Internet Valium

Not a lot going on this morning. Not a lot at all. Some of you might be wondering why I didn’t post yesterday, and that was simply because there wasn’t anything really worth talking about then either.

If you count Giles Sunu saying he had offers from Chelsea and Man Utd before he signed for Arsenal or that Lehmann is/isn’t fit, then ok. Perhaps I should’ve posted. But in reality, everyone has offers from Chelsea and Man Utd before we sign them because they are so inept at finding their own talent they try to hijack other’s transfers. And Lehmann probably is still injured. For those who don’t think that he ever was, let me ask you as to why Wenger would lie about it? How in any way would that help the player get over his being dropped? Arsene may be very clever and that, but trying to invent a story out of the whole situation is just laughable. Naivety? Perhaps. But if you can come up with a plausible reasoning behind the decision to fake an injury I will listen to you, but until I hear it from the horses mouth I’ll go on believing that Jens’ Achilles is knackered. As is mine. I can still play though. I just means I’m sore(er) for a few days after, and that is why I imagine he is playing against Wales. Not that he’ll have much to do mind you.

It seems that debate rages all over the internet. A debate so fierce, that literally tens of reasonable comments have been posted. I refer of course to the pages that are running “who is the best team/worst team/most overrated team in the league”. You can filter out about 90% of the comments as they are by fanboys who slag off their teams rivals and big up their own. They amount to nothing much more than spam. But to even ask the question after 4/5 games is ridiculous. I guess it’s because the international break has caused a dearth of good stories and blogs et al are struggling to fill their pages (as am I), but it’s just a hit generating measure. It did get me thinking though.

Where do Arsenal sit then after the first 4 games? Well, in the league it’s second. And that’s only because Derby are pony. But to be fair, we’ve hardly looked like championship winners so far. It’s a good solid start and when faced with a similar one last season, the team buckled. This term we seem to have added an extra level of grit that has enabled us to grind out a result like Chelsea do every week. But we’re still doing it with a bit of style. It’s an extra dimension to our game and the only way to succeed in the Premier League is to evolve your style as the other managers will spot any weakness and pounce on it in flash. After the 2002 double, it was decided at some sort of league meeting that Arsenal would be kicked a lot to stop them playing. And it worked. Now this season, we’re giving as good as we get and still playing good football. And as a result we have been able to get points from games that last season we dropped points in, all the while developing our young squad players who have been well drilled in playing the system that Wenger favours. This is screwing with people. How do you beat a team that can play amazing football, and give you a good ruck too? From our perspective it’s levelled the playing field and a lot of managers that enjoyed success against us in the past with their brand of ugly physicality will have to rethink their game plans for this season. This is not to say that Arsenal won’t get booted all over the pitch and won’t lose a game all season, because we will and we will. But it’ll be a lot harder for teams to intimidate us as the youngsters have that little bit more experience, augmented by the steely captaincy of Billy Gallas.

Deficiencies are still present though. We still lack defensively. We have hardworking players and you can’t take anything away from their effort, but lapses in concentration still occur and at this level of football you will be punished for even the slightest indiscretion. Perhaps it is a preoccupation with attacking or simply lacking the right personnel, but the first choice back four aside, the back up just don’t seem solid enough and that could cost us.

We’re not exactly firing on all cylinders up front either. You can excuse it to a certain degree as all of our strikers are either used to playing alongside TH14 or haven’t played together before. Give them a few more games and I’m sure they’ll click, but we can’t rely on the improved goal scoring ability of the midfield to carry us to the title. Some people will tell you we should’ve bought more strikers, proven strikers, but from what I’ve seen of our 4, I think they are all good players. I do think Bendtner should get given more chances though as he’s always made an impact when he’s been on the pitch.

So who is the best team so far this season? In a word, Liverpool. That’s why they’re top. We’re just behind them though and a shite team from Derby apart, we could even be above them. Don’t get carried away though. If the league was decided after 5 games then what would be the point in the other 33? Let’s just all calm down and enjoy the season. The cream will rise to the top eventually and sometime in May the whole thing will all be over. But until then, there is a fantastic ride ahead of us and let’s hope at the end of it we have William Gallas holding the Premier League trophy aloft in the centre circle at The Grove.

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Fulham Preview

Morning everyone.

Tomorrow sees the first game of the new season for Arsenal , and it’s Fulham that will be making the relatively short journey across London to The Grove to kick things off.  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am that football has returned.  It’s been a long, long summer as far as I’m concerned.

To celebrate, I have a special treat for you.  My mate Chopper who runs an excellent Fulham blog, The Hammy End Chronicle, has agreed to do in interview here on GR to preview tomorrows game.  You want the inside scoop on Fulham, but can’t be arsed to do the research yourself?  Well get your eyes stuck into this…

Chopper, how the funk are you?  I hear you had some sort of illness you managed to infect your whole family with?

I’m much better now thanks. Being poorly is part and parcel of being a Dad. I’ve got two boys and it was a rare opportunity for me to pass something on to them rather than the other way round. It also gave me an entire Sunday to myself to write a brand new blog about Top 5’s (as if I didn’t have enough to fill my time with anyway!).

So then, give us a bit of background about your football history

I am a third generation Fulham fan, following on from my Dad and my Grandad. My first real exposure to football being the 1975 cup final (which we lost a little sign that I’d have done well to take more notice of). I didn’t go to my first game until 1979, a 3-1 win over Burnley (both teams were relegated at the end of that season!). In between my love of football was based almost entirely on watching the F.A. Cup final. In 1978 I cheered on Ipswich as they beat Arsenal 1-0 and then in 1979, when Arsenal met Manchester United, with no clear underdog to support I plumped for the London based side. I then sat and watched one of the most exciting matches I’ve ever seen. As Alan Sunderland scored that late winner for Arsenal I leapt about the room with joy and was completely hooked. Football was great and I wanted more of it.

Why aren’t you an Arsenal fan then?

I don’t think I ever thought about supporting another team for a single moment. My Dad was a Fulham fan and I just wanted to be like him. Once I’d been to my first game there was no turning back and after 15 or so seasons of really quite dreadful football, the turnaround, that began under Micky Adams and continues with Mo’s ongoing funding, was all the sweeter. I have developed a soft spot for Arsenal though probably sparked by the cultured football that Wenger has brought in. When my eldest son, Ben, took an interest in football and was clearly going to pick a team that played in his favourite colour, I feared the worst. To avoid the agony of having a Man Utd or Liverpool supporter as a son I steered him towards the Gunners. Its stuck more firmly that I ever thought, and despite my vain hope he might switch allegiance to Fulham, it looks pretty much like his mind is made up.

Lawrie ‘Dirty’ Sanchez has made a lot of signings this summer.  Who do you think are the best 3?

I’m very happy with all the players LS has brought in. He’s added pace to our attack, width to the midfield and completely reconstructed the defence. None of the signings are going to strike fear into any of the top four teams but I think if LS gets them playing well as a team we will have a much better season. Lee Cook looks a little light weight, but the word is he’s a really useful player who will do well in the Prem. Steven Davis hasn’t impressed so far in our friendlies but I do think he will establish himself as the driving force in our midfield. Finally, I’m quite excited about the addition of Hameur Bouazza. He can play wide left as well as up front so will give us some options and at 22 looks a genuine prospect.

Are you worried he’s bought a load of players that will take time to settle?

We’ve obviously added a core of Northern Ireland players who already know each other and I think the way we will play will be fairly direct. Sanchez talks a good game and the impression I get is everyone will be very clear what their role is. It will take time to gell as a team but I think we’ll do so reasonably quickly.

Old or new, who will be the players to watch this season?

I’ve already mentioned Cook and Davis, but there will also be a lot of responsibility resting on Diomansey Kamara’s shoulders. How well he performs could dictate how well our whole season goes. We’ve also got the inimitable Jimmy Bullard to come back, though probably not before November. If he can recapture the form he showed in the opening games of last season we’ll be a good side to watch.

What tactics do you think Sanchez will employ against Arsenal, and would you do the same?

I think we’ll be sticking with a fairly conventional 4-4-2. Kamara may play in the hole behind target man McBride making it a 4-4-1-1. Kamara’s movement and communication with McBride will play a big role in our attack. We’ll be looking to get the ball wide for Cook and Davies to fire back in, and will also look to stretch the game with the pace of Kamara and Bouazza. Defensively we’ll be trying to close down teams quickly and will work hard to give the opposition little time on the ball. We all loved the day’s of Tigana and the flowing passing football he directed, but I think we’re now having to compete in the PL on a budget so the simple and direct game is the best way forward for us.

Who in the Arsenal Line up worries you for Sunday?

Everyone! I’m a big fan of Cesc Fabregas I think he’s been amazing especially considering his age, but it will be the pace and movement up front that will cause us most problems. Robin Van Persie looks to be back to where he left off last season and I do fear for our capability to deal with his ability to find space in the danger areas. It looks like we’ll be without Aaron Hughes due to injury, so our centre backs on Sunday will be picked from the same players we had last season. That will make a big difference to our organisation at the back and might turn out to big the biggest reason we lack resilience at the weekend.

Your prediction for the score?

My head says we’ll probably be comfortably beaten something like 3-0, but I am an eternal optimist and so listening to my heart I’m going to say 1-1.

Finally, as an aside, are you a believer in the “Arsenal will struggle without Thierry and will finish behind Sp*rs” theory?

I’m a big Henry fan, he was an exceptional player, but I am beginning to think you may be better off without him. Having watched the results you’ve had over the summer it is becoming more obvious that you’ve got an enormous depth of talent. I reckon some of the “lesser” players will step up to the task now and you will definitely perform better than last year. I still believe it’s going to be too big a task to finish above both Man Utd and the Blue Poo but I reckon you could nick 2nd.

Many thanks to Chopper for his input.  Good work fella!

Don’t forget, you can read my version of the truth over on THEC right now.

In team news, Eduardo is set to make his league debut pending getting over an ankle knock and Johan Djourou has joined Birmingham (there’s a surprise) until Janurary.

More tomorrow.  Have a good Saturday

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GR Gets Makeover

You’ve probably noticed that GR has had a wee makeover.

Let me know what you think – good or bad

Cheers ;o)

Round-Up 07/08/07

Good morning.  Let’s dispense with the pleasantries this morning and crack straight into the news.

 

Again, there isn’t a lot going on that will rock you to the very core.  In fact, there isn’t even the usual slew of stories emanating from Arsenal.com.  But there are some bits and bobs of interest out there today.

 

First up, Alex Hleb has said “it’s my dream to score 10 or more goals this season”.  Fair play Hlebby.  You’re gonna need to as well.  It was a major problem for us last time around that the midfield didn’t chip in with enough goals.  Gilberto got a few (7) and Cesc, Rosicky and Flamini also got a couple each, but aside from that the midfield machine wasn’t firing on all cylinders.  That really has to change for the 07/08 season if Arsenal is to exceed the expectations of so many pundits and fans of other top-half-teams.  Least of all, there are some doubters amongst our own merry band of supporters and that is pretty hard to take.  I’m a pragmatist in general, but you have to be optimistic, at least at the beginning of the season, because taking a negative attitude into the stadium from the very first game of the season is not going to transfer well onto the players.  No, we need to be optimistic and show our support in any way possible.  Otherwise we’re no better than the “plastics” that now follow Chavski, where once they were Utd supporters.

Rubbish BBC commentator, Mark Lawrenson, has done his season preview for the Premier League teams.  I don’t particularly like him, and I cannot stand the way he makes jokes during matches.  Jokes so unfunny, that even the most excitable man in football, John Motson, rarely laughs.  But, Lawro has decided to buck the fashionable trend of saying we’ll finish fifth behind Sp*rs.  Honestly, to think that spending £16million on Darren Bent constitutes a team that will somehow manage to finish higher than they have for…well ever really.  It’s not that long, but it really does seem like it, inPremiership terms at least. But there’ll be more on that in the article later in the week.

There’s a piece by, Alan Smith in today’s Telegraph.  It does go over some old ground insofar as it says we’ll miss Thierry (well duh), and has the same boring negativity that is beginning to get really old.  But, it does highlight some positives that are largely being swept under the carpet because it’s cool to say Totteringham will finish above us.

Finally, some good(ish) news.  Recently released defender, Ryan Garry has signed a deal with Bournemouth.  Some of you may know that Ryan was highly rated when he was at the club, but was something of a sicknote, which led to him being let go.  It was a shame because he had bags of potential.  But to be so injured at that stage of a career is never going to stand you in good stead and sadly the axe was wielded.  I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing Ryan the best of luck at The Cherries.

That’s pretty much it for today.  If anything earth shattering happens I’ll update, so keep ‘em peeled.

 TTFN

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Relax – Football has returned

Sort of.  Last night saw the opening friendly of the season, as Arsenal paid visit to Barnet and ran out 2-0 winners.  Goals were scored by Emmanuel Adebayor and young dutchman Nacer Barazite (who only signed professional terms with the club earlier in the year, so it is good to see him get a run out and find the net).  The boss was happy and in the post match interview he said to expect some of the younger players to take on more responsibility.  Too right – they’re all younger players now, so someone needs to take on the load that Thierry’s departure will have left.

 Talking of our former captain and all-round nice guy, The Telegraph has a piece from the post-Barnet game expanding on the Wenger interview and claims that Thierry couldn’t wait for the team of youngsters to develop and had to leave in order to find trophies.  I guess that’s fair.  You can see all of Arsene’s comments from the Barnet game on ATVO on the Arse.com official site

One bit of concerning news from the game at Underhill was the carrying off on a stretcher of Brazillian midfielder Denilson.  It is thought that the ankle injury suffered by him is not too serious and shouldn’t have ended his season before it’s started.  Which is nice.  I expect big things from this lad so it’s important that he is fit and available to play as much as he can.

There’s more on Reyes trying to play for pretty much anyone else but Arsenal, and more about Freddie not going to anywhere esle in the Prem.  Yawn.

Ok its only a quick one this morning as I’m off to play 6-a-side.  Really need to get going as I’ve got to be there in 45 minutes!

Happy Sunday :o)

What’s with Steve Bruce?

 UPDATE:

According to the Daily Mail, Birmigham City manager Steve Bruce is sniffing around our squad again trying to find more young guys to take away on loan.  Earlier in the summer Bruce was allegedly after Johan Djourou for a season long loan.  Now The Mail is claiming that Brucey is after highly rated left back, Armand Traore.

I’ve not seen an awful lot of Traore (about 3-4 times) but he has impressed me in the times that I have seen him.  He likes to play in a similar style to Gael Clichy and the thought of having two pacey left backs with plenty of attacking flair battling over a berth in the first team is something to look forward to.  If Traore can show the kind of improvement that Clichy showed last term, then this situation might not be too far off in the future.  That is if Bruce doesn’t manage to secure the services of the younger Frenchman on a more permanent basis, joing former Arsenal loanees there, Sebastian Larsson and Fabrice Muamba.  It would seem that Birmingham have quite a good relationship with Arsenal or Arsene and the boss doesn’t seem to mind his guys going there to play for the experience, or leave them there if he feels that they don’t have the right qualities he’s looking for. 

Barnet – Reyes – Freddie

Today see’s the opening friendly of the season being played at Underhill against Barnet.  Personally I’m so glad that football is beginning to return after a long summer of nothing, apart from transfer rumours and the captain leaving and that.  Arsene tells us that all the players that have been back at training will be available for the game so we should expect a “very strong team at Barnet”.  He mentions Kolo Toure, Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy, Mathieu Flamini, Denilson, Theo Walcott, Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor as likely to figure, and it’s interesting to see Matthieu Flamini listed.  This will probably end speculation once and for all that Flamini is going to be leaving this summer.  Good to know.  I think he provides good cover for many positions and a versatile player like The Flamster is a useful one to have in the squad.

 It is being reported that Jose Antonio Reyes has been sent back to London after Real and Arsenal couldn’t agree a fee.  According to reports, Arsenal wanted £13m for the pacey forward which Real were just not prepared to pay.  I’m not sure why Real seem keen on the player, but refuse to pay any decent money for him.  He had a good season in La Liga and obviously scored the goals against Mallorca that clinched the league title, but this doesn’t seem to warrant a reasonable cash offer.  I like Reyes as a player and I’d like to see him back in the red and white, but I don’t know that after what happened at the end of last season, and the comments he made, he has endeared himself to the manager or fans.  We shall see though.  He is still under contract at Arsenal, so if he wants to play football and no one offers the right money for him, he could well be doing it at The Emirates come August.

Tattooed cheese hater, Freddie Ljungberg has said that he will not play in the Premiership for any club other than Arsenal.  Good lad.  He has too much “respect for the fans” to join the big cash splash at Citeh or the revolution at Sunderland.  His agent, Claes Elefalk said “Arsenal are demanding more than the offer Fiorentina have tabled”, which leads us to believe that we will listen to offers for the Swede as long as they are good ones.  Elefalk went on to say that the wage demands of the player were not an issue, claiming that they hadn’t even been discussed yet and it was purely Fiorentina not offering enough money to Arsenal for the player.

Not much else happening today.  Nothing new anyway.  Hopefully the Barnet game will give us more to talk about.  Some of these stories are just getting boring.  More excitement please