Thursday, July 31, 2008

Werder nobody signs for Arsenal

"As leftfield signings go, this has the potential to be Wenger's greatest coup yet, on the proviso that Bischoff turns out to be as good as the Arsenal manager hopes he is."

- Sam Wallace, the Independent

Amaury Bischoff looks strikingly similar to an actor who looks like Jim Carrey. I can't remember his name, but I think he does comedies as well. Oh wait, he's that guy from the sitcom "Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place"?

Anyway, Sammy Wallace has nailed it. Bischoff is the result of Wenger believing his own press. Buying promising, highly-rated youngsters (e.g. Reyes, Cesc and Nasri) is getting old. Buying stalled starlets from big, big clubs (e.g. Vieira and Henry) is boring. Buying twenty-something superstars from middling leagues (e.g. Pires and Eduardo) is playing it way too safe.

Instead, he's going for a challenge.

He's going to turn an obscure, half-French, injury-prone, uncapped Portugeezer into the greatest player since Vieira. Forget 3 million for Vieira. Forget 500,000 for Anelka. How about NOTHING for Bischoff? Oh yeah.

Does anyone have any idea how good this guy is? I want to believe. I suspect he's pretty good. Werder were desperate to keep him, Portugal wase livid when he didn't front for the U-20 World Cup, and Wenger, by all accounts, is a pretty good judge of a player's potential.

In other news, Tottenham will pay us 8 million pounds for the honour of having an ex-Arsenal player in their side. Thanks, David Bentley. That'll cover Wenger's transfer expenses for the next decade.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where do we get our news?

“I think he has done quite well last year for the biggest part of the season and a lot of responsibility has been given to him when it’s wasn’t right.”

- Arsene Wenger, with regards to Willam Gallas' captaincy

I intended this post to be about how Gallas deserves a second chance. Firstly, because he did a pretty good job in the first half of the year. The team played with a resilience and a determination that was missing in the Henry/Silva teams. Secondly, he's got the sort of spiky temperament that can prod our players into playing for something more than aesthetic pleasure. Thirdly, and most importantly, there's no one else. Toure is too self-effacing - he would not be able to cajole great performances out of players. Fabregas is too young - he is a remarkably mature young man, but he still has room to improve as a player and should be focusing purely on his development.

However, I couldn't write about Gallas because I couldn't find the source for this quote. I checked four stories from various internet news sources (, dailymail, setanta, skysports). Each gave virtually identical news stories, and all attributed the above quote to the dailystar. However, I couldn't find the story at the dailystar. I tried their internal search engine, and no luck.

I'm starting to wonder where this quote came from.

It's not made up. At least four identikit stories refer to this quote, so there's got to be a primary source. However, I still want to verify it. I want to read the original article before I use this quote. Better still, I'd like to read the full interview transcript with Wenger.

After all, you can doctor quotes to say anything.

All the cited stories claim that this quote is proof that Wenger aims to keep Gallas as captain next year. However, that quote, just in isolation, doesn't necessarily suggest that Gallas will be captain. What if Wenger was merely defending Gallas' sulk-in after the Birmingham game? The wording of this snippet is entirely consistent with a defense of a senior player. It does not necessarily imply that Gallas is certain to be captain. What if the next part of the transcript read "Next season, we will spread the load out amongst our senior players"? That would change the meaning of the quote completely.

It's enough to make my head spin.

All in all, I'm a pretty lazy guy. What I read on the internet, I tend to believe. I treat wikipedia as a reliable source of information. I treat newsnow as a reliable source of gossip. If I see a quote from a player, I tend to believe it's real. If I see a denial by said player, I tend to believe that the denial is real, as well. I have faith that journalists tell the truth.

But it does make me wonder.

Where do we get our news?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Did he say "no", or "not yet"?

“I have not spoken to any media, so it's frustrating to read quotes that I have supposedly said about my future. I have spent the summer relaxing with my family, friends and girlfriend. I think that some people are just trying to make mischief, but my intentions are clear. I am happy here at Arsenal and the priority is to achieve success and win trophies at Arsenal.”

- Cesc Fabregas, deliberating on whether "no" means "no"

This is the picture I have in my head.

There's this car parked outside London Colney. The windows are fogged up and the chassis' rocking slightly to the movement of licentious love. Inside, sit our two protagonists. Ramon Calderon's all sweaty with carnal inflammation. His greasy paws are groping our sweet young thing. Cesc's of two minds - he'd like to be faithful to Arsene Wenger, but he knows that Ramon can show him a world he's never known. Cesc's equivocating. Cesc's flustered. Should he keep his virtue intact and stay faithful with the Arse, or should he succumb to the wanton charms of his swarthy Spanish suitor?

What's a starlet to do?

In courtrooms all over the world, this scenario's been played out countless times. And it basically comes down to this - does "no" mean "no", or does it mean "not yet"? It's difficult to adjudicate. Firstly, because there's no impartial witness to the event, and secondly, because it's such an emotional thing. If you wanted to legislate, you'd have to say that no means no, but really, it's a case by case thing.

I liken the Cesc-Arsenal-Real Madrid-Barcelona love quadrangle to Wuthering Heights. Cathy's been pretty solid with her beau, but she's quite taken with the reappearance of the dashing, brutish Heathcliff. Cathy's torn between her duty to what's-his-face and the memories of her first great love.

I'm not sure where Real Madrid fits into this, but I'm sure we'd all prefer Cesc returns to the heaving bosom of Barca's ample embrace, rather that enjoy the fetid, squalid charms of Real Madrid's Bernabeu. At least that way, we can wander those lonely, desolate Pennine moors and weep sweet Cescy tears with a certain romantic gusto. After all, we'd know he left us out of love, and not for money.

So don't do it, Cesc. Resist Calderon's charms. Save yourself for Barcelona.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Should I support Real Madrid?

“I didn't tell Ramon Calderon no, I told him that now wasn’t the time to go to Madrid. That you are wanted by Madrid, one of the biggest teams in history, is important. To be four seasons without winning any titles would be too much for me. Real Madrid are the favourites to win La Liga this year."

- Cesc Fabregas, one of our more loyal players

Ramon Calderon talks to me as well. He wants me to quit supporting Arsenal and start supporting Real Madrid. He tells me that Madrid will win La Liga this year, that they'll sign Ronaldo and that everything's going to go well. He's even going to throw in a Robinho shirt if I switch.

Some days, I'm tempted by his weasel words. It would be nice to be part of a club that wins things. Say what you will about glory-hunting, bandwagon jumping, prawn-sandwich munching plastic supporters, they do have better parties. And it's very frustrating waiting for a future that doesn't look like eventuating.

It's difficult to keep the faith when last year's team, the one that came so close, is dissolving like a dandelion in a strong puff of wind. If Hleb, Flamini and Adebayor don't share the faith, why should I? You're only a supporter for 30, 40 years, and you need to make it count. Why wait for success when you can enjoy it every year at a big, big club like Real Madrid?

I reason I support Arsenal is Arsene Wenger. I love Arsene Wenger. He's a brilliant manager and he's got a side that plays sublime football. I don't want to betray his confidence. It'll kill him if I left Arsenal and joined the skanky ho brigade. First Vieira, then Henry, then Cesc, and now me? I don't think he could take that much betrayal.

Still, I hope we win something next year. Like Cesc says, four years is a long time without winning any titles. Come on Wenger, it's up to you to make us happy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Don't go to Chelsea, Kaka

'Kaká's contract gives him €9million in its first season and rises by a million euros for each of its five years... to better that, Chelsea will have to begin at more than £200,000 a week.'

- a Milan source, talking to Observer Sport

I've got some spare time, and it's a Sunday, so I've got fundamentalist Christianity on my mind. You wouldn't think it has much to do with football, but then, you wouldn't think a guy who wears his faith on his T-shirt would consider working for immoral people, either. I'm talking, of course, about Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite (a.k.a Kaka).

Don't get me wrong, I really admire Kaka. He seems like a genuinely nice man, with a sincere faith and an amiable disposition. Unlike some of his contemporaries, fame and success haven't tuned him into a jerk. Actually, he's probably the only elite footballer in the world who wouldn't look out of place with a halo around his head.

Sanctity is a delicate thing, though.

I'm thinking about Kaka's move to Chelsea. I'm presuming something's afoot; there's a bit too much whispering for to just be a rumour. This article claims that, if he moves to Chelsea, he "is likely to become the first £1m-a-month footballer".

I'm with a lot of people who believe that Chelsea's money is blood money. Russian resources were stolen from the Russian people by a bunch of well-placed crooks and sycophants during post-Soviet deregulation. It's not to say that the oligarchs weren't smart nor hard-working, but they did gain control through a series of dodgy deals. Abramovich has himself admitted to having paid billions of dollars for political favours and protection fees to obtain a big share of Russia's oil and aluminium assets (The Times, 05/07/08).

Where does Kaka fit into this?

Well, Abramovich used his money to turn Chelsea into his personal Football Manager game. Kaka is, potentially, the new "big, big signing". And ultimately, Kaka's wages will come from Abramovich. I don't dispute that Kaka's entitled to seek out the highest rate of remuneration, and I don't dispute that he'd be worth £250,000 a week. After all, he is the best player in the world. I'm not even going to argue that earning that kind of money is obscene, because I imagine Kaka does a lot more good with his millions than I ever will with my paltry thousands.

It's just that I hope Kaka takes a moment before he signs with Chelsea. I hope he thinks about where his money's coming from. I hope he asks himself whether he's willing to accept money from a tainted source, and whether his sense of righteousness is worth another lazy million in the bank. I really hope he does.

You cannot serve both God and Mammon.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Myles Wrote A Good Article!

"Unfortunately, Hill-Wood's attitude is : We are Arsenal, we have more integrity than other clubs, we've never renegotiated a contract with anybody in our history. That policy is old-fashioned, snobbish, and self-defeating. It's complete bollocks. Arsenal is a modern business like any other. And that's why they need a worldly CEO with some balls, rather than an administrator like Ken Friar."

- Myles Palmer, Arsenal News Review

I'm spending most of my time reviewing other Arsenal blogs. I really should rename this site "Fucking-Arsenal-Blogs", at least during the off-season. Observing how gooners react to Arsenal news is much more interesting than Arsenal news itself.

Myles Palmer has written a couple of really good posts lately, entitled "Arsenal: the big picture", about the finances behind the rather bizarre antics of this off-season. I don't presume to understand the credit crunch, or London property prices, or how a jittery financial market affects our 260 million pound loan. But it is interesting to read about it.

The above quote comes from the assertion that we're being shafted by our Emirates shirt deal. We're getting 6 million a year, compared to 14 million by Man Utd from AIG and 16 million by Chelsea from Samsung. We've got an shirt deal with an equivalent monetary value as Ajax's.

Moreover, we've negotiated a bunch of deals with a bunch of companies to finance our stadium deal. We've been shafted in the long-run, but we got the money upfront. And we're paying for it now because of the housing slump, because of the finanical meltdown, because Highbury Flats won't sell and we've got to put every pound we earn from the stadium back into the loan.

Problem is, we're being run by an idiot. Peter Hill-Wood is an idiot. There's no beating around the bush on this one. He's the scion of some very talented people, and he's got by on his connections, his wealth and his name. And he's the figurehead of a club that could become the biggest in England, but which is languishing behind Man Utd and Liverpool in terms of global reach, and which is being hunted down by a hungry, ruthless Chelsea. Isn't it weird that, for a supposedly big club, our three super-stores are all located in London?

We need Stan Kroenke. Not for his wealth, not for his connections, but for his business skills.

Friday, July 25, 2008

An expensive packet of crisps

"But I have been disillusioned with football for a long time. I kept my sanity by pumping millions of pounds into my academy, feeling the saving grace of my club was finding players who would be chomping at the bit and honoured to play in the first team. But that's been taken away from me as well. Bostock was one of the best players my academy has produced in the last 10 years - and he has been sold for a packet of crisps."

- Simon Jordan, Crystal Palace chairman

This quote from Simon Jordan is with regards to recent transfers from Crystal Palace, notably John Bostock to Tottenham for 700,000 pounds. That's the fee that was set by the football league transfer tribunal. It's pretty high considering Bostock's just a sixteen year old kid, but it's pretty low if you believe he's one of the most highly sought-after kids in England.

Whatever the case, it's patently more than a packet of crisps.

Now, according to reports, we're after another one of Jordan's lads - a young dreadlocked chap by the name of Vincent Moses. Now, I don't know anything about him other than he looks a bit like Edgar Davids, but we're going to bid one million pounds for him; low considering Moses' potential, but high considering he's still just a kid.

I've always been a bit uneasy about how we poach kids from the academies of other clubs. I realise it's all within the letter of the law. I also realise that the kids have a right to choose which club they sign professional terms with. I just feel for the home club (especially if they're a small club) when they've nurtured a kid for all those years only to have him poached as soon as he's ready for first-team action. Especially, if they're given a pittance in return.

A few days ago, Wenger was calling the presidents of Real Madrid, Barca and Milan a bunch of dirty skanky hos, because they unsettle players and pinch them off other clubs. Most gooner websites applauded this, and said that Arsenal are classy enough never to stoop to such levels. I'm not so sure.

Maybe we're just sneaky in other ways.

I'm not sure what the solution is. I really don't. Obviously, Arsenal are taking a big punt on these kids. There's no guarantee that they'll turn into stars. We pay the club a (relatively) large amount of money for them. In return, we're gambling on the fact that the kid will fulfill their potential. So, it's not to say we're stealing these kids away - we are compensating them to the letter of the law.

It's just that something about this youth policy makes my stomach turn.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rule Britainna?

'The impact of a British team on the public and their support of the Games will be enormous. We would also expect that team to be a strong medal contender and thereby generate tremendous excitement throughout the country. We must have a team in these Games and we will have a team.'

- Lord Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association

I never understood why the Scots, the Welsh, the English and the Northen Irish have separate football associations and separate leagues. It doesn't make much sense. I mean, Britain doesn't even have a devolved government, right? Why then, would you expect to divide a country's footballing organisation along these lines? No other country does it. It's a bit like the Basques or the Catalans forming their own separate FAs and lodging with FIFA.

There should be a British FA, a British Premier League and a British national football side. For those of us antipodeans who can't distinguish their Scottish accent from their Irish, it'll be a godsend. I'll be able to grunt and say, "you're British, right?", instead of figuring out which of which is surly and which of which is cheerful.

I'm sure it'll be good for football, too. One positive from this would be that Rangers and Celtic would enter the Premier League (after a few promotion seasons). They've been waiting for their chance for a long, long time, and they really do need the better competition to become all they can be. It would make the Premier League much stronger and more competitive. On the downside, two existing English sides will be relegated. On the upside, one of those sides could be Tottenham.

It's a chance I'm willing to take.

So, after 2012, I hope Britain will follow up with the unified football team idea and register as Great Britain with UEFA and FIFA. I think Moynihan's a tad optimistic if he expects any British side to be a "strong medeal contender", but it can't hurt the Olympic side's chances to include guys like Naismith, Gordon, Bale and Ramsey.

Oh, and in Arsenal news, Hleb is talking about us again. I'm not sure what; I can't be bothered reading it. Very tiresome. It's like the guy never left. I thought that after he moved to Barcelona, he'd find something else to occupy his attentions - like forcing his way past Iniesta and Messi, perhaps?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kolo Toure Has Malaria

"He has malaria but is in good spirits."

- Arsenal spokesman, about Kolo Toure

The bad news is that Kolo Toure has malaria. The good news is that he's in good spirits. It's nice to know. I would've been worried if he was a bit down-hearted about having malaria. Now I glad I don't have to airmail him a packet of Tim Tams and a pot of hot tea to keep his spirits up.

It begs the question, though - how the fuck does a millionaire, elite sportsman get malaria during the off-season? Granted, he's in sub-Saharan Africa in the middle of summer, but still... why didn't the doctor give him shots before he left? Why isn't he sleeping underneath a mosquito net? I'm going to Europe in a month's time and I'm going to get vaccines for things that haven't existed since the '70s. What's Toure's excuse?

Fucking hell.

However it happened, he's going to miss the start of the Premier League season. Which means that, unless we've got ourselves a truly ugly centre-half over the next few weeks, our line-up's going to include the pairing of Gallas and Senderos.

It's not an auspicious start to the season.

In more cheerful news, our Theo slammed an 18-yard shot across the goalkeeper and into the back of the net off the far post to equalise in the 42nd minute. Against Szombathelyi Haladás. The pride of Szombathelyi were humbled by our precocious youngsters.

Woo hoo.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Yaya Toure Belongs To L'Arse

"The 25-year-old Ivory Coast international (Yaya Toue) only arrived at Barcelona last summer in an £8million transfer, and Wenger is prepared to pay around £12million to take him to England."

- Mr Comfort, from caughtoffside, blowing more smoke than a chimney

In my FM08 game, I've got the best midfield in the world - Ben Afra, Sankhare, Fabregas, Flamini and Nasri. I've got the second best midfield sitting on the bench. And yet, I'm considering spending an additional 20 million on Yaya Toure.

It's not a sensible plan. He's not as good as Sankhare, Flamini or Denilson. And I've a couple of promising young frenchies in the reserves. I'll have to sell Diego and Denilson to justify Yaya's inclusion. And yet, I still want to do it.

He's an Arsenal fan, he's French-African, he's Kolo's brother - he's a perfect fit for the Gallic Arsenal side I've put together. I'm going to do it in July; sell Diego, Denilson and Marcelo, and bring in Yaya, with Saviet and Saunier coming back from loan.

Meanwhile, in real life...

Yaya and Kolo go with Arsenal like cream and jam on a warm butter scone. They're tailor-made for Arsenal's style of play, and they're awesome players as well. We could be so good with Yaya driving forward from midfield. It's Yaya's destiny to join us. He's Kolo's younger brother, he's an ASEC alumni, he's African and atheletic and violently talented.

We won't buy him because Barca don't want to sell, and Wenger's never been one to prise good players from big clubs. We'll get Bischoff and someone else, probably. But still, that sentimental part of me wants to see the Toure brothers line up for us.

It would be cool.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Loving Theo Walcott

'Everyone is different, but the stuff you see some footballers doing, cheating on their girlfriends and stuff, I just think, "Why?" Why have a girlfriend, or a wife and kids if you're going to cheat?... And drinking; when you've finished your career you can have a drink - obviously not become an alcoholic... I don't drink at all. I never have done. Back at school people would take the mick out of me for not drinking at parties and stuff, but that didn't bother me. It's only a short career and the way you are off the pitch makes a big difference.'

- Theo Walcott, in a puff piece from the Observer

I love Theo.

I'm sure a lot of grown men love Theo. Theo would probably be quite nervous if he knew just how much we love him. It's not just because he's young, quick and talented. It's not just because he's English in a squad of foreign nationals. It's not even because he's got a great family, a good head on his shoulders and a lovely girlfriend. It's just...

He's such a nice boy.

You'd imagine him helping little old ladies cross the road on the way home from school. He'd call home if he'll be late for supper. He'd tussle the hair of his impish younger siblings and lark around with them in the backyard. He's the kind of kid you wish your daughter would date. He's the kind of kid you wish you could raise.

I don't feel this way about any of our other youngsters. Not Ramsey, nor Denilson, not even Cesc. Don't get me wrong, I love Cesc to bits, but there isn't that sense of proprietorship. Cesc was, and will always be, a Barca boy. When you watch him play, you know that he'll only grace us with his talents for a few years. Theo, on the other hand, may well stay with us forever (or until he's 30). Plus, there was that traumatic World Cup 2006 selection, and those comments made by that nasty Steven Gerrard. He's just a kid, but dammit, he's OUR kid. I guess I love him because he's one of ours, in a way that none of our other youngsters can be.

I could go on, but my fingers are cold and stiff and it's a bother to type.

Just want to reiterate - I love Theo.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

"Of course I am in a position where I can spend the money. But every time, we have done such a great job with the young players that you are concerned 'Do we kill a young player or not by bringing another player in?'"

- Arsene Wenger, on why he's probably not a homicidal maniac

Turns out, we're not in the business of killing young players.

It's comforting. I always wondered what happens to youngsters that don't make the grade. I know some of them find new home at lower level clubs. The ones we know about, anyway. I always feared that the really, really bad players are pushed out into a dimly-lit alleyway and put out of their misery by a kindly sniper. Or they're given a sedative-laced lollipop and pushed out in front of a semi-trailer.

It's what they do to horses, after all.

Wenger, however, patently doesn't like to kill young players. A lot of people are starting to query whether it's at the expense of killing us fans, but Wenger's pretty firm about this point. If there's a promising young player around, Wenger's not going to buy an experienced player who would impede their progress.

So, expect next season to be more like 06-07, not 07-08. With Song or Denilson to partner Cesc. And Nasri and Walcott on the flanks. And van Persie and Rosicky at the physios.

It's depressing when you consider Chelsea's about to drop 80 million pounds on Kaka. I know Wenger's got a plan, but sometimes, you wish he'd just kill a horse or two and buy Phar Lap. I mean, not every runt that Wenger signs is going to turn into Seabiscuit. And they do amazing things with lethal injections nowadays.

I'll leave with this quote from Wenger about Aaron "Rambo" Ramsey:

"Overall he can play wide, he can play centrally. I think in the future he will be a central midfielder. How is down to him and down to us on how well we work with him. In my mind though there are no restrictions on his development, because he has played a lot already."

So maybe I was wrong about Song and Denilson. Maybe this coming season, we'll see Rambo with his shirt off, muscles bulging, a strap of ammo over one shoulder and machine guns on each arm. Yep, the ideal partner to Cesc Fabregas.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Are We Tottenham In Disguise?

I read a comment on CaughtOffside the other day that was quite disturbing. We're taking pride in the way we play, rather than the results. It's a bit complacent. We're a big club in England, and we should be aiming for trophies, not appeasing armchair asthetes.

It's Tottenham-esque.

I admit I'm falling into this trap as well. Our thin, callow squad is so frustrating that it's easy to think that results don't matter, and that beautiful tiki-taka football is an ends to itself. It's a lot easier on my heart than to lose 0-1 to a Middlesborough because we're rubbish at set pieces.

However, the object of professional football is to win things. That should be the primary objective. Asethetics and style should be secondary. I remember Rijkaard saying that Barcelona plays the way they play because they think it's the most effective winning strategy. That should be our mindset as well.

Kudos to Wenger for having a vision and sticking with it. It takes a lot of guts to dismantle a side that's been very successful and rebuild based on youth. And he's pulled it off before, and shown that he CAN perform minor miracles. But it's a bit frustrating when he's sticking to his vision at the expense of the primary objective - to win stuff.

To an outsider, we were so close last year. We ran out of steam because of our thin squad and lack of inexperience. And if we'd done something in January, we could've been champions. And now, we're back where we were last year - thin squad, good players leaving, and shitting ourselves because there's no light at the end of the tunnel.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that Wenger should pull his finger out and buy an experienced, monstrous centre-half.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Goodbye, Alex Hleb

"We are comfortable with our decision to let him go and we are all looking forward to continuing our preparations for the new season ahead. Everyone at Arsenal wishes Alex the best of luck for the future."

- Arsene Wenger, saying it for all of us

Last one out of Emirates, please turn off the lights.

I'm sad that Gilberto's left us, but I can understand him leaving us for more game time. Wenger's got his eyes firmly on the future, and he's very unsentimental with regards to his older players. I wish him well for the future because he seems like a really good guy, a model professional, and one of the best Arsenal captains we've never had.

With regards to Hleb, however, it's a bit anti-climatic. We've known for a while that Hleb would go, and to be honest, no one really cared where he went. All that mattered was to recoup our inital investment and buy a replacement. And, we've got the funds, and we've bought the replacement, in the form of Samir Nasri.

Once you do the permutations, it's starts to get exicting. Vela, Walcott, Rosicky, Nasri on the wings. There's a lot of promise, a lot of skill and a lot of pace in those players. I think Vela will become as our left winger, despite Wenger's protestations. We've probably got enough strikers - on the proviso that we buy a replacement for Adebayor.

With regards to Hleb, however, it's a good deal for him. I think it's double his exisiting contract with Arsenal, over four years instead of just two - so he'll be financially secure during his long retirement. He might even have enough to buy a rural retreat in Belarus and raise cows. It's strange that Barca would want him - Iniesta and Messi are pretty handy players, to my mind - but I'd agree with his statement that signing for Barcelona is "like a dream". I get shivers when I manage Barca on FM08 - I'd probably have to lie down if I signed for them for real.

It's interesting that Hleb was signed only a few days after Ronaldinho was sold, both for fairly similiar prices. I guess the transfer gridlock is starting to unblock. Maybe in the next few days, we'll get that experienced central midfielder we've been craving.

Anyway, Alex Hleb, goodbye, farewell and amen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Half-arsed post about Kurds

"Ahem, Mr President. Do you support the Kurdish FA's attempts to join Fifa?"

- James Montague, asking Barzani about Kurdistan's prospects for statehood

James Montague has written the best football article I've read in months. It's entitled "Disparate, shirtless and unrecognised: meet team Kurdistan". You should check it out. You should print it out and stick it on trains. You should drop off thousands of leaflets of it from a plane, so that enlightenment might rain down upon unsuspecting hoi polloi.

It's that good.

It's about the Kurds' quest for nationhood, it's about the Viva World Cup, it's about aspirations and dreams and how a simple game can represent so much more. It's partly the reason I became interested in football.

Football and geo-politics - it's an intoxicating mix.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Transfer Gridlock

"Clearly, Arsene hasn’t got any money. He's potless. He’s penniless. All Arsenal's cash has gone into the flats at Highbury Square and something happened that we don't know about.... Now, Arsene has to sell to buy. And a lot of big clubs have to sell to buy. That's why the market seems to have vanished."

- Myles Palmer, Arsenal News Review

Strangely, this was actually a good article by Myles. It's strange because it was written off the cuff and rehashes what everyone else surmised a few weeks ago, when Wenger said we were a selling club. But there was a little observation that really caught my eye:

There's no money in the transfer market.

Everyone's waiting on someone else to buy their player before they can offer to buy someone else. Think about the Adebayor case: Ronaldinho to Milan, Adebayor to Barcelona, Gourcuff to Arsenal. Think about Hleb: Nasri to Arsenal, Hleb to Barcelona, Ben Arfa(?) to Marseille. Think about Liverpool: Crouch, Barry, Alonso deals are/were all interlinked. Think about how Arsharvin's been waiting for ages for a club to take a punt on him, or how Man Utd's got half the known world's agents waiting for them to sell C.Ronaldo to Real Madrid.

Of course, this disregards Barcelona's 80 million euro splurge in the transfer market so far. But that can be explained by election manoeuvrings by Laporta. Apart from Barca, it's been quiet. Italian football's been moribund for ages now. English football's incredibly quiet, considering the influx of SkySport money.

There is something to Myles' train of thought. The frustrating thing about this article, though, is that it failed to address the one really glaring question - where did all the money go?

Whatever the case, the transfer martket's become a bit of a Mexican standoff. Nothing's going to happen until someone blinks, stumps up the cash and buys the first player. And then, in a blaze of gunfire and flailing sombreros, mano e mano sorts the wheat from the chaff. I imagine that's going to happen in this transfer season. Cut price deals, swaps, negotiations... everything finalised in a few hectic days.

Going to be boring until it happens, though.

The first domino might've fallen - Hleb to Barcelona for 15 million. Good for him. Truth be told, I'm starting to come around to his way of thinking. I'm going to be in Europe over the winter, and after comparing mean temperatures in December, I think I'd opt for Barcelona over London as well. London, by all accounts, is a very, very depressing place in winter.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bad Reputation

"Suddenly I'm on the street
Seven years disappeared

Below my feet

Been breakin' down

Do you want me now? Do you want me now?"

- Freedy Johnson, Bad Reputation

This post is on memory.

Please allow me the liberty of going off on a tangent. There's scant news today (other than Barry and Arsharvin being linked to us - yawn), so I might as well. I've got to write about something, and this song's been on high rotation in my head for a couple of days now.

I really, really like this song. It hooks you from the first line "I know I've got a bad reputation, and I know it's not all talk, talk, talk", and there's this really easy, folksy melody to it. But what really gets to you is the chorus. There's a real poignancy to those lines, and it sinks deep into you and pulls at your heart strings.

It happens in an instant, doesn't it? You can spend years not thinking about something, and then something triggers your memory and it comes flooding back. All those thoughts and emotions and regrets that you've spent so long trying to bury, wash over you and you're back. Seven years disappear, and you're right back where you started from.

One of my favourite books is all about that. It starts off with a madeleine soaked in tea, and ends up... well, I not sure where it ends up - I gave up on A la recherche halfway through Sodom and Gomorrah, around when Monsieur de Charlus was trying to seduce our young Marcel. I figured that I was halfway through it, I had my exams to study for, and I was sick of lugging that thing to uni every day. Plus, the mental image of a fat, mustachioed french dude buggering the pastry chef made me a bit squirmish.

And there I went again - seven years disappeared, and I'm twenty again, pissed off at the world and trying to read Proust while hacking through my uni course. And you know, if I could, I'd tell my twenty year old self to cheer up, that life can sometimes be about beer and skittles, and that anyway, Proust is impossibly dense and not really that necessary. I really should've just put the book down and spent more time trying to talk to Olivia...

I would've turned out a lot happier.

Anyway, I'm thinking about the future, and wondering where I'll be seven years from now. When I was twenty, I figured I'd have it sorted out by twenty-seven. I've given up on that dream for now. I'm starting to realise that life isn't something to be figured out. Or at least, not by me.

And, you know, this song really sticks in my brain. I wonder, because in seven years' time she'll be twenty five, and things would seem different. Got to be different. I'll be in a different place. I'll have a different set of emotions. I'll look back on this time and wonder why the fuck I was ever so into this girl. But the scary thing is that if I bumped into her seven years later, in the words of Freedy Johnson:

Suddenly I'm in another place
Looking in the crowd I think I see your face
Been turning around
Do you want me now?
Do you want me now?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Nasri signs!

"I like offensive, technical and quick football - exactly in the style of Arsenal... I hope I will integrate myself quickly in this team and bring everything I can to Arsenal and the fans. I can play in the centre or on the wing, behind one or two strikers, on the left or the right. I was a big fan of the team and of its football philosophy, which makes it so great for me to be joining the club."

- Sammy Nasri, Arsenal fan and all-round good guy

Well, we've got Nasri. Surprising, hey? Right out of the blue, this one. I thought we were after Arsharvin all this time. That Wenger sure keeps things under wraps.

It's nice that he's offering to play on the flanks. We'll need a bit of speed and width. Let's hope Nasri will be able to provide more directness to our play. It's one thing Hleb never managed to do. I like the attitude as well; he should fit this side like ugg boots on a bogan. He doesn't score many goals - 11 goals in 145 appearances for Marseille - but I guess with a record like that, he'll fit right into our side.

These are exciting times. Nasri and Ramsey are both very good prospects, and Nasri, at least, is good enough to make an impact this season. And no one nicknamed "Rambo" can be bad, yeah? I suppose Wenger will use Nasri sparingly for the first six months (like most of his signings), so maybe Walcott will be given a chance on the right. Or maybe Vela will be switched to the right flank. Or Eboue given another chance.

It's going to be an interesting first half of the season.

One thing that worries me is that Nasri's not the best looking chap in the world. Coupled with Ramsey, our future midfield is going to look pretty damn ugly. At least Flamini's left, and Hleb's going. Could you imagine a midfield quartet of Nasri, Flamini, Ramsey and Hleb? Too hideous to contemplate.

At the moment, my guess for the midfield is Nasri, Rosicky, Fabregas and Song. That's okay. Song's not exactly pretty, but he's got awesome hair. Definitely watchable for that. Whatever happens, let's hope Theo Walcott breaks in the first team this year - we need a genuine looker in the side, or I'll be gouging out my eyes by January.

Still, why the fuck hasn't Mark Milligan been signed? He could be the answer to Flamini. And he's free, versatile and young. I read on newsnow that we're going to sign Amaury Bischoff on a free, but still... Bischoff isn't Australian. We need a Aussie in the heart of the Arsenal. Aussies are awesome.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Slavery in Football

"There's too much modern slavery, in transferring players or buying players. We are trying now to intervene in such cases. The reaction to the Bosman law is to make long-lasting contracts to keep the players, and then if he wants to leave there is only one solution, he has to pay his contract."

- Sepp Blatter, about Cristano Ronaldo

Sepp Blatter says the darnest things. It must be part of the job description for president of FIFA. I still chuckle over his "female footballers should wear skimpy clothes" line. Classic Sepp, that.

There is an element of truth to this quote. Impoverished young footballers from underdeveloped nations can get sucked up by unscrupulous agents, made to sign lengthy, exploitive contracts, and dumped in Europe. There is the unwholesome taint of slavery with some aspects of commericalised professional football.

I remember the MSI-Tevez-Mascherano saga with West Ham a couple of years ago. That seemed a bit exploitive, to have one's registration held by an agent, and being parked at a Premier League club. And I heard that that situation is pretty common in South America, where a promising young player would raise funds by selling his registration to investors. It's a bit like indentured service.

However, a contract is also a good thing for a player. A club will pay a player a guaranteed salary regardless of injury, poor form or poor behaviour. In return, a player will play exclusively for that club. Quid pro quo. The club takes a punt on the player's ability to perform, and a player commits to a certain time frame.

If Sepp was really planning to abolish contracts, we'll end up with a situation where a club can sack a player with two weeks' severance pay. There'll be no security at all. That might go well for the best players in the world, who can flit from big contract to big contract, but it won't be as good for the mediocre player who suddenly develops a niggling, undiagnosed injury.

I don't know what the solution is, but when you get down to it, no one twisted Cristiano Ronaldo's arm and made him commit to four years (or whatever). He negotiated the length of his contract himself. He accepted a fixed salary for a set number of years, over negotiating a shorter length contract without the security of the guaranteed income. He signed a contract.

And the contract should be honoured.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Royal Arsenal?

"F**k you, Adebayor, you f**king worthless f**ker - can't you f**king hit that f**king ball properly? For f**k's sake, you big f**king lumphead, you're paid like a f**king king, and you can't even f**king shoot?! F**k you, Wenger should sell your f**king arse and bring in a real f**king striker. One is not amused."

- Queen Elizabeth II, on the couch, on any given Saturday.

I've been thinking.

It's not an original thought, but it's one that is very tantalising. We know that we're deep in debt from the stadium, and that those financial constraints are hindering our chance of short-term success. We know that the vultures are circling. We know that a wealthy benefactor with loads of spare cash is needed to compete with the debt-laden monsters of Chelski and Man USA.

We need a sugar daddy.

Why not the Queen?

She's a gooner. She's quite a wealthy woman. She likes Cesc Fabregas. I'm sure she'd be quite happy to reach into her petty cash and buy our club. It's a nice little club, with a homely, establishment kind of feel. We could install a balcony at Emirates and she could wave to the crowd before games.

It's a thought. She'd have the cash to buy Villa and Benzema, Akinfeev and Kompany. And, she could order Ashley Cole flogged by royal command. If she had just reason, of course. Which she would. At any rate, she has the resources to make Arsenal the Chelski of North London.

It's not going to happen, if only because the Queen's supposed to be above petty domestic machinations. She's supposed to represent the vulgarity and crassness of the British peoples as well as the pure class that is Arsenal. So, she can't show her allegiance to the prettiest, loveliest, most wonderful club in the world.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Arsenal vs Newcastle United

We're the North Bank, we're the North Bank, we're the North Bank, Highbury..."

- hopefully me, on the 30th of August, somewhere inside Emirates Stadium.

I would love it, just love it, if I was there watching the Arse beat Newcastle United 3-0, with two goals by David Villa, a series of blinding saves by Akinfeev, and all capped off with a mazy run by David Silva to set up a screamer from 20-yards by our very own Cesc Fabregas.

But I would love it equally much if we lost 0-1 through a set piece after dominating the majority of the match. No, scratch that. I wouldn't love it that much. But I'd love it all the same.

It's the simple pleasures you take for granted. Some gooners, I'm sure, wake up in the morning, have breakfast, walk to the pub and get pissed, and then totter along to Emirates. It's not that simple for some of us.

It's the lot of an Antipodean gooner that some of your favourite moments in life are spent shivering on the couch in the middle of the night, watching a bunch of flickering images dancing on the TV. It's a stupid way of spending your emotional energy, but love is nothing if not irrational. However, spend long enough watching from a computer or a TV, and you start to believe all football is played from a flat-screen.

I've got to pinch myself to remember that it's not just a dream. Very soon, I'll be able to watch my team play in a real stadium, in 3D, surrounded by 60,000 gooners. It's fucking amazing. If, of course, my friend can get that ticket for me. Which I'm starting to doubt, considering how fucking pissed off she seems to be at me...

It won't be like going to the 'G and watching Melbourne get thumped by Hawthorn, or Geelong, or even Carlton (I've never been, but I've never much liked Aussie rules). It won't be like going to the Australian Open and watching one-sided matches between people I've never heard of, or admiring a Maria Sharapova forehand during her practice sessions (she's got quite perky footwork). It'll be something amazing simply because I've waited so long for it, because I've wanted to go since like, forever, and because it's my team and my players in my stadium.

In the words of Anne Rice, I'll be just like a little Cajun boy, arriving in Paris to see where it all began...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Harry's off to Galatasaray

"There were a lot of other clubs out there but this is perfect for me. Galatasaray wanted me from the start. The facilities are great. It's a fantastic city and I'm willing to learn."

- Harry Kewell, about his move to Galatasaray

Harry's off to Galatasaray, after weeks of speculation that he'd wind up at Roma.

Oh well.

You know, it would've been nice to see him play cute one-twos with Totti and co. It would've been nice to see him at play in a technical, tactical league like the Serie A. But you know... I suppose Roma's not willing to punt on Kewell's dodgy legs, much like the rest of the known world.

It's a shame because he's still a really, really good player. If fit. And willing. And able to play through pain, muscle strain and gout. Which, judging from the evidence of the past few years, he's not. I still can't believe he missing the World Cup 2nd round match because of gout. How does a professional footballer develop gout at the most important tournament in the world?

At the time, I thought his move to Liverpool was a poor choice. I really did. I still do. There was interest from the Arsenal at the time. We needed someone to sub for Pires and Bergkamp, and Kewell would've been perfect - a left-footed winger/striker with pace, invention, trickery and flair. An amazing talent that could've set the world on fire if given the right guidance. It would've made my day.

Instead, he punted for Liverpool, and we punted for Reyes. In retrospect, I think everyone lost out on that deal. Kewell was good in patches at Liverpool, but he never lived up to his potential, did he? And Reyes flattered to deceive.

I think Kewell's career has been one half-lived. It's been good in parts; he's won a Champions League medal, represented Australia at the World Cup, and watched from physio's table at the highest level for about 10 years. But I remember his days at Leeds, and that potential, and that talent, and I wonder what might've been if he'd moved to the right club, and if he'd remained injury-free.

Our one world-class talent should've become a world-class player. But we'll never know now, I guess. Good luck to him at Gala, anyway.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

We're doomed!

"The strategy of the club is to sell every year and to buy less expensive players. We manage at Arsenal to maintain all our football ambitions - national and European - while having to free up - for 17 more years - an annual surplus of £24million to pay for our stadium. The club's strategy is to favour the policy of youngsters ahead of stars and to count on the collective quality of our game."

- Arsene Wenger, News of the World

I can't find the primary source for this quote (it's frightening how much I depend on newsnow for my Arsenal news), so I'm not sure of the veracity of this quote. I'm a bit doubtful because Wenger's never been this blunt before, and everyone's been at pains to highlight our healthy financial state. Even if it's true, it serves no purpose to come out and say it. It's a poorly hidden secret that we're a selling club. But an admission would be an open invitation to Barca to snap up Fabregas next year, to Milan to come after Toure, and to Chelsea to replace Cole with Clichy (although, wouldn't that be a hoot for our dear old Ashley?).

However, you don't score readers with common sense and skepticism. Therefore, I'm going to take this quote as genuine and play along:

It's a very scary prospect for Arsenal. You're punting on achieving a top 4 place with mid-table wages for 17 years, with a procession of players leaving every year. Last year it was Henry. This year it's Flamini, Hleb and Ade. Next year, it's probably Cesc. Now that the genie's out of the bottle, there's absolutely no reason for Cesc to hang around. He's better off going to play under Guardiola (his hero as a kid, remember?) and join a club with really big ambitions.

And we won't be buying more replacements.

Flamini will be replaced with Denilson. Adebayor will be replaced with Bendnter. Hleb will be replaced with Nasri. As far as I can tell, only Nasri is ready to step in, and he'll need half a season to adjust to the rigours of the Premiership. Our thin squad cost us last year, and guess what - it'll be even thinner this year.

I'm Henny Penny and yep, the sky's falling down.

We've been sold a lie by the board and by Wenger. We're not building towards a glorious future. We're building towards a shiny stadium and the prospect of prudent financial stability. It's hardly awe-inspiring stuff, isn't it? Our youngsters might give us the bones for a great side (and it's still likely), but they won't stay for peanuts and the Wenger will ship them on when it's time. This constant state of flux means an unstable side, a thin squad and a perennial 3rd or 4th finish.

Pessimism aside, though, I'd like to know if this quote is real, and if so, why Arsene Wenger decided to say it now. Is it to initiate a bidding war for Ade and Hleb? It's high stakes stuff. Play it wrong, and he's likely to lose van Persie and Fabregas next year.

P.S. Oh, and I noticed that seven people found this site by googling "pink Arsenal blog". Excellent.

Friday, July 4, 2008

We've got a new superstore

“We have thousands of recognised supporters in the St Albans area, and it is a huge step forward for us to make official Club merchandise available through a local store. A wide range of Club merchandise will be available, along with Club memberships once the store is up and running. We look forward to seeing people there on launch day and hope it will be a great success.”

- Adrian Ford, Arsenal’s commercial director

Arsenal have opened a new club store. It is located at Unit 31, The Maltings Shopping Centre, St Albans, and it sells a wide range of Arsenal merchandise, including replica shirts, mugs, books, DVDs and leisure wear. The Arsenal Store — St Albans will be open Monday to Saturday 9.30am — 5.30pm and Sundays 11am-5pm.

It's not quite as exciting as signing Villa and Silva, now, is it? Still, baby steps. The profit from all those shirts and mugs and leisure wear will go into the "get Villa and Silva" fund, and one day, just maybe, we'll sign some amazingly prolific striker from a big, big club.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I realise it's better to sign a young, promising player as opposed to one who's at his peak and has nowhere to go but down. I just get a bit jaded when this is the most newsworthy thing I could find today.

Oh, and we're probably going to sell Adebayor for 30 million pounds to Barca.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wenger's a cunning fox

"Arsene Wenger is a cunning fox. In the morning he says Arshavin will play all the time at his club and during the day he says he doubts the capabilities of Andrei to play three games in a row at the highest level. But this is a tactic to fool the competition. He calls Andrei a Tsar and then tries to deny interest in the player."

- Dennis Lakhter, Zenit St Petersburg official

This must've happened sometime at Zenit St Petersburg:
Dennis Lakhter: Dick, Wenger has a very, very, very cunning plan.
Dick Advocat: Is it as cunning as a fox what used to be professor of cunning at Oxford University, but has moved on, and is now working for the UN at the high commission of international cunning planning?
Dennis Lakhter: Yes, it is.
Dick Advocat: Mm... That's cunning!
I must confess, however, that I haven't seen much of Arshavin. One of the players of the tournament, yes. One of the players regularly shown on SBS, no. All I saw was the rematch of Spain vs Russia(?), and he wasn't particularly effective in that match. But I'm willing to get on the bandwagon and say he'll be a good player for us.

We should buy Arshavin. Awesome player, with a name that's a punning dream.

I remember reading a few days back that the reason Wenger didn't move for Modric was his slight frame. He thought that Modric would be snapped in half by the first English centre-half he meets. And considering our squad of midfield munchkins, it was probably a good thing that Wenger refrained from indulging in another effete, creative playmaker.

Along those lines, you'd think that Arshavin would need someone to protect him, especially if he's another attacking midfielder with a tendency to drift into the middle. Wenger may be a cunning fox with regards to his dealings with the press, but I'm sure there's a fair whack of truth in his comments.

Would Arshavin cut it in the Premier League?

We'll just have to see. One thing good, though - at least he won't whinge in winter that it's too cold. Although, he might pass out with sun stroke during the English "summer".


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On hypocrisy

A short one, today.

We castigate Adebayor for wanting to move to Milan because they're willing to quadruple his pay, and because he wants to play for one of the "top ten clubs in Europe". We complain that he's nothing but a mercenary, and he that should honour the terms of his contract.

However, we want to flog Adebayor to Milan if they're foolish enough to pay 30 million pounds. He's not worth that much money, and we could get a good replacement for half that amount. Every player has his price, and we're just following good business principles.

It's called hypocrisy. Either the contract is sacred and no one violates the terms of the deal, or there is a price above which it is acceptable to break the deal. We can't have it both ways.

Look at it this way - if you've been offered an job for four times your current salary, with similiar responsiblities and duties, you'll want to explore the possibilities. If you're happy with your current job, you'll probably go to your employer and ask for a pay rise. If you're unhappy, you'll probably tender your resignation and fuck off to your plush new job.

Now, I agree that Adebayor's bound by a contract to play for Arsenal. It's a bit different from a normal job. Arsenal have to pay his wages regardless of performance or injury. Adebayor's traded his right to walk away for the security of a contract. It's perfectly legal for Arsenal to reject Milan's offers and keep Adebayor at Emirates.

But Adebayor wouldn't be human if he didn't feel pissed off about it.

Whatever the case, it's undignified for this drama to be played out in public. Not a very classy thing to do. But you can't deny a guy the possibility of advancement. Not really.