow up on a few thoughts.

1. The release clause: I think the Liverpool fans’ absolutist position on Suarez not having a release clause is based solely on the PFA interpretation. But it’s important to remember that the PFA ruling is just one interpretation. The other interpretation is that John Henry has bragged that Suarez had a release clause, Suarez and his team of lawyers believed they had a release clause, and Arsenal and their team of lawyers believed he had a release clause. What never happened was an actual test of that clause, through the courts, which Henry knew that Suarez wouldn’t do in a World Cup year. So, based on my evidence, I firmly believe there was a clause and that Liverpool refused to honor that clause. Based on the other side’s evidence, likely the PFA interpretation, they say there was no clause. Since we will never see this tested in court I can stand by my interpretation and be correct and so can they.

2. There’s a common misinterpretation that I am arguing against Arsenal spending money. This is almost certainly because I included the paragraph at the end about Arsenal’s bad luck with injuries and had earlier ridiculed Liverpool’s spending. This misconception happens because certain arguments about Arsenal and spending have become cliched. But here’s something you might not know: one can hold two beliefs simultaneously. For example, the argument that Arsenal’s injury record hurt our chances in the League is rock solid. But so is the argument that Arsenal should have bought more this summer and perhaps even in January.

The fact is that I have been calling for Arsenal to spend money for two years now, to the tune of £100m+. This is money that the club have (they don’t have to rack up debts) and with their public proclamations of newfound financial ability and dry powder have fashioned into a golden albatross to hang around Wenger’s neck. One could, then, read my lamentations about Liverpool’s spending not as a cry against spending but a cry in favor of spending because it is, it is again both.

Part of the reason Arsenal had such a huge problem with injuries in midfield was because, as Wenger himself admitted, Arsenal didn’t rotate enough. Ramsey, in particular was a huge miss and Wenger said ”Maybe we overplayed him a little bit, we should have rested him before he was injured.” Since I know how this works and that you won’t like that quote you can also go back to early December, before the injury to Ramsey, and see that Wenger knew Ramsey was getting tired. He even rested him on the 11th, just two weeks before he picked up the strain.

And there were a lot of injuries all at the same time, plus Giroud was caught with another woman, Flamini’s suspension, and suddenly things went from bad to worse. Some of that is down to luck, some of that is down to the fact that we didn’t buy a Luis Gustavo or Sven Bender in the summer, some is down to overplaying certain players, some is down to buying Kallstrom in January and having him come to us crocked. It is all of those things and spending some money would have helped a lot of them.

3. Here’s what I want to say about Financial Fair Play – Swiss Ramble thinks Liverpool will make it just fine under the FFP tests because they will be able to include their Champions League money, their increased revenue from partnerships, and their increase in prize and television money. Still, though, he was clear that they will not be able to write off the stadium planning money and that they will need to include the accounts for the last two years and their losses of £90m. We have to see how much more revenue they are bringing in with their new deals but I almost wonder if they will be able to spend a little on transfers and still break even? What they won’t be able to do is lose £50m again next season and not run afoul of FFP.

Conclusion

The reaction to this article has been interesting. I wrote it in a very open fashion which encourages multiple interpretations because that is how I feel — I see almost every side of every argument about Arsenal at the moment. This open writing allowed people to read into it whatever they wanted. For the Liverpool fans they wanted something to get upset at because that’s where their comfort zone is. For others they could read into my article a sense that financial prudence is the right way to go, or that financial prudence is the wrong way to go. But what is truly fascinating is that in over 100 comments I didn’t read a single person griping about my assertion that Arsenal should have done more to keep Cesc. It was, for me, the most controversial position in the whole piece and yet no one seemed to notice because they were too busy arguing contract law and the morality of spending money. 

But winning the League isn’t about moral arguments or arguing contract laws, it’s about having the best players, keeping the best players, and getting the best out of those players. Something that Arsenal haven’t done well for at least 4 years now.

Qq

Man at the match, Chary: Fabianski ushers Arsenal into the FA Cup final

A helter skelter match ended on penalties after full time and extra time couldn’t separate the Arsenal from the conquerors of Manchester City in the previous round, when Fabianski held his nerve to save the first two of five penalties so that four successful spot kicks from the good guys were enough to book a return trip to Wembley in May.

After a gap of over fourteen years between my last visit to Wembley to see Arsenal play and today I was hoping to see a victory for the Arsenal and although the build up to the game in the media and the Arsenal blogosphere ensured nerves kicked in a few pints at Mannion’s pub near the south entrance to Wembley helped settle those nerves.

Also plenty of Arsenal songs, not fit for a family blog, ensured a degree of alcohol induced bravado stayed with me till I took my seat in the upper tier behind the south goal, to the right of the managers dug outs.

As expected Wigan failed to sell their quota of tickets and many pockets/blocks of empty seats were visible in the Wigan end

In (some of) the blue corner - Wigan

In (some of) the blue corner – Wigan

Before kick off was the moments silence, although I heard applause also, to commemorate the tragic loss of life at an FA Cup semi final 25 years ago at Hillsboro, with 96 seats(to remember the 96 fatalities that day) kept empty.

Hillsborough 96 remembered

Hillsborough 96 remembered

The line up changes that were most significant were the addition of Rambo and Monreal (with the latter stepping in for Gibbs who was only fit enough for a bench place) and the replacement of Sanogo for Giroud, as seems to be the case for the FA Cup team selection with Fabianski the designated cup goalie.

From the start it was clear that Wigan’s form was on the up and Arsenal’s spluttering with no Arsenal player really catching the eye in the first half, except for flashes of Rambo’s tenacious drive with the ball when surging through the midfield. It was obvious the team have badly missed his forward motion in the midfield as without him it all looks very pedestrian, as several moans about our slow paced attacking attested to amongst the Arsenal supporters.

Something that did come across was that moaning about the team is not an age related thing or the preserve of the “I want it now” generation of youngsters. A pensioner next to me was totally negative all the way through the game and had decided we’d lose after seeing only ten minutes of the game; needless to say not one word of encouragement or singing for the team left his lips all the way through the game.

While Arsenal did create chances in the first half not too many clear cut chances were made, except for the cross that led to Sagna’s sliced shot over the bar, Wigan themselves looked hard working but not especially dangerous.

At the start of the second half as usual the boys in red and white upped the tempo and more free kicks corners accrued from the Ox who was growing in confidence or Santi who had seemed subdued in the first half.
It started to look like it could be one of “those days” when either the woodwork or a bit of good goal keeping was bound to keep the shots out when Arsenal appeared certain to score.

Inevitably a bit of controversy arrived to gift Wigan a goal, a foul on Monreal was not given and with the Arsenal players expecting a stop in play Wigan took advantage of the hesitancy to push into the penalty box and lead to the BFG making a penalty kick worthy challenge.

Indignation swept through the red end of Wembley due to frustration at the referee for not blowing for the foul or the injury and also slight annoyance at Wigan for not having kicked the ball out.
Monreal was taken off injured to be replaced by Gibbs and then eventually Gomez took a virtually unstoppable penalty, which Fabianski came close to keeping out, 1 nil to the Championship team.

As seems to be the case nowadays the Arsenal support is schizophrenic in that anger and dejection at the penalty was replaced by cheers at the restart trying to pick up the spirits of the players. However the jeers quickly returned when the Pod was subbed off when everyone thought the exasperating Sanogo would make way. The Pod had a quiet game while Sanogo seemed to show touches of skill which made you think “Where did that come from?” and then clumsy touches that would be maddening.

Olly came on and was greeted with, to the tune of the Van Judas “She said..” song:

“She said yes Giroud, she said yes”

While it’s hard to say he’s a top line striker it was immediately obvious Olly was better than Sanogo and his hold up play and flicks was leading to more and more dangerous attacks, including a header off the crossbar.

Finally a ball launched into the Wigan penalty area was diverted towards the BFG who bundled the ball into the net and atoned for his earlier penalty kick inducing mistake.

The relief was such that even the moaning pensioner stopped cursing he team although what he thought of my “F**k you Wigan” chant while the BFG celebrated in the goal in front of me, I’d rather not know.

Wigan heads dropped and they held on till full time despite Arsenal pushing for the winner in normal time, the Ox hitting the post and an acrobatic mid air goal line clearance from a Wigan defender when the red end were about to cheer the Gunner’s second goal.

Arsenal piling on the second half  pressure

Arsenal piling on the second half pressure

Annoyingly the referee blew for full time just when Olly was through and appeared to be held back by a Wigan defender which, if it had been an arsenal player doing the holding back, would have been a red for a professional foul.
Nonetheless the momentum was still with Arsenal and for both halves of injury time it was mainly Arsenal attacking, with Källström almost scoring with his first touch.

As with his appearance against Swansea Kim seems to have something about him that showed today also, a strength and precision in midfield that is probably what we need right now when, Flamini aside, our midfield is a tad lightweight and powder puff.

Wigan held on and the spectre of penalties came, the news that they would be taken in front of the Wigan end(the majority of photographers had been stationed at my end as it was the end Arsenal attacked and they scurried round the pitch to get to the other end) were greeted with moans of:

“We can’t even win the toss for the penalties!”

Beneath the raging tension in me I felt deep down there was a smidgen of hope in the calmness and authority Fabianski had shown in the game so far; an inkling that he could be the hero of the moment.

Fabianski psyching out Caldwell

Fabianski psyching out Caldwell

The Championship side took the first penalty and although I was not a great penalty it still had to be saved, the Wigan player sinking to the ground in defeat, something even I could see from the other end of the stadium.

First up for the good guys was Arteta, who was coolness personified with a regulation, text book penalty.
Wigan again tried to score in the shoot out and failed again, a slightly better Fabianski save this time and the Arsenal support dared to hope again.

Källström converted our second penalty with the minimum of fuss and pressure was back on Wigan who finally managed to notch a successful spot kick.

Even though Olly’s successful spot kick was preceded by a second successful Wigan kick all it needed was for Arsenal’s fourth penalty to go in and it would be all over

Up stepped Santi, he scored then scurried to the corner to celebrate with the team, out of relief more than anything and only then could Arsenal supporters in Wembley breathe again.

Santi celebrates deciding pk

Santi celebrates deciding pk

An incredibly hard fought game ended with the Gunners victorious and a date at Wembley in May meant we can now sing the following in earnest:

“What did she wear ?
She wore, she wore,
She wore a yellow ribbon,
She wore a yellow ribbon,
In the merry month of May!
And when, I asked,
Oh why she wore that ribbon,
She said it’s for The Arsenal,
And we’re going to Wembley!
Wembley,Wembley,
We’re the famous Arsenal,
And we’re going to Wembley!”

By 17th of May with more injured players returning, especially Özzy, and Rambo getting back to his best we can expect a better performance than today with confidence also returning bit by bit.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Man at the match, Chary: The ecstasy and the agony – last gasp Flamini tragedy

A horrendous ricochet in the Arsenal goal mouth in the last minute of ordinary time allowed the Swans to grab a draw after the Arsenal took the lead with two quick second half strikes, following a first half goal for the visitors.

A re arranged fixture, from February, saw Arsenal try to regain some League composure after the annihilation suffered at the bus stop in Fulham at the weekend.

A bigger environmental difference there couldn’t have been compared to the previous home fixture, the Saturday lunchtime FA Cup draw which was played out in spring sunshine and warmth.

On this occasion a bitter wind blew around Ashburton Grove and was felt by me especially in the upper tier, Clock End where I took my seat and looked to gauge the mood of the crowd.

The general consensus was that only the FA cup and a fourth place spot would be enough to prevent serious disquiet amongst the fan base, an opinion voiced by various voices up and down the Holloway road, after the match, whether by the door man at The Bailey pub or the girlfriends of Arsenal supporting blokes trying to rationalise what the season had become.

The Welsh contingent of supporters we’re largely quiet until they scored, quite odd for supposedly hard core away support; and when they did sing it was in their native tongue which no one else understood or wanted to understand.

They came from the Valleys

They came from the Valleys

The home side started the first half with tentative moves attacking the goal at the Clock End however it was clear their confidence had been shaken by the effects of the previous game.

Santi corner

Santi corner

The corners that were gained came to naught, even Santi was affected by this hesitancy as many of his deliveries failed to pass the first man.

Another predictable side effect of the previous game was whenever Gibbs got on the ball the “Come on The Ox” calls were heard.

From virtually the first Swansea attack a lofted cross resulted in the opening Swansea goal, to my eyes it looked like the BFG was out jumped and that Chesney was rooted to his spot by the subsequent header; two poor pieces of play one might say.

Cue the Welsh corner waking up and time wasting from the Swansea goalie.

It was gratifying to see that the home crowd whistle at any suggestion of time wasting by the opposition goalie as was seen soon after the Swansea goal which has not always been the case. This seemed to have some effect as by about the half hour mark Vorm’s time wasting seemed to have been curtailed.

Going into half time, while Arsenal probed and pushed for an opening the frustration was kept in check even though there was a short burst of booing on 45 minutes that could not be dismissed.

With the start of the second half Arsenal seemed to be knocking at the door of an opening and the Swansea goal lived a charmed life due to good saves from Vorm or threaded through balls just failing to find Olly or whichever of the midfielders had dared to go forwards, usually this would be Rosický was the most attack minded.

Whilst the Ox was having a mixed game, occasionally looking dangerous and then trying some heart attack passes, he was surprisingly taken off not much later than 10 minutes into the second half and replaced by The Pod.

Lukas soon made an impact as just as the frustration at the over-elaboration of many attacks was starting to peak a quick advance by Gibbs, running towards the North Bank, was followed by a cross the pod latched onto and scored the equaliser.

The relief all around was topped when, seconds later Olly poked home to put the home side in front and stun the away support.

A nervy win looked on the cards so then on came Källström for Rosický and in the short time he played he seemed to keep it simple, intercept well and make some no nonsense clearances as well as some clever medium range passes. It would’ve have been great to see what his set piece delivery was like as the team are in dire need of someone who can hit a decent free kick.

As some of the early departees set off with the score at 2-1 it looked like the Arsenal were pushing for a third yet the vulnerability of a counterattack was there.

Swansea were happy to take long range strikes and one shot from Shelvey, his bald shining pate glistening in the floodlights, arced away from goal three quarters of the way through its flight, so the warning signs were there. There was no shortage of quick passing and energetic bursts forward from the Swansea attackers as they fought for a way back into the game.

A late break down our left flank, which appeared to follow a straight channel in the line of my sight, saw some neat passing result in some penalty are space for a Swansea forward; a misunderstanding between BFG, Chesney and Flamini saw a combination of unlucky deflections guide the ball into the Arsenal goal. On no, I thought, a Desmond (as in Tutu/2-2), horrendous.

In the moment Flamini’s head dropped, as he realised we’d dropped two points, the pathos of his reaction made me realise how much it hurt him, and I felt sorry for him.

I admire his street fighting, terrier-like tenacity and he’s the last player I’d want to suffer such a crushing piece of bad luck.

A body blow and the chap in the row in front of me, who had seemed to be developing a migraine with the frustration of watching our play deteriorate during the game, whacked his chair shut in frustration as the net rippled below us.

The nature of the crowd was a touch more schizoid than in previous games because, for example, at the restart after the equaliser and seeing 4 minutes of injury time being signalled there was a surge in crowd volume urging us on to score a third yet when forward play broke down groans and unhappy declarations of a players, or the whole team, incompetence rang out all through the game.

Despite the clear need to score the Arsenal pressure failed to be decisive in the final third; this highlighted the need for a top line striker to scare opposing defenders with his trickery. Olly is not that type of striker and despite his goal on the night replacing him with Sanogo did not change the attacking threat.

At the final whistle the away team were still looking dangerous on the counter attack but the score stayed at 2-2 and some kind of fracas kicked off amongst the Swansea players and match officials.

Final whistle melee

Final whistle melee

Plaintive chants of

“Wemb-ley, Wember-ley”

intermingled with murmurings of discontent as the Arsenal supporters filed out at full time and slowly, and fitfully, merged and dissolved into the chill night air.

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)