Monday Bloody Monday

I have been drunk. A lot. I have also played some football. I have been busy this weekend trying to balance the drinking of excessive amounts of beer and still being able to turn out for two football matches. It is no easy task. You really have to wonder how Tony Adams and Merse managed it all those years. Still, I got what I wanted; two comfortable wins and a goal to boot. Even playing fullback for 45 minutes was fun, bouncing burly centre forwards off my wiry frame, and overlapping on the counter. It is a doss though. Compared to playing on the wing, fullback is like a walk in the park. That’ll probably upset a few people, but hey, it’s true.

Anyway, I’ve got some catching up to do after the weekend. You will have seen the results of the internationals no doubt, and will be aware that Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky scored for Croatia and the Czech Republic respectively. Thankfully there have been no injuries to report, and it’s good to see Lassana Diarra get 90 minutes for France, even if it was at right back. Hopefully he’ll be up to speed by the time we have to play Spuds and will be ready for selection in the squad.

A quick glance at the news feeds then.

Cesc Fabregas has been voted Arsenal Player of the Month, polling just over 50% of the vote. No real surprise there as the Spanish player has been awesome so far this season, scoring goals and doing his normal trick of being generally amazing. What is surprising though is that the guy everyone loves to hate, Alex Hleb, came in second. What?! I thought I was literally the only person who didn’t want him to go in the summer. Whilst it’s true that he can be the single most frustrating man in a red and white shirt, he has shown flashes of brilliance and I’m certain that before long we will get to see the real Alex Hleb. Once he figures out how to play his game on the right side, instead of the middle, old Hlebby will be a potent weapon much like our departed chum, Bobby Pires.

Another interesting story is that some bloke from America is planning to come and train with us in January. Some dude called David Beckham? I dunno, you may have heard of him, but all I know is that he’s some kind of attraction at LA Galaxy often seen sitting on the bench in a suit. He must be the mascot or something. Apparently, this Beckham bloke is going to train with the first team squad as the US “soccer” season finishes in the New Year and he wants to work on his fitness. Expect to see pictures of a bloke in suit at London Colney on Arsenal.com then. In all seriousness, having Beckham at the club might provide some of the players the chance to see a model professional in action and tap into some of the experience the former England captain possesses. There’s no down side to this as far as I can see and if it helps raise the profile of the club a little bit more, then so be it.

Also worth a read (and it is a loooooooong read), is this piece in The Times. It’s all about Arsene Wengers ‘dark side’. The Frenchman is quite the hothead by his own admission and also admits that sometimes he loses it. No shit. However, it is a good read and a good insight into the mind of one of football’s luminary figures. As ever, Arsene comes across as an intelligent and articulate thinker and still seems to have the knack for making everything sound totally reasonable.

Finally, let’s all laugh at tribalfootball.com. They are reporting that Johan Djourou will be “recalled” from loan in January. Yes, quite.

Sorry this is so late. Blame WordPress

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Wenger Signs On The Dotted Line

Morning all,

It seems like there has been a little bit of action on the news front, so instead of writing some guff about what I think about stuff, I thought I’d write something about what other people think based on facts rather than my own spurious guesswork.

I couldn’t write a blog today about Arsenal without mentioning first the excellent news that Arsene Wenger has finally penned a new deal worth a reported £75,000 a week. The four year deal sees the Frenchman staying at the club until 2011, coincidentally the same year that Cesc will either have to sign on again or move on for nothing. At 57, Wenger’s new deal means he will be 61 when the contract expires and we should really start some contingency planning for when he does decide to step down as manager. I am of the opinion that he’ll be offered a position at the club other than manager when this eventuality does occur, but what that’ll be is anyone’s guess. However, he might well decide to sign for another 4 years and retire at the normal age of 65. Hopefully when he does decide to call time on his tenure, he’ll do so as the most successful manager in the history of Arsenal.

I mentioned Cesc above, and there is an interesting story doing the rounds at the moment. In an interview with Radio Marca (Spanish radio causing trouble again – who’da thought) Cesc admits to having talks with Real Madrid in July. When you consider that AW stated during the summer that he did not give permission for anyone to talk to Cesc about a transfer, then you have to wonder what is going on. Surely this is a case of “tapping up” a la Cashley, and as such there should be some action taken by the club/UEFA/FIFA/God. I would enjoy nothing more than seeing Real getting a beat down from…well, anybody. However, Cesc seems happy at Arsenal, saying,

“We spoke for a long time. But it is absolutely not true I struck a deal to join them next year.”

“My decision to stay was clear and emphatic. I’m certain I made the right choice. No matter how long I may live, I will always know I was correct to stay. There were many reasons but chief among them was my respect for Arsene Wenger and the love I have for Arsenal.”

I’m a big fan of Cesc. He’s filling the void as my favourite player that Dennis’ retirement created and with each passing season he goes up in my estimation as a player. Mourinho will tell you that Lampard is the best midfielder in the world, which we all know not to be true, but if you can tell me how, based on this season’s form, that Cesc isn’t the complete package then I will take my hat off to you. I don’t normally wear a hat, but I will put one on and then take it off, as is my commitment to my belief.

It’s not all sweetness and light at The Grove though. We’ve got some disgruntled players in Bendtner and Lehmann. Nicklas is a little peeved at being left out of the squad that faced Portsmouth.

“I didn’t get any explanation. I don’t know why he did that and I’ll demand to know why and have a talk with Arsene Wenger when I get back. But what is said will stay between us.”

Oh he’ll “demand” and explanation will he? Not sure The Boss will like that. No doubt he’ll set him straight and Bendtner will be seen skipping down the halls at London Colney licking a big lollipop.

Also, Jens has the arse. When asked about whether he’s lost his spot as number 1 or if his Arsenal career is over, the German mentalist said,

“Such interpretations really get on my nerves.”

Oooh. Get him. But the stopper also added,

“Arsene Wenger will put me in the team again. I will play again.”

Good attitude Jens. And through his enforced absence and the competition created by Almunia’s solid displays, I expect to see an invigorated Jens back on his game.

Finally there’s some stuff worth reading about Kroenke in The Independent.

And now I’m off to do some work. Lucky me. Happy Friday.

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The Day Today

Morning all.

Let’s start with some football talk shall we? Well, yes we shall.

First up I should probably mention that as expected, Seville overcame AEK Athens in their Champions League qualifier second leg with a 4-1 trouncing of the Greek champions. A resounding 6-1 aggregate win sees the men with the oranges put the UEFA Super Cup defeat by AC Milan and the tragic death of Antonio Puerta behind them to join Arsenal, Slavia Prague and Steaua Bucharest in Group H. Even with the addition of Seville, the current UEFA Cup champions, this group looks decidedly winnable and I really can’t foresee any problems for Arsenal in qualifying from it – probably as winners. Then, no doubt we’ll have to play Barcelona at the first available opportunity. With the way the team is playing at the moment and assuming we get a nice draw in the 16, I see no reason why we can’t reach the quarters or semis without breaking much of a sweat.

And therein lays the answer to the question of why we have so many midfielders. I was pondering this t’other day and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why we’d bought Diarra (who is undoubtedly quality) when we already have Diaby, Denilson, and Flamini. Flamini apart (who I think is still a solid squad player) that is some bench to have. 3 potential first choice internationals just sitting around waiting for a chance to shine when Cesc or Bert are out. But then when you consider that some will get Carling Cup runs, some Champions League experience, FA Cup matches and league games, you can see that we need legs. Lots of legs. There is no question that central midfielders do the lion’s share of the running around and with AW’s youth policy and his buying wicked players policy, I can see him using all 6 players quite regularly. It’s not so much squad rotation, but using the “minor” competitions for giving them experience and then having options available for the bigger matches. This is the only reason I can see that would make Diarra sign for us when he left Chelsea in search of regular football. I expect him and Diaby to partner Denilson in the cup games and “take turns” in subbing on in the league. Either way, I’m happy we’ve got Diarra, and I’m very happy about having such a good central midfield lineup.

Onto the Afghan Hound look-alike, Robbie Savage then.

“Van Persie did a piece in the paper slaughtering us, which is wrong. It’s a man’s game. It’s physical. You’re going to get stuck in and make tackles. And they do that, so it’s very hypocritical of them.”

Who’da thunk we’d be cited for being a bunch of hard men? Anyway, it makes me chuckle that these Blackburn players and their manager keep coming out saying stuff about us moaning. Touched a nerve, have we? Guilty conscience? Either way, it’s still funny that Robbie Savage thinks he can criticise anybody. Take a look in the mirror pal.

Some good news for football. Dennis Bergkamp has been voted into the Football Hall of Fame. Congrats to Den, but also well done to all those that voted. It would have been a travesty if the Dutch legend hadn’t made the cut. Watching him play was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my footballing life. He is, and always will be, my hero. I don’t think there has ever been a player that did what Dennis did in the way that he did it. The special moments are too numerous to recount, but remember the goals against Leicester and that one against Newcastle and you will realise that Dennis was something very, very special and we were all privileged to watch him play in the red and white.  Gefeliciteerd Dennis.

Finally, Danny Fiszman has said he wants to take a more active role in the club and that no oligarch is getting his oily, steely hands on his shares. I promised myself that I wouldn’t write any more on this subject because I think I’ve said all I need to say on the matter, but I thought it was worth mentioning that Diamond Danny is stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing.

Sadly, it’s time for work. I’ll be thinking of you…

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Arsenal 3 – 1 Portsmouth

Another game, another 3 points and another 2 goals from midfield.  Say what you like about Arsenal missing Henry’s ability to stick the ball in the back of the net, the simple fact is that we are righting last season’s wrong of not scoring from midfield.  And doing it emphatically.

The visit of Portsmouth should’ve been a tricky affair.  Pompey are a good, honest Harry Redknapp team consisting of experienced players and the odd bargain basement youngster.  They’ve already done for Utd this season and also ran Chelsea agonisingly close (for football fans – not Chelsea fans).  However, as it turned out, Portsmouth were lacklustre and insipid and thoroughly got what they deserved.

In only the 7th minute a typically sharp looking Robin van Persie latched onto a loose ball that cannoned off a defender and was brought down in the box by David James.  Perhaps a slight case of the yips after the penalty miss against Man City prevented the Dutchman from taking the spot kick himself, but Manu Adebayor calmly placed the ball in the bottom corner with the minimum of fuss.  1-0 and cruising.

Arsenal were knocking the ball around very nicely and try as they might, Pompey just couldn’t keep up with the pace and struggled to assert themselves on the game at all.  They managed a few shots on goal, but nothing of any real note and all were dealt with ably by Almunia in the Arsenal goal.  I have to give an extra mention to Manuel who has looked every bit a top class keeper since his installation as “No.1”.  So much so in fact he has almost banished the memories of his first few seasons from my head.  And that is some feat.  No one was more critical of the Spaniard than I was, but this season The Crossbar King has looked solid, reliable and technically very good.

Ten minutes before the break Arsenal struck again.  A Tomas Rosicky corner was flicked on by Gilberto who’d ghosted into space at the near post and was blocked on the line by a combination of ‘keeper and defender, only to fall at the feat of Cesc Fabregas who duly poked the ball home from all of a foot.

2-0 at half time and the lead was most definitely deserved.  But things got interesting after only 4 minutes after the restart when Kanu got the wrong side of Senderos, and the big Swiss was adjudged to have brought him down.  Straight red for Phil, and we were down to ten.  My first thought was that it was deserved, but on seeing the replays on MOTD2 I think it was a harsh decision.  Phil didn’t trip, pull or run through Kanu – he just got close and the tangle of legs saw the Nigerian fall over just outside the D.  It was reminiscent of the Davis and Cesc incident in the Fulham game that Sanchez got his knickers in a twist over, so maybe a bit of karma was in evidence today.

Down to ten, and Pompey began to rally a little.  But this was short lived when Utaka bumped Clichy off the ball a little too roughly, and from the resulting freekick Cesc slipped the ball to Rosicky past 3 sleeping defenders and the Czech midfielder lashed a low shot into the far corner, hilariously nutmegging Glen Johnson in the process.  However, The 11 men of Portsmouth were not going to roll over and literally on their next attack scored through Kanu in the most bizarre of circumstances.  Trying to control a crossed ball on the turn, the Nigerian somehow managed to ricochet the ball off his standing leg and it flew into the net past Almunia with surprising pace.

The rest of the game saw good chances for both teams, but Diaby should’ve sealed the win with a fourth but inexplicably headed wide from 6 yards after clichy has put the ball right onto his head.

Of the game, Arsene said,

“In the first half we showed tremendous quality, and in the second half we were tested mentally and physically.”

But then he always says that.  He’s beginning to sound like a broken record.

So another win and that puts us second in the table, behind Liverpool (on goal difference).  With Chelsea losing to their “Bolton” and Utd having previously lost to Portsmouth, things are looking good so far.  With The Spuds visiting The Grove for the next game, there’s a chance for us to really get this season off to a roaring start.  Here’s to that.

And here’s to your Monday

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El Dein-ablo and Pompey Preview

Apologies for lack of posting yesterday.  A busy schedule involving mucho grande travelling and beaucoup de things to do meant I was unable to even get to my computer until midnight.  Ho hum.  I’m sure you’ve managed to immerse yourselves with all sorts of arsey goodness in the meanwhile, and in fact are quite bored already with all the David Dein talk.  I for one certainly am.  I am fed up of hearing about him and his dodgy dealings and how this and how that will affect Arsenal Football Club.  I DON’T CARE ABOUT DAVID DEIN.  I think the man is a prick and is essentially Judas incarnate.  He is the devil.

If you need further evidence of his sheer wankerishness, check these quotes of an interview in The Times;

“I know, from speaking to him, that Arsène intends to commit in the next few days. I wouldn’t have advised him to if I didn’t have Arsenal’s best interests at heart.”

*cough* Prick *cough* 

I want to see Arsenal become the best team in the world, and to that end I’ve been instrumental in getting Arsène to sign a new contract.”

*cough* Bullshit *cough*

“I don’t want to be adversarial, just the opposite”

Oh yeah, that’s right Dave.  That’s why you secretly tried to sell the club to Kroenke from under the board’s nose.  Co-operation wasn’t it.  yes, of course.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that these are all lies uttered from the mouth of a weasely little shitbag who’s only interest is getting rich off the back the football team he supports.  Enough of him.  Enough talk perpetuating his media presence.  Enough, enough , enough.

Footballistically, today sees the visit of Portmouth Pirates FC to The Grove.  You have to give Pompey their dues; since their promotion they have become a very solid mid-table team.  Ok, there was a wobble last season but overall Harry’s done a good job for them.  He’s also made it a bit of a retirement home for ex-Arsenal players too.  But joking aside, Harry Redknapp is no mug in the transfer market and has, again, bought well in the summer to augment his squad today will be a tough game.

In team news, nothing’s changed.  The usual suspects are still out, as is Alex Hleb who is still feeling a bit peaky.  Will we see Diarra today?  In a word, no.  But if I were to use 2 words they’d be “probably not”.  It seems unlikely that our new midfielder would feature, but never say never.  Just probably never.

Diarra’s was an interesting signing.  Another CM or RB player adding to the masses we already have in those positions.  To add my version of what’s going on to the billions already out there on the blogs, I see him as a long term Gilberto replacement and general utility player.  I also (like others) think AW’s trying to get some kind of versatile squad together where everyone can play everyone else’s position.  But in a nutshell, I think AW sees Diarra as our Essien.  You all know I see Wenger phasing out Gilberto slowly over the next season or so, and while I like Gilbs, he is reaching the stage where he could be usurped by a younger man of burgeoning talent.

I expect the team to line up thus:

  • Almunia
  • Hoyte
  • Toure
  • Senderos
  • Clichy
  • Walcott
  • Fabregas
  • Gilberto
  • Rosicky
  • RvP
  • Adebayor

Ade should start to counter the height and muscle that Pompey undoubtedly have, but we may well see Eduardo thrown on to have a good crack at them with plenty of time remaining.

That’s it.  Enjoy the match

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Arsenal Cruise Into Champions League Group Stages

It’s true.  We did.

A 5-0 aggregate win overall, with a 3-0 win on the night did flatter us slightly, but if you were to ask Manuel Almunia how difficult he found the second leg, he’d probably say, “zzzzzzzz,” because he’d still be so bored after the toothless performance of Sparta Prague.  In truth, the game was over as a spectacle in the 7th minute when Tomas Rosicky arrived late at the far post and neatly tucked home Theo Walcott’s low cross.  It was perhaps destined to be after two games of AW bigging him up to shine against his hometown club that the Czech maestro would score against his former employers.  For me though, the goal was all down to Theo.  His quick feet out on the right wing afforded him the space in which he had time to pick out the arriving the Rosicky with a perfectly executed centre.  But Theo wasn’t done there and had one of his best games in an Arsenal shirt.

As the hapless Sparta were broken down in the final third time after time, it was Walcott who was there as the outlet and the 19 year old didn’t disappoint.  Gone was the familiar uncertainty that has dogged previous appearances this season and in it’s place was a liveliness and directness that had one thinking about us finally having a solution to the winger problem.  Walcott twisted, turned and dribbled superbly throughout the first half and also linked up well with the excellent Justin Hoyte.  Shorn of defensive responsibilities, the stand in right back overlapped well and when required to defended solidly.

The central pairing of Diaby and Gilberto was a bit of a surprise, but given Cesc’s yellow card from the away leg it seemed like a logical decision, and the young Frenchman started brightly and instantly evoked the Veira comparisons that have become defacto when describing his performances.  However, whilst Gilberto went about his business in his usual functional way, doing the ugly work and stopping the Sparta midfield from creating much, Diaby seemed to get bogged down in his own enthusiasm to impress and began to dwell too long on the ball and subsequently surrender possession.  This caused the last quarter of the first half to become a little flat, and with Eduardo and RVP seeing little of the ball for most of the entire 45.  Something was needed to kick-start the game in the second half.

Unfortunately, and much to the annoyance of Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice, that spark didn’t come for much of the second half and as the game descended into an exercise in simply going through the motions, The Boss decided to throw on Adebayor and Cesc for RVP and Diaby in the 68th minute.  Cesc didn’t really seem up for it, but Ade looked lively and keen to put the disappointing Man City game behind him.  Within 2 minutes, he flicked the ball on for Eduardo and we got a glimpse of how that particular partnership might work out in the future.  However, that wasn’t to last, as 5 minutes later Denilson came on for Tomas Rosicky and the deck was shuffled.  Eduardo moved out to the left flank and Theo moved into the middle with Adebayor, with Denilson occupying the now vacant right flank.

With all the subs used, Arsenal looked like they were happy to see the rest of the game out and settle for the 1-0 by keeping possession and not really pushing Sparta too hard.  That is everyone but Eduardo.  Perhaps he was frustrated at not seeing much of the ball for a large portion of the game, but when Eduardo gave Zdenek Pospech the old knock-and-run on the right side of the penalty area, and cut the ball back for Fabregas to power the ball home, we saw what the Croation is capable of with the ball at his feet.  And 10 minutes later the provider turned poacher, when a dinked cross from Denilson after a neat one-two with Adebayor was flicked in with a kung-fu style volley.

All in all, it was a bit of a non-contest.  Sparta never really tested Arsenal, save for a few moments after defensive errors from Hoyte, Clichy and Senderos.  They never really looked capable of matching Arsenal for creativity and looked a bit in awe of the home team.  However, Arsenal failed to put them to the sword as they are surely capable of looked at times as if they were playing a training match.  You can only beat what’s put in front of you though, and Wenger’s team did that with the minimum of fuss.

 In news, er, news, head on over to Arseblog to read about the club trying to copyright the word ‘Gooner’.  Interesting discussion going on there.

Also, Cesc dedicated last night’s win to the memory of Anotnio Puerta.  I’d like to echo his sentiment

“The armband was for him, the goal was for him, everything was for him. “He was a great lad who loved his football. I played with him in the Spanish Under-21s and we made our debuts together in the national team. He was 22, so the way he died was a tragedy. It shows you have to enjoy every moment in football and in life because you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.”

And on that rather sullen note, I’ll say Happy Thursday

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Sparta Preview – Arsenal Not Signing Adriano – Lehmann

Tonight sees the second leg of our Champions League qualifier against Sparta Prague.  A 2-0 away win stands us in good stead to qualify, but the job is certainly not over yet and we’ll need to keep things tight at the back to ensure there’s no hiccups along the way.

Thankfully, at the press conference today, AW revealed that Philippe Senderos will return to the squad so there will be no need for Alex Song to play.  At all.  None.  With Almunia still in for Lehmann and Eboue and Sagna out, Justin Hoyte and  should be the only change from the team that beat Manchester City at the weekend.  I’m expecting the line-up to be;

  • Almunia
  • Hoyte
  • Toure
  • Senderos
  • Clichy
  • Hleb
  • Fabregas
  • Gilberto
  • Rosicky
  • van Persie
  • Eduardo

I feel Eduardo will come in for Adebayor who had a stinker against Citeh.  As mentioned yesterday, we’re still searching for the striking combination that will provide the most goals and it’s fairly certain that RVP will be the mainstay, accompanied by one of Eduardo or Adebayor.  From what I’ve seen of Eduardo, he looks like the best man of those 3 to link the play between the midfield and his partner up front.

In a splurge of newsy soundbite benevolence, Wenger also commented on the rumours surrounding the non-signing of Adriano.  The Boss said,

“If I find the right player with the right quality I will always take him. With Adriano they wanted to give you a player and also take one from your squad. It would mean losing a player and then get one in who you were not desperately wanting. It is nothing to do with the quality of Adriano.”

I’ve got to say that really, Adriano would be a massive coup for us.  He’s proven quality and plays in the style of an Arsenal player, albeit one who is a human battering ram – the sort of player we thought Julio Baptista would be.  The question is who did Inter want in return for him?  It would have to be someone we’d consider too important to lose.  Fabregas?  Rosicky?  RVP?  Gilberto?  Your guess is as good as mine.  In fact, it’s probably better.  What would’ve been perfect would be to swap him for Bendtner or Adebayor and then asses the situation at the end of the season.

Wenger also commented on the Lehmann situation.  With rumours rife that the German is considering his future with the club, AW was quick to play that talk down and state that Jens is still committed to regaining his No.1 spot when he returns from injury.

“I had a meeting with Jens last Friday and he is not capable of playing at the moment. I know what is happening and he is not on his way out of the club.”

Finally, have a butcher’s at this.  How does Mark Hughes think people who have eyes and watch his team play using them don’t formulate their own opinion of his team (and in particular Robbie Savage), that his pathetic retaliatory finger pointing won’t change?  The man is clearly deluded.  I personally can’t wait until the next time we play his lot and we see Robin and Cesc both “accidentally” slide tackle him when chasing balls that are going out of play.  I can see the little smirk on Arsene’s face now.

Anyway.  Off to work for me.  Have a good day won’t you?

Cheers

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