Monday, June 30, 2008

Show me the money

"Alright. Here's why you don't have your ten million dollars yet. You are a paycheck player. You play with your head. Not your heart. In your personal life? Heart. But when you get on the field -- you're a businessman. It's wide-angle lenses and who fucked you over and who owes you for it. That's not what inspires people. I'm sorry, but that's the truth, can you handle it? Just a "question," Rod. Between friends."

- Tom Cruise, in Jerry Maguire.

Spain 1, Germany 0. Noice.

Anyway, I was thinking about the composition of club teams. Every successful team seems to have some dominant culture, something to knit the players together. With Man Utd it was the British core of Neville, Giggs, Scholes, Butt and Beckham. With Liverpool, it was the Scottish/English and the old Liverpool kit room. With Real Madrid and Barca, it's the Spanish players nurtured in their respective academies. With Chelsea, it's their collection of insufferable English jerks (Lampard, Terry, Cole... what a collection, hey?)

I was thinking, what do we have?

In the past, it was the English back five. Then, it was the Vieira years when Wenger went mad and tried to buy the entire French team (I understand the compulsion; I do it with my FM08 side as well). There was a discernible espirt de corps about that side. But now, we're a polyglot collective with no common ground, other than a desire to play pretty passing football.

Is that enough?

When the chips are down, when our players need to score a late goal or to defend tenaciously, what do they have to stitch them together? I'd suggest it's not much. Vieira gave up the chance to go to Real Madrid because he felt that Arsenal was his family. Hleb agitates to go anywhere because he can earn more money. To Hleb, Arsenal's just a paycheck. It'd be nice to win something, but it's not going to kill him if he doesn't do it with Arsenal. With Vieira, being shafted to Juventus still hurts. He felt a genuine affinity to this club.

I guess what I'm saying is that there's a difference between a paycheck player and a player who plays from the heart. A good side is stocked with good paycheck players. A great side is composed of players who play with their heart. If Arsenal's to be successful, I think we need some way to engender a sense of fellow feeling amongst our players. Maybe a roaring campfire, an acoustic guitar and a round of Kumbuya is required.

Or maybe we should've just bought Torres when we had the chance. That goal in the final was millimetre perfect. It still gives me tingles.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Euro 2008 final

"Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win."

- Gary Lineker

It's going to be a good game tonight. I'm going for Spain because, as Cesc says, they play like Arsenal. I love the patient build up, the waiting, the watching, that one single incisive pass and the chaos that ensues. It's been a pleasure watching Iniesta, Xavi, Silva, Torres and Villa link up. Amazing stuff.

I'm especially eager because Cesc is starting, and playing in that 9.5 position. It's his best position, and he plays it very, very well. Spain have been the best side in the tournament and deserve the trophy. I'm sick of seeing defensive, tactical football winning international trophies. And anyway, if Arsenal can't win anything, I'd like to see an Arsenal-esque side winning something. But I'm not sure. Without Villa, will Torres have enough oomph to occupy Mertlesacker and Metzelder? Will Puyol and Marchena be good enough against Germany's aerial power? I'd like to think so, but I'm kind of apprehensive.

My prediction's 1-0 to Germany, Klose headed goal from a corner.

My other prediction is that straight after the match, Wenger will announce that he's signed Silva and Villa on the sly, and that he was just waiting for the tournament to finish before making it official. Apparently, he didn't want the publicity to effect Spain's chances.

Considerate man, our Arsene.

Oh, and Ade's going to ask to leave Arsenal for Milan.

"I had a dream of playing for Arsenal and Arsenal are one of the loveliest clubs in the world. When I go back to Africa it is obvious that a lot of people love the club. But now I have a chance of playing with one of the biggest clubs in the world. I haven't had a chance to speak to the manager yet. But we will sit down next week and decide what is good for my career."

Quoth the raven, "Nevermore".

Friday, June 27, 2008

Don't Look Back

Don’t look back into the sun
Now you know that the time has come
And they said it would never come for you oh oh oh oh

- The Libertines, Don't Look Back Into The Sun

When are we buying Sammy Nasri?

I don't know. Like most people, I'm increasingly bored with the transfer market. It's dead news. There's no need to worry about who's going to leave, who's in the papers, or agonize over incredibly protracted transfer deals. It's going to happen no matter what, and nothing we can do will effect that.

Cast your mind back to the days when transfer season was exciting. Remember those times? For me, the last time I genuinely went into an off season with hope was the year Vieira left. Back then, Wenger was still untouchable, Henry was the golden boy, and we still had the vestiges of that glorious Unbeaten Season.

Yes, it was scary that Vieira left. But I was optimistic that we'd replace him with someone younger, fitter, and in a few years, just as good. And that we'd rule the Premiership once more. I scoured the internet for news and dreamed a young man's dreams of instant glory. It was exciting.

I want those times back. So, I'm going to write about Benzema to Arsenal. It probably won't happen, but I want to talk about it because it makes me happy.

I'd love to see him at our club. Some say Benzema's over-rated, that Ligue 1 is weak and Olympique Lyonnais are too strong. It's true that he's unproven in the Premiership and may have problems adapting. But I think he'll be great. He's got all the qualities that an Arsenal player needs (pace, strength, technique and a love of baguettes). Plus, he's young. Plus, I still get shivers from that goal he scored against Man Utd. He could do that for us next year!

Imagine Benzema in an Arsenal shirt, scoring the winner at Old Trafford. Imagine us winning the league because of that goal. It's a dream that's shiny and pretty and perfect. It's optimistic. It's fun.

But then, the feeling fades as you realise it's never going to happen. Benzema will cost 40 million pounds, and Wenger will never spend that kind of money. Actually, Man Utd will probably snap him up after they sell Ronaldo.

Real life has an unpleasant way interrupting one's fantasies.

The truth is that Arsenal today may never reach the heights of the Pires/Vieira/Henry years. Maybe it was a lucky coincidence that Wenger found those guys at the same time. Maybe it'll never happen again. It's a different world with Chelski on the scene.

It'll never be what it used to be. The promise of youth will always fade. Life corrupts virtue. Always has been, always will be. Pete Doherty and Carl Barat knew that when they wrote this song, during the time when the Libertines were breaking up.

The Libertines were gorgeous. Two albums later, they were nothing. And try as they might, those guys will never have anything as good or innovative or meaningful again. But what are they to do? Try, try again. Find virtue in what they're up to now.

And what are we to do? Just go on living. Have faith that the next thing will be meaningful and just as worthwhile for your affections. Hleb and Ade may be going, but Sammy and Benny (hopefully) will replace them. Probably better, maybe not, but you know... you've got to keep on going.

Only, don't look back into the sun. It's way too sad.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

There She Goes

There she goes
There she goes again
Racing through my brain
And I just can't contain
This feeling that remains

- The La's, There She Goes Again

This is my ode to whiny introspection.

In seven weeks time, I'll be gone. I'll be in Europe. For six months. By myself. On my lonesome. With nothing to protect me except my native wit, animal cunning and a couple of credit cards.

I'm alternating between excitement and nervousness, sleeplessness and sleepiness. Sometimes I'm scared because I'm struck by the thought that I haven't got a clue what I'm getting myself in for. Most of the time, I'm just really, really, really looking forward to it. It's something I've been dreaming about for ten years.

But then, you know... I look down the hallway and there she is. Racing through my brain. Pulsing through my veins. Blowing down my lane. And I just can't contain the feeling that remains.

Because when I leave, I know I'll never see her again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On Animus

an·i·mus –noun
1. strong dislike or enmity; hostile attitude; animosity.
2. purpose; intention; animating spirit.
3. (in the psychology of C. G. Jung) the masculine principle, esp. as present in women (contrasted with anima).

- from

I learnt a new word last night: animus.

I learnt it while watching this TV show called Skins. Great show. All about hedonistic British kids with drug habits and protected sex. Good writing, good plotting and great character development.

And it's educational.

I've never heard of animus before. It's the inarticulate, primeval rage that drives us to succeed. It's the competitive edge that makes us want to win. It's that little voice in our heads that pushes us to risk everything we've got in order to win everything we've ever wanted. It's that breath of life that God imparted onto Adam.

It's the thing I've never had. Ever.

It's the thing I've been missing. It's the thing I've been lacking. It's the void in my psyche that other people have that I don't. When I'm slumped at my desk, wondering what the fuck is wrong with me, it's the deficit that's staring back at me.

Camus once said that the only philosophical question in life is etre, "to be". Everything else is just window-dressing. And really, what else motivates a life except one's animus? I need this relentless, remorseless rage. I need this driving force in my life. Now that I know I'm lacking it, I need to find it. What the fuck is my animus?

Who says you never learn anything from TV?

Monday, June 23, 2008

My FM08 side

You'll be glad to know that my FM08 side has won the Premier League and Champions League double. We were unbeaten in the league and won it in a canter. We beat Chelsea 1-0 in the CL final. The only sour point was that we lost the FA cup final to Man Utd through a fluky Rooney goal. That still grates. Would've been a glorious treble.

Anyway, in the off season, I sold Vela to Barcelona for 23 million and Diego. I didn't have much choice - Vela was champing at the bit to go, and he never felt comfortable in England. I also sold Wright-Phillips, Rosicky and Diaby and bought Benzema. I wanted to sell Eduardo, but no one wanted to buy him.

I'm still sticking with 4-1-4-1. It's a good formation. Flamini's developed into a world-class defensive midfielder, and I'm drooling over the prospect of seeing Ben Afra, Diego, Fabregas and van Persie support either Adebayor or Benzema. I'm undecided about the effectiveness of Miguel Veloso as Flamini's understudy, however. He's got great stats, but he's really poor in that holding midfield role. I think I'll wait a year for Sankhare to mature, and then move Veloso on.

Gallas is still captain, but not for long. His contract expires at the end of this season, and he'll be 32 by then. I think I should let him leave on a Bosman and make Toure captain. Bellaid, Sakho and Nordveit will be more than adequate replacements at CD. It's cruel because Gallas has been an excellent captain, but there's no room for sentiment in professional football.

And yes, I know it's just a computer game, but it beats reading about how we're going to lose Adebayor and how we're not going to sign anyone older than 19.

Oh, and I worked out how to do La Roulette with a futsal ball. I'm awesome - like Zidane, only with hair.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Can't be arsed

I seriously cannot be arsed.

It's June and miserable. El Nino's taking a break and the hills of Glen Waverly shimmer in a hazy blanket of rain. It's a bit like a postcard, I suppose. I know I shouldn't complain when we're down to 20% storage capacity, but sometimes I think the drought's a good thing.

Maybe it's the meds. I heard that after a month or so, you get really, really blase about everything. I was already pretty apathetic to begin with, so it's going to be an interesting few weeks. I hope I still have the motivation to put on fresh underwear.

Anyway, Kroenke's joining the board. It just shows what a hideous over-reaction it was from Hill-Wood and co. Kroenke will be good for Arsenal. He'll offer a new perspective to the club, and give organizational insights from other sports. Good bloke. If they'd just accepted him as our "American cousin" a few months back, we wouldn't be in this position with Usmanov.

Adebayor's probably off for 25 million. Or whatever. We should use it to buy Villa. And hire Naomi Campbell as our new defensive midfielder. She's one scary lady.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We're not signing Kompany

"I have been interested in Vincent Kompany ever since he was 16, but I am not interested in him this year. There is nobody I need for my team's defensive department. I still follow Kompany's progress all the time and I know him very, very well. But he will not be an Arsenal player next season - and you can print that."

- Arsene Wenger, The Sun

I've been trying out an Irish accent. It's strange, because I'm immediately more relaxed and garrulous when I'm using my brogue. And I get a terrible thirst for a pint of Guinness. I quite like it and I find it quite natural to talk like that. I might try it out the whole day tomorrow and see what kind of reaction I get.

The problem with football gossip is that it's like a big bonfire on a windy beach. It's quite unnatural - there's this big roaring flame in the middle of cold sand, a bunch of strangers huddle around for warmth and light, and a fast dwindling supply of firewood. The fire must be fed. The flame must be kept intact. Because if it isn't those folk will have nothing better to talk about amongst themselves.

That's a metaphor, folks.

In the midst of our inter-season lull, we're the folk on the beach, and we're shivering out nuts off in front of our dwindling fire of hope. If you're a pure Arsenal fan, there's scarcely a nugget of newsworthy news around. But we're so insatiable for any positive signs for the new season that we devour everything we can. The fire must be fed. The flame must not die out.

Okay, it's not a perfect metaphor. I'm a bit tired to iron it out properly. Still, I find it profoundly depressing when papers are reporting which players we AREN'T signing. Do we really need to know that Wenger likes Kompany but isn't going to sign him? This is followed on newsnow by breathless reports of Beckham thinking about training with us in January. I'd really prefer to read about actual signings, potential signings, theoretical signings... anything but signings that aren't going to happen.

Ramsey, yes. Nasri, probably. Anyone else, please.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I didn't see it

"Incredible. Absolutely incredible. With three minutes to go, Turkey were dead and buried. Then Cech fumbled, Nihat pounced, then produced a moment of utter brilliance and it's Fatih Terim's side who'll face Croatia for a place in the quarter-finals. What a finale."

- John Ashdown, Guardian live commentary.

I was contemplating watching Turkey vs Czech Republic last night as I set my alarm clock. I was weighing up waking up at 4:30 in the morning versus a solid 10 hours of sleep. I remembered the match last Sunday between Switzerland and Czech Republic, and I opted for more sleep.

How wrong I was.

3-2 has to be the perfect result in football. It has room for everything in football - goals, crushing leads, resounding comebacks, tense finales. There's room for a hattrick hero and a defensive villain. There's more drama than you can poke a stick at. And I missed it all.

Part of me doesn't really care. I'm not Turkish and I'm not Czech. The Euros are a bit of fairy floss that keep me entertained when I should be sleeping. But still, it hurts to know that there was a rocketing good game on, and I missed it. I made the wrong decision.

Of greater importance, in my mind, is that Australia are through to the second qualifying round for the World Cup. Good, good stuff. I've got a bit of concern about the side. There are frailties to the Socceroos that I'm worried will be exposed when matched against the likes of Iran and Japan. We tend to go to pieces against stuff like good technique and sound tactics. When did soccer stop being about running hard and kicking hard and tackling hard?

And if we can get 15 million for van Persie, we should take it, hock our guts out and buy Benzema. Or Benni McCarthey. Or anyone who can last a season without pulling a hamstring. van Persie's awesome when fit, but he'll never be fit.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hasn't Hleb Left YET?

“I have always said that Hleb is an incredible footballer and what he has done is underrated, well, everything that he DOES, because he is still an Arsenal player. That kind of footballer deserves more credit. But I tell it to you, he is an incredible footballer. I hope we’ll carry on playing together for years.”

- Cesc Fabregas, expressing how we all feel

Please stay, Hleb. You're a fucking excellent footballer with loads of talent and ticker, always with the match-winning goal and always playing with Arsenal pumping through your veins. Everyone's behind you and we're all nervous as shit that these foreign clubs are taking our Belorussian cupcake away from us.

We forgive you for having ice-cream with Inter Milan. We understand why you're presenting yourself to Barcelona. We welcome you back with open arms because we love you and we appreciate your amazing dribbling skills and dead-end plays. We can't live without you.

We'll give you a nice fat contract extension past your 30th birthday. We'll help you move your furniture back into your nice, quiet Hampstead house. We'll paint it red and white and call it Amish. We'll chip in for a couple of cows in the front yard to complete the picture of bucolic splendor. We'll even get you a set of ear-muffs for those terribly noisy nights. Just don't leave us.


Can't this guy leave already?

Friday, June 13, 2008

On Wenger's Legacy

There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow.

- Ecclesiastes 1:11

Okay, this one's about legacies.

At Arsenal, we pride ourselves on beautiful football played with budget players. We're not the most successful club, nor the largest, nor the most powerful, but we ARE the prettiest. And we hang out hat on that.

But it's all meaningless, a chasing after of the wind.

When Wenger leaves, what will happen to our beautiful club? Will we stay on the golden path, or will we hire a pragmatic bastard who'll revert to long balls and boring 1-0 wins? And will we really care, as long as we're still challenging for trophies?

I guess the question I'm trying to ask is whether Wenger truly has changed the DNA of our club. Will we stay as cosmopolitan as we are? Will we have the same Corinthian ideals? Will we still be tight bastards with wages and transfers? A lot of a football club's ideals come from the manager, and it'll be really interesting to see what happens with our next manager.

Nothing stays the same. I doubt Wenger's changes will last beyond the next manager. If we don't win anything in the next few years, and Wenger's time ends in a whimper, the next manager will be a low-rent Mourinho. We'll get the best from Spain and France, and we'll buy the league. And Wenger's legacy will be drowned out by the next wave of gloryhunters.

In twenty years' time, us old farts will remember the the glory years of Henry and Vieira, Ade and Cesc - the time when Arsenal played beautiful, beautiful Wengerball. And the younger generations won't have a clue, because a new manager with a new team would've captured their imaginations.

Enjoy it while it lasts, because it's not going to last forever.

Monday, June 9, 2008

French Open 2008

I watched the French Open final last night. Disturbing stuff. Nadal is truly scary on clay, and Federer had no idea. It was sad to see someone of Federer's class reduced to trying trick shots and hitting cold winners. And the frightening thing is that there's no other way of beating Nadal. He is nigh on invincible.

It was apparent on Federer's face as he waited for the presentation. He was numb, blank and utterly lost. You could hear him saying to himself "what the fuck do I have to do?" over and over. He's facing an opponent who's younger, fitter, stronger, hungrier and fiercer than him. And he's on a surface that celebrates those qualities over pure tennis genius.

Federer's an incredibly unlucky bastard. He IS the best tennis player ever. And he's had the misfortune of being born at a time when the greatest clay-courter ever is at his peak. At any other time in tennis, he would've won two calender slams. He would've won a hat-trick of French Opens. He would've been the undisputed greatest player ever.

However, he's up against Nadal, and there's nothing he can do. Nadal's topspin forehand absolutely kills Federer's backhand. Nadal's defensive play nullifies Federer's brilliant forehand. Federer is impotent against him.

There were signs in the second set of a way out of this mess. Serve-and-volley. Drop shots. Cute little drop-volleys at acute angles. Shake Nadal out of his rallies and force him to change the range of his shots. But really, it's like fighting a tank with a slingshot. Hopelessly unrealistic.

It's a bit like Arsenal trying to compete against the debt-monsters of Chelsea and Man Utd. No fucking way we're going to challenge with a bunch of kids. Depressing.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Euro 2008 is like KFC

I'm a sucker for KFC.

Right now, my insides are in the process of rejecting five pieces of original recipe chicken that I scoffed down half an hour ago. It's toxic stuff; the skin's leathery and crunchy, the oil drips down your fingers, and the meat itself is fatty, oily and makes a horrible squishy sound when you bite down.

I don't know what I was thinking.

Tastes change. I used to be able to eat a bucket and be right for more. I used to wash it down with a one litre bottle of coke. But now, I really wish I'd gone for the nice Thai beef salad in the shop next door. With a pot of Chinese tea. I'm heartily sick of saturated fats, heartburn, greasy headaches. I'm of the opinion now that KFC is disgusting, disgusting stuff.

Which brings me to Euro 2008.

To my surprise, SBS managed to snare 8 matches. I'm debating whether to watch them or not. I was quite disappointed with the World Cup, and am starting to believe that international football IS inferior to top level club football. I'm not sure I can be bothered waking up at 2am every morning to watch stilted football by countries that have no meaning to me.

Case in point - I watched the first half of Switzerland vs Cezech Republic last night, before I turned it off. Without Rosicky, the Czechs looked dull and pedestrian. Switzerland looked as boring as they did in the World Cup. And both countries fielded such ugly, ugly players - it was like watching two teams of Flaminis.

Actually, that's a bit harsh. The technical level was pretty good, but it just lacked that special something I get from watching the Arse. It was a bit like watching Keira Knightley - you know she's a pretty girl, but she doesn't do anything for you. She's too androgynous, too thin... not sexy at all.

Anyway, Spain and Russia up next, Wednesday night (I think). I'll probably stay up for that match. I'd like to take a peek at those Spanish players we're not going to sign. At least I'll be able to fantasize about the team we SHOULD'VE had, when we're drawing against Bolton next year.

Might have to throw up first, though.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

What The Fuck?

"Chelsea reject Adrian Mutu has given up cocaine, which he took to boost his sexual performances with porn stars. Mutu is now happily married and the star of a Romania team that Holland could not beat in the qualifiers."

- Myles Palmer, Arsenal News Review

The above quote has no correlation to the subject of this post, other than that it's fucking with my mind. Not the bit about Mutu kicking his habit, nor that he's happily married - I'm just wondering what relevance this had to an article previewing Euro2008. Myles writes some pretty fucked up things, sometimes.

Anyway, the theme of this post is "WTF".

The subject of this post is that Giovanni Dos Santos has moved... to Tottenham!

What The Fuck?!

I've read a lot of dodgy transfer rumours over the years, but this takes the cake. Why Tottenham? Why 4.7 million? Why so little for a player that has so much potential? Why to such a small club? Do Barcelona have rocks in their heads? Does Dos Santos?

And why the fuck didn't Wenger try to scupper this deal?

I'm a bit too shell-shocked to continue...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ronaldo's leaving?

"I want to play for Real Madrid, but only if it is true they are eager to pay me and Manchester United what they have been saying they will. However, it does not depend on me."

- Cristano Ronaldo, about the only transfer rumour that has legs

I'm not going to talk much about Adebayor going to Milan for 32 million. That's just stupid. He's not worth that much. Milan aren't that rich. And Arsene Wenger's too stubborn to sell a guy for a vastly inflated fee - he'd rather they run down their contract and go on a Bosman.

The Cristano Ronaldo deal makes my head hurt. 78 million is a lot of money. 200,000 pounds a week is a lot of money. I'm flabbergasted that any club is rolling around in that amount of cash. I'm not even sure what you would buy with 200,000 a week. I'd probably do my grocery shopping at a gourmet grocer and then put the rest in the bank. I might even indulge in a new pair of ugg boots. But otherwise, what's the point of all that money?

It'll be interesting to see how Man Utd would cope without Ronaldo. Anecdotally, he's the only reason for their recent run of form. He has been playing brilliantly these past two years, and it'll be impossible to fill his position. I suppose they'll buy Benzema and Robinho? And maybe and revert to a 4-4-1-1? The mind boggles at the FM fantasy team they could set up with that kind of cash.

But one thing's for sure - it's nice to see Real Madrid target a non-Arsenal player for a change. I hope Fabregas isn't the jealous type.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ljungberg's pissed off

"It's all about my injuries. Wenger simply doesn't like those who show a weakness. With him, you generally feel as if you were in the army - it's only in public that he may appear to be some sort of man of liberal views. In reality, his belief is natural selection. The truth is I picked up a knock doing my job and following Wenger's instructions. I always played like this and, at some point, ran out of luck. So while I was being treated for the injury, they went out and found a different player for my position. After I recovered, I was given a chance in the typical Wenger way: I was expected to run and intercept and score just the same as before. He just didn't give me enough time to do it properly. I had no time."

- Freddie Ljungberg, in an interview with Russian newspaper Sport Den Za Dnem

I wonder where all the positive comments have gone. It used to be that ex-Arsenal players had nothing but good things to say about Wenger. Now, it seems like every other player is sniping at the way Le Boss conducts business. Very strange.

I'm not going to question the validity of Ljungberg's statements. Simply put, I don't have the knowledge to know how often he was playing on painkillers, what his physical limits were, or the exact circumstances of his departure. I'm sure we all felt that when he finally left, he was on his last legs and no longer good enough to be part of the Arsenal first team. Without Bergkamp's through-balls, Ljungberg's value was drastically reduced.

But does that mean he should've gone?

This post is about loyalty.

Wenger was talking in the papers a few days ago about how the transfer system is going to collapse because players and agents no longer respect the length of a contract, and soon, will be willing to buy out their contracts on a yearly basis and move to a better-paying club. He said that it's impossible to build a squad with that short time frame.

That's all hunky-dory. However, what about a club's loyalty to a player?

There's something really ruthless about Arsenal's over-30 policy. As Ljungberg alluded, at Arsenal, it's survival of the fittest. Vieria was cut, not because he wasn't fit for a game, but because he wasn't fit enough for his old role. It was a terrible decision. Vieria should've been kept, and the team changed to accommodate him. To lose a captain in those circumstances is shocking, and we still haven't recovered from it. Too much was lost too soon. At the moment, we're not a team of fighters. We're not a team of winners. We're a fragile team which plays pretty, inconsistent football. We're missing the moral fibre of a title-winning side.

And we still miss our captain.

A quick glance at Man Utd shows that quality older players (Giggs, Scholes, Neville) can add a lot to a club despite their decrepitude. There's something reassuring about looking around and seeing guys who have done it all before. I'm sure the development of Ronaldo, Nani and Anderson have been aided significantly by these guys. These guys instill a sense of continuity to the younger players. They make them believe that they're part of a tradition of success, and that they don't have to reinvent the wheel in order to succeed. You need a few older heads to do that.

That said, I'm sure we'll get there in the end. We're very close to it now. But my point is that a lot of our pain was unnecessary. We proclaimed a Year Zero and then killed off everyone over 30. When we found out that our kids didn't know enough to succeed by themselves, we brought in Gallas for his winning mentality. But we forgot that we sold Vieira three years earlier, who also had a winning mentality, had a greater affinity with our players, and who was a club legend. Wouldn't it have been nicer to have kept Vieria, transitioned him to CB, and let him see out his career at HIS club?


A few hours later, there's this from SkySports:

"Freddie Ljungberg wishes to make it clear that he absolutely refutes suggestions made by Russian Daily Sport paper Den Za Dnem that he enjoyed anything but an excellent relationship with Arsene Wenger during his time at Arsenal."

Oh well. That's my little post gone to shit.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Anelka asks "what if"?

"Everyone makes mistakes in life and I can say that I made one in leaving Arsenal. That is because things have gone badly for me since then. But I could not know what the future held in store for me. I could have spent my entire career at Arsenal. I took decisions thinking I was doing the right thing. If I had my time again I would do things differently. I made my decisions thinking they were the right ones at the time."

- Nicolas Anelka on what might've been

I wasn't around when Anelka burst onto the scene. My first memory of Anelka was him scoring the winner for Real Madrid in the Champions League final (against Bayern Munich?), after he threw a massive hissy-fit the week before. So, I've no real connection with him from Arsenal. All I have are the vague recollections of gooners who value the past more than the present.

Still, a part of me thinks about what could've been if he hadn't left. We could've achieved so much more if we had a partnership like Henry-Anelka. It would've, could've, should've been amazing. When I think of the two on them together, it stirs uncomfortable feelings in my loins.

But it wasn't to be.

My nurse told me, on the day after, that "she'd be a good one to know in five years time". And, as much as I wanted to accept her sympathy, I shook my head. I have enough trouble keeping my mind on the present, let alone wishing for something in the distant future. What's done is done. Mistakes are made for a reason. We only live to fuck up, and the only reason we keep on living is to fuck it up until we get it right. And I fucked up royally.

What shits me off is that I genuinely do like her. My intentions were good; it's just that my execution was horrible. If I'd done it properly, I might've spent my life with her (although I doubt it). If I'd waited for the right time, if I'd waited for this obsession to subside, if I'd been a bit more rational and a bit less deranged...

But therein lies the pathway to madness.

A major part of growing up is accepting your failures and having the courage to try again. It's something I find really hard to do. Most times, I avoid the issue by not trying too hard. It's easier to take it if it didn't mean so much. But with her, I can't avoid the issue. She means so much to me, and I fucked up so badly.

But as Anelka said, you make your decisions based on your knowledge at the time. I did what I did, and I can't undo it. I've been told to just move on, let it die, let her slide away. There will be other girls and other chances, and maybe the next time, I won't act like a creepy, disturbed lunatic.

Which brings us to Anelka.

Think about it - he's reaching the end of his career and he's starting to realise what he gave up when he left the Arse. He's never going to be loved by anyone other than his family and friends. He'll never be welcomed back as a favourite son. He'll never have the camaraderie of a Premiership winning team. He'll never know that sense of belonging to a particular club. He'll always been known as a mercenary, a nomad, a pay-packet player.

I imagine that after the thrill of the game has died, after the lure of the money has been sated, after the fast-paced lifestyle has slowed down, it's the memories you carry that really count. And I imagine that Anelka's looked at his career and his accomplishments, and realised that he doesn't have any teammates to share his memories with.

Still, Anelka has time left. He's at a top, top club, and is surrounded by top players. He's still got a good three or four years left in him. It's not too late for him to make something of himself at Chelsea, to ingratiate himself at the club, to find that sense of belonging that he's lacked for so much of his career.

It's never too late, Nicky.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Vail, Arsenal 08-13

I deleted my FM08 saved games over the weekend. It was an incredibly bad oversight, because it means I'm stuck with reading the same interminable empty gossip that you lot are reading. I can no longer escape into my dream team. Oh well.

So this post is a eulogy for the best Arsenal squad since my CM 03-04 team. Together we won 4 Premierships, 4 Champions Leagues (all against Real Madrid), 3 FA Cups and 2 League Cups, while upholding the principles of Wengerball. We proved that beautiful attacking football can dominate the world.

GKs: Lloris, Edwards
DEFs: Marcelo, Clichy, Toure, Breno, Sahko, Bellaid, Sagna, Traore
MIDs: Menez, Fabregas, Denilson, Diaby, Sankhare, Ben Arfa, Silva
FORs: Adebayor, Benzema, Walcott, Saivet, Vela

As you can tell, there's a definite Francophone flavour to the side. It was deliberate. I felt that, as a French manager, I had a duty to the national side to promote French youth. The really frustrating thing was that my next generation (Ayew, Le Tallec, Saivet, Sankhare, Sahko) were ready to take flight. And now, I'll never know if they had the ability to play become world-beaters.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

- Rudyard Kipling, "If"

It's just a matter of application, isn't it?