Sunday, August 31, 2008

3-0 to the Arsenal

We love the Arsenal, we do
We love the Arsenal, we do
We love the Arsenal, we do
Oh Arsenal, we love you!

- me, about 6 hours ago

10 minutes to go and I'll do this quick.

I spent ten minutes after the match just watching the crowd disperse, watching the attendents clean up the pitch, watching the gardeners bring out the lawnmovers. I decided to leave when the security guards started to give me stern looks.

I'll never see the Arsenal again. I know it as a fact. So this match was bittersweet in so many ways. It's almost cruel to be given a chance to see such beauty, but to know that it's fleeting, and that will never been seen again. Almost. Because I will be able to say, for the rest of my life, that I was there at the Emirates, that I've seen Cesc and Clichy, Toure and van Persie, and dear sweet Theo (who's such a nice boy) play in the flesh. And if the rest of my days are spent watching a poor substitute in the middle of a lifetime of freezing Melbourne nights, so be it.

To put it in Platonic terms, I've stepped out of the cave and I've seen the trees and birds and sky. And if I'm to go back to the cave and if I'm to go back to watching flickering shadows dance over the cave wall, so be it. I'll have the vision of Emirates on a perfect Saturday afternoon to sustain me. I'll have seven goals burnt into my brain to relive. And I'll have a Theo Walcott shirt hanging in my wardrobe even when I'm an old, old man.

In the Myth of Syphysus, Camus ended it with the vision of Syphysus on the coast, watching the sea. He'd defied the gods and traded an eternity of damnation and rolling rocks up hills for one perfect day on the beach. And Camus asked the question - was it worth it?


So thank you, Dimitre, if you're reading this. It was amazing.

1 minute to go, so I'd better be off.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I bought my Theo shirt

4-0 to the Arsenal, 4-0 to the Arsenal, 4-0 to the Arsenal....

- me, at Emirates Stadium

It was very, very, very good. In fact, I'm lost for words. Might also to do to me paying £1 for 15 minutes of internet, but still, I really can't describe how good it felt to be at Emirates. I started tearing up when I sat down.

I wil say one thing, though - Walcott was the only player to applaud the crowd at the end of the match. He's such a nice boy. I'm glad I bought his shirt.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The market closes soon

"I do not know why we are always under pressure to buy £30m or £40m players. I am under pressure to buy good players, it is as simple as that. Good players are not always necessarily linked to the price. There is still a market to buy the right players. We are struggling to find them but we will find them, don't worry. "

- Arsene Wenger, breaking my heart

No Connolly's agent, there is no Wenger Claus.

He is an apparition, much like the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. Arsene Wenger isn't going to splurge on a big, big player. Rather, he'll merely splurge on a medium big player - if the price is right.

I've been buying a lot of meals at supermarkets lately. It's cheaper than the restaurants. For a couple of pounds, you get a couple of sandwiches or a cold pasta salad. It's a compromise, because while it fills me up, it doesn't beat a hot meal. Sometimes, I walk past a dodgy Chinese restaurant offering a buffet meal, and my stomach quivers. I have to remind myself that a buffet does more harm than good. My stomach has shrunk at the moment. I couldn't eat that much, anyway. And if I did overeat, my stomach would expand again, which creates its own problems.

Wenger's got a similar mentality. He's been shopping at Tesco's for the past three years. Now and then, he'll walk past a three-star restaurant and get hunger pains. He'll be salivating in the window. Then, to fill that gnawing pain in his belly, he'll skip over to the nearest, nastiest buffet he can find and eat until he can't eat anymore.

To cut a tenuous metaphor short, he'll buy injury-prone players like Silvestre and Bischoff because they're cheap and can satisfy that groaning belly for just a little while. And he'll watch with envy as Chelsea sign Robinho, Man Utd sign Berbatov and someone else signs Alonso.

I agree that we shouldn't pay exorbitant prices. But we do need at least ONE defensive midfielder, and everyone knows it. Our choices seem to have narrowed to Alonso, now. Liverpool knows we're as desperate to buy as they are to sell. If £16 million is the going rate, maybe we should just do it.

I desperately want to believe we'll get someone before tonight's FC Twente game. But I'm not holding my breath. After all, I shop at Tesco's, too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We're tupping Barca's ewes

Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
Is tupping your white ewe.

- Iago (Act 1, Scene 1) from Othello

According to the grapevine, we're closing in on Iago Falque. He's the latest in the long line of Barca wonderkids. Wenger's got a taste for Barca - first Cesc, then Fran, now Iago? Maybe it's his little revenge on all those summers of tapping up our players. Maybe he likes a little Spanish colony in his side. Maybe we really are so skinflint that we've got to buy promising youngsters.

I don't know. All I know is that the Mastia keeps producing these beautiful, budding roses - and we're plucking the shit out of them.

Is it legal? Yep. We'll pay the compensation and take their player. Is it moral? I'm not so sure. It's good for the player, because they'll get first-team football before they can drive. It's good for us because Wenger likes buying kids. But it's not particularly nice for Barca. I don't have much sympathy for Barca, but just imagine the fuss if they tried to steal Wilshire from us?

In other news, Senderos is off to Milan on loan, possibily for good. The rounds of the arsenal blogs are saying we need a Hulk-esque defender to compliment Toure, and it's a pity he's going. I don't know enough about football to comment about it, but it boils down to: If you're an optimist, you could say that he'll learn a hell of a lot at Milan, and when he comes back, will fit right back into the first team; If you're a pessimist, you'll wonder why we replaced a 23 year old with a 31 year old.

I'm not sure what I am, right now.

Went to the Notting Hill Carnival the other day, and did a tour of the palace grounds. One's very loud, the other's very large. Found out that Buckingham Palace was built by the Earl of Buckingham, then comandeered by the royals because they felt St James' wasn't flash enough. Imagine building a house that's prettier than a royal palace. How good would that've felt?

Greenwich next. 30-ish hours until my Arsenal match. Hope we've got someone then.

Monday, August 25, 2008


"I want a small squad so the players are hungry for a position and everyone can be satisfied."

- something I think Wenger said once

I packed too much stuff - too many socks, too many jocks, too many shirts and pants and really naff things. Why the fuck did I think I'd need a book? I'm going to have to cart Cloudstreet with me for 6 months now. At about 1kg over 180 days, that's a cumulative load of 180kg.

I'm going to have to dump something. It's taken me a hour this morning to figure out how to fit everything in my bag. My bag groans every time I pack, and I'm fearful that one day it'll just give up. But I'm quite attached to stuff; it's nice to know you've got enough clothes to avoid laundry for a week.

I'm not sure where I read the above. Maybe I dreamt it. Maybe my subconscious made it up after weeks of trying to figure out why we haven't bought a replacement for Flamini yet. I don't know. It sounds like something Wenger would've said, at any rate.

Maybe Wenger doesn't like throwing out stuff as well. He wants a lean, lightweight bag so that he doesn't have to cart dead weight all over Europe for 6 months. He wants three pairs of socks and jocks, one pair of pants, two T-shirts and a toothbrush. Because nothing's worse than trying to stuff Tim Winton's masterpiece (and yes, it's one of the best in terms of Aus lit) between a pair of moldy underpants. That's just wrong.

But I hope Wenger realises that under packing is just as bad as over packing. A couple of days ago, Fulham pulled our pants down. And the whole world realised we were skimping on underwear. We can't let it happen again. A feisty defensive midfielder isn't a luxury item - it's a necessity. I read that Inler's about to be signed. Good.

I liked the Tower of London. It's a lot bigger than I thought, and a lot cushier. Apparently, Sir Thomas Moore had his family and his servants with him while he was incacerated for not allowing Henry VIII to split from the Catholics. And Sir Walter Raleigh had the time to write a history of the world. They were "political prisioners", and as such, were treated as gentlemen - or like Mafia bosses in American jails. Which just goes to show that there really is one rule for the rich and one for the poor. And the crown jewels were shiny.

I think I've exhausted most of central London. Maybe I'll do a palace or two. Or see the London Eye. Or take one of those London Walks that get promoted from every tout on the street. At the least, I should go and get breakfast.

It's all been quite good.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

1-0 to Fulham

"We lacked a bit more quality in our passing. We you look at the possession we had and what we did with it that is always a sign it is not only down power but vision and technical quality. That was not there today. I don’t know why. You have to credit to Fulham as well."

- Arsene Wenger, doing a passable impersonation of an ostrich

I'm not going to dwell on the unpleasantness of yesterday.

I like St Paul's at dusk. There's something quite meditative, sitting on the steps. Tourists walk up the steps and take photos. Business folk scurry past the statue. Double-decker buses and those black cabs hurtle down the road. The sun sets somewhere behind Fleet Street, and it's kind of poignant imaging the funeral processions of Nelson and Wellington as they were brought down that road to be interred.

Actually, I will say something about the match. What do we expect? We've lost our two midfielders, have two more who are injured, and one winger who's going to need time to adapt. We don't have the strength in depth to win games without our first team. But it's not the end of the world. We're still good enough to make the Top 4. Denilson and Walcott will get experience from this. Djourou should've been retained (we'll need him), but I'm not one Who Knows.

That said, we need someone like Alonso, Inler or Barry. Just someone who can get a beer without a driver's license. I hope we're getting him before Newcastle, because I'd like to see a functional Arsenal side.

Tower of London today.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Town full of Cassiuses

Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights;
Yond' Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

- William Shakespeare, Julius Caeser (1. 2. 192)

Things I've noted about London:
  • Londoners seem quite thin. What is it about major metropolises that make its denizens so svelte? It's something I've observed in New York and Hong Kong as well. Is it the stress of the rat race? The expensive food? The constant walking? Or do places like this just attract thin people?
  • Everyone seems to come from somewhere else. I get lonely by myself, and due to my lack of human contact, I've started chatting to random strangers. And I've only talked to one English person (a sweet old lady in front of Guild Hall). Everyone else seems German, French, Spanish, American, Scandanvian, or from some Eastern European country I've never heard of.
  • If the above is valid, Arsenal really is a true representation of London, isn't it?
  • It's easier (and cheaper) to buy a beer than it is to buy an apple. Around where I was staying, I circled for maybe twenty minutes before I found a Tesco that sold fresh fruit. I bumped into three, four pubs lining the road along St Paul's. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I'm worried about scurvy.
  • The British Museum should return all its foreign exhibits. ASAP. There's something creepy about wandering around the Elgin Marbles, the gates of Nimrud and a chamber full of mummies, knowing that they'd all been blasted out of some forgotten city many, many years ago.
I've had time to think about the Silvestre deal. It's not that bad, especially since Traore's going out on loan. We've an experienced back-up to Clichy and Gallas now. At 31, he's old, but he won't get in the way of Traore or Nordtveit's development. And you can't go wrong with 750,000 pounds. It also means that Senderos is on his way out, and Djourou is probably going to become a defensive midfielder.

That said, it's a worry we're getting him instead of someone like Kompany (heading for Man City). This means we really didn't have enough money to buy two experienced players. I'm presuming we're still going to spend 10 million on a Inler-type DM. If you add up all the sums this year, we broke even. Despite what the board's saying, we ain't got the money in the till.

Anyway, it's been two and a half days, and I'm beginning to smell. I'm going to wrap it up. The stench isn't pleasant.My socks, in particular, offend me greatly. Think I'll take a shower after I finish this post.

Actually, I started smelling two and a half days ago, courtesy of a 36 hour plane trip in a stuffy cabin, but I did take a shower when I got off the plane. My current funk is all English. If you rub off a bit of my skin and put it under the microscope, you'll find sweat, dead skin cells and bits of central London. In a couple of minutes, it'll be the first time ever I'll get to scrape London off my skin.

Which has its own kind of beauty, methinks.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

5 things so far

Making it quick:

1. St Paul's - Scrubbed up quite nicely. Wren did a good job with the dome; very big. Someone should think of putting an escalator to the winding hall.
2. Millennium Bridge - pretty. The underneath suspension thing is really quite cool.
3. Tate Modern - kind of disappointing. Not as comprehensive as the MoMA or the Guggenheim, and has the same stuff (sorry, it's not art if you can reproduce it and have it hanging in multiple galleries), but it looks really cool in a converted factory. Like a funky loft. But for some really, there are really, really good looking girls hanging out in modern art galleries. What the fuck is the connection between hot girls and modern, abstract art?
4. Globe Theatre - saw the Merry Wives of Windsor at the Globe. Awesome. Seriously.
5. And I've got the Arsenal tickets in my pocket right now. It might be just the jet lag, but I'm delirious. FC Twente, Newcastle - I can hardly wait.

Just one thing...

Why the fuck did we sign Mikael Silvestre? I don't log on for three days, and this is what I'm confronted with? Shit. I don't get it. I really don't. A 31 year old defender from Man Utd. What happened to getting a pugnacious DM? And why has Wenger suddenly started buying experienced French defenders from rival Premier League clubs? Is this our new thing? I want the trend to continue because it'll be cool to get Phillippe Mexes, but with my luck, we''ll get Sylvain Distin. I'm not familiar with Silvestre's work, but is he the shit-kicker we desperately need?

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm off

I'm in the sky tonight
There I can keep by your side

Watching the wide world riot
And hiding out

I'll be coming home next year

- Foo Fighters, Next Year

I'm leaving tonight. I'm going off to Europe for six months. It's starting to shit me off. I'm starting to realise that it's a really, really long time and it's a lot of money. But still - it's something I've got to do. I'm going to go mad, otherwise. And there's no need to worry.

I haven't planned anything. I've got three nights accommodation in London, and a couple of Arsenal tickets. Picked up a Lonely Planet a couple of months back, and I've been pawing through that. Other than that, I'll make it up as I go. It's useless to plan for something this long. I might as well give up on the illusion of control.

Arsene Wenger's probably got the same idea. It's useless to plan. You can't prevent the accidents when they happen. Agents will sniff around for disenchanted players. Wages and transfer fees will rise. Sepp Blatter will make strange pronouncements about foreign quotas in a response to FIFA political machinations.

All you can really do is make sure the fundamentals are right - good youth players, a thorough scouting network, a recruiting philosophy based on technique and athleticism. And you've got to have belief that this will tide you over during the lean years, and it'll steer you back towards the years of plenty.

There's no need to worry, because you can't do anything about it. Flamini and Hleb left, but the process continues. We're younger and more callow, but that's okay. There's faith that the next crop will come good. Ramsey, Coquelin, Wilshire - these guys are good enough that they'll take over eventually.

Yes, we could buy a monster in centre-half, Akineef in goal, Villa, Silva and Alonso up the park. And yes, we could challenge for titles straightaway. But there'll be problems associated with those moves as well. Players won't adapt to England, they won't fit into the system, they'll plunge the club in debt. Problems will arise no matter what you do.

Best just to go with the flow and trust that it'll turn good eventually. Yes, you can cater for every contingency and plan everything to the last second, but where's the fun in that?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Turn, Turn, Turn

"It's tough because I was an Arsenal supporter but you have to make decisions in football, and this is a new chapter in my career.... It's an opportunity to get regular football after not playing as many games as I wanted to at Arsenal. It's a chance to go out and show I can play and hopefully play every week and keep up my consistency."

- Justin Hoyte, just another gooner now.

There's a certain poignancy to it all, isn't there? On one hand, Samir Nasri scores the winning goal and makes a very impressive debut. On the other hand, Justin Hoyte leaves the Arsenal after 14 years at the club and not many appearances.

It's a pity Hoyte has to go, but he owes it to himself to pursue a genuine career in football. He's too talented to be a reserves player. He's at the age when he needs regular football, and he wasn't going to get that at Arsenal. It's a good move for him.

I watched the last thirty minutes of the WBA game last night. I quite like Sammy Nasri. He moves with a languid, unhurried grace. I liked how he runs, stops, waits and caresses the ball to another player. I like how he waddles around when he doesn' t have the ball. I like him a lot better than Alex Hleb, who as we all know, wasn't French in the slightest.

About the only thing I dislike about Nasri is that he looks like a schoolgirl in those knee-high white socks. What's worse, he looks like an ugly schoolgirl. Whereas Arjen Robben can pull off girlie, stockinged legs with a certain panache, Nasri looks like something that crawled out of Dr Frankenstein's lab. Oh well, at least we've found a replacement for the Fugster.

We don't have a bad team, when everyone's fit. It's only when half the team's convalescing in a hospital wing that we're a bit short. Djourou and Gallas (?) looked a bit shaky. Long balls up the middle scare me somewhat. Eboue's funny in the middle of the park, but not "ha ha" funny. Walcott's a nice boy, and he's got a nice turn of pace, but I'd like to see Nasri and Vela on the flanks for the next game.

I logged onto the Middlesborough FC website to check out the reaction to Justin Hoyte's arrival. That intro page is just wrong; they look like convicts on a prison break. But it's a good club with a good manager, and I'm sure Justin will do well there. There's an Aussie at the club in Brad Jones, so at least there's one paragon of awesomeness upon which Justin can feast his eyes.

And well done to Boro last night - beating Tottenham would've made Justin feel right at home.

Anyway, I think The Byrds put it best:

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven.

Good luck, Justin Hoyte.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lies, damned lies and Wengerisms

"I would spend £30m on one player, but I have the quality."

- Arsene Wenger, with the depth-perception of a cyclops.

Like Wenger, there are a few things I'd do, if only I wanted to:
  • I would bend iron bars with the power of my mind, but I like them straight.
  • I would wear brightly-coloured tights and fight crime, but I get sleepy at night.
  • I would find a solution to the impeding Energy War that's going to be fought between Russia, America, the EU and China, but I'm too pre-occupied with Arsenal's lack of depth and with Australia's chances at the Olympics.
In short, there are a lot of things I would do, if only I could.

Wenger can't spend that 30 million pounds. He might have that quality hiding in the reserves, and he might be able to spot an equivalent player for 5 million pounds, but he can't spend that kind of money on one player. Wenger has NEVER spent that much, and he's not about to start.

What Wenger can and should do, though, is to stop lying about it.

Gooners don't care that we don't have the funds. We really don't. We're actually proud that we're punching above our weight. What we can't stand is when we're lied too. It's like telling your eighteen-year-old kid that you could've bought him a Bugatti, but you felt that giving him a battered Datsun was better. Your kid ends up pissed off about the Bugatti when he should be ecstatic about getting a car.

Anyway, here's Wenger counting our Datsuns:

I have [Robin] Van Persie, [Emmanuel] Adebayor, [Nicklas] Bendtner – who I have been patiently building up to be at the level I want him to be. I have Carlos Vela, Eduardo Da Silva."

And here's Wenger telling us why we can't buy a Bugatti:

"I am able to make signings at very high prices but you have to have the cohesion in the way you buy. Man United is in the bracket of £20m-£30m, Chelsea is in the unlimited bracket. We have to be in our bracket, we have to be very shrewd. I have the money available to buy the players but we go into the competition with the target of balancing the budget, which I think every manager should do."

Thing is, I agree with Wenger. I don't want us plunging into debt at such a precipitous moment. We're chugging along nicely in 3rd or 4th, and there's no need to tempt fate. If we delve into the transfer facility, we're not just playing with one or two season's worth of success; we're playing with a 100 years of financial stability. We don't do that. We are Arsenal, we are the Bank of England club.

But I really wish Wenger would treat us with respect.

There's a test given to toddlers measuring EQ (emotional intelligence). You give the kid a lolly and tell them that if they don't eat it while you're out of the room, you'll give them a lot more. Then you step out of the room and watch Arsenal. After cursing the day Adebayor was born, you walk back into the room and see if the kid's been able to withstand temptation.

I think most of us realise that good things will happen if we stay the course. We're not emotional-stunted toddlers who have to eat every tasty thing in their paws. We're not Chelsea supporters. We're gooners. We know that we're going through a bit of pain now to ensure our club will be awesome in the future.

And we'll endure it because we love the club. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love will wait forever and a day because nothing else matters.

P.S. This isn't to say that we don't need an experienced midfielder. Shit, we need one like a mad dog needs a bullet in the head on a lazy Alabama afternoon.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dirty, dirty Arsenal

You're a dirty, dirty man
Oh in so many, so many dirty ways
You're a dirty, dirty man
And you've been hiding your little dirt all over this here place

- Joss Stone, Dirty Man

Adebayor is a dirty, dirty man. And he wants Arsenal to be a dirty, dirty team.

As Adebayor said after the FC Twente game:

"A lot of people talk about us and say we play good football. Good football is good but we didn't win anything [last season] and you play to win.... Sometimes you have to be dirty to win some games... Sometimes you have to forget about playing beautiful football and just make sure you win."

I agree with Adebayor wholeheartedly. It's nice to be the Harlem Globetrotters of the Premier League. It's a nice hook upon which to hang our hats. But it's also a self-limiting restraint. The object of football is to win, and the ulitmate objective of a Premiership football team is to win the league.

I think that, in pursuit of Wenger's vision of perfect football, we're losing sight of that. It is easy to sit back and be content with what you've got. It's harder to step out of your comfort zone and do things you're uncomfortable with. However, that's what we need to do to be successful. At the moment, we have a side that has great technique and which is very easy on the eye. However, what we really need is a side which doesn't concede weak goals and which can finish off defensively-minded teams.

And to get there, sometimes you've got to compromise on our principles. Sometimes, the ends really do justify the means. Sometimes, you come across something you want so badly that you're willing to change everything you are just to have it, because you've realised that nothing else matters but that.

Sorry, bit of a tangent there.

Actually, we were pretty close last year. Gallas' captaincy was remarkably effective in the first half of the season, and Flamini gave us a bit of bite in midfield. We were tight at the back, and we were scoring late goals all the time. That's the kind of mentality we need. We need a bit of luck, we need an early winning streak, and we need a bit of fortitude when the setbacks start snowballing.

And that's as dirty as we really need to be.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

2-0 to the Arse

"We were a very young team and we did not lose our nerve, did not panic and in the end maybe our technical superiority allowed us to score two goals. That is a massive advantage for the second leg but we will be on our toes."

- from One Who Knows

I am happy to be wrong.

It happened when I was asleep. Most good things happen when you're sleeping. Santa comes and leaves presents, the Tooth Fairy exchanges teeth for money, and Arsenal wins 2-0 against FC Twente.

Normally, this is where I make a quip about how most of our first team probably still believes in Santa and the Tooth Fairy. I won't, because it's a bit hypocritical. You see, I desperately want to believe in something more ridiculous and improbable - an Arsenal Premiership won by a bunch of kids.

I'm eagerly anticipating the 27th of August, because Wenger Claus is coming to town...

There's a post by van Smeiter on Blog, my Arse worth reading. He posted it hours before the FC Twente game, and basically said we should calm the fuck down. This season will be exciting and interesting. Those butterflies and sleepless nights are good, good things, because it means we're living on the edge of our skins. And that's the only way to live a life.

I worry too much for my own good. I should learn to relax, unclench, and let it flow out. Every little thing's going to be alright. Denilson and Ramsey made mistakes. But they're young and will get better. Arsenal will get better as well. Cesc will be back. Toure will be, too.

Anyway, Arsenal play like the Harlem Globetrotters. That's worth all the disappointment and heartache.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We have NO reserves team

"We have a big squad at home. Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky and Eduardo are out. Kolo has a hip muscle problem. Cesc has a hamstring problem, he will be out for the next two games."

- Arsene Wenger, freaking me out

I wonder who we're going to play with Cesc and Diaby out? Denilson and Ramsey? Denilson and Randall? Denilson and Wilshire? It's scary to think that Denilson will be the senior midfield guy. He's going to be a good player for us, but he's only twenty.

Still, you've got to admire Wenger's aesthetics. Squad players are so passe. Why bother with them? Where's the challenge of winning things if you've got two teams of experienced footballers? That's so Mourinho-esque. It's better to have an injury-prone first team and pack of nippy young things yipping at their heels. Looks infinitely cooler, like an iPod with tiger stripes.

This is the culmination of all our recent transfer activity. We have no reserves team anymore. We've just got a first team and a bunch of precocious youngsters.

I still think we're good enough to be in the Top 4. But without an awesome signing between now and the end of August, we're not going further than that. It's depressing. I wanna Premiership, and I wanna one now.

Three Little Birds is on high rotation in the brain at the moment. Bob Marley soothes my soul. If anyone's reading this, I suggest you click on the link and listen to it many, many times. Don't worry, about a thing. Because every little thing's going to be alright. Repeat it like a fucking mantra, because the alternative is too scary to think about.

Anyway, at least my FC Twente match won't be a dead rubber.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Papa don't preach

It's a pipe dream. Arsene Wenger has my number. He has not called and, if he does, how much? I would begin with a two and this would be followed by a high figure."

- Papa Diouf, a bit shitty about the prospect of losing Lorik Cana

Big Papa says that he's willing to part with Cana if we put in a high number with a 2 in the front. Unfortunately, we only seem capable of buying players with a "1" in the front. Such a shame.

There's a youTube clip of Lorik Cana doing the rounds lately. It's set to a high-tempo, blood-curdling rock song and it shows Cana diving into a lot of very bad tackles. On the evidence of that clip, the guy's an absolute nutter.

We should buy him.

It's a nice pipe dream. I remember reading somewhere that we need a combative central midfielder to compliment Cesc, rather than a positionally defensive player a la Gilberto, Barry or Alonso. Cana's so combative that he wears army boots on the pitch. He'll be like Flamini dressed in an Ironman suit, shooting bolts of lightening into unsuspecting defenders. He'll be like the Incredible Hulk, only in red and white and occasionally yellow. He'll be the kind of nasty bastard in the midfield we've lacked.

We won't buy him, of course. If we were serious, we would've done it when we bought Nasri. I suspect Papa Diouf (awesome name, by the way) doesn't want to lose half his midfield in one transfer season. Only the Arsenal are nutty enough to do that.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Man Utd Syndrome

"The important thing is that we have ended all the stuff about Real Madrid and as he gets older, he will appreciate being here more. That happens with players the longer they stay here and they don't want to leave."

- Alex Ferguson, quasi-kidnapper and manager of Man Utd.

It's called Stockholm Syndrome, and it's nothing to be proud of.

Ronaldo wants to leave. He's made that very clear. He's won everything there is to win in England, and he wants another challenge. He wants adulation and hero-worship, tapas and funky nightclubs, and a bevy of sexy senoritas lining the footpath to his mansion.

He also wants more money.

We can berate him for being greedy and materialistic. But let's not fall into the trap of thinking he's over-paid. Ronaldo is probably the best player in the world, in the most popular sport in the world. He earns $250,000 a week, which translates as $AUS 12 million a year. How much would Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez or Michael Schumacher be paid? A lot more. And a CEO of a multinational earns much, much more. Ronaldo is exceedingly well-paid, but when you compare him with the top earners in other professions, it ain't that much.

I think Ronaldo will leave at the end of the year. They've struck some sort of bargain so that Man Utd save face and Ronaldo doesn't look like a complete tosser. Ronaldo pledges his eternal devotion to Man Utd for one season, and Man Utd get to leech off his talent for one more year. And next year, there'll be a world-record transfer to Real Madrid.

It boils down to this - Ronaldo wants to leave, and Fergie wants him to stay. Fergie wants him to stay so he can suck on his proverbial teat one last time. Man Utd isn't the same side without Ronaldo. Fergie wants to squeeze that dude dry, tease another couple of Champions Leagues out of his talent, and flog him off when he's thirty and just a withered, dessicated piece of perma-tanned Portugese leather.

At times like this, I remember what Wenger said after Vieria rejected the offer from Real Madrid. He said that he hoped Vieria wasn't staying because he was comfortable. I liked that. Wenger wanted Vieria to continue to challenge himself, to continue to grow. I get the feeling Wenger really cares for his players. He looks after them, wants them to be the best that they can be. And if it means that they have to leave Arsenal to do so, he'll let them do so.

I'm really proud of Arsene Wenger for that.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I, Sinhosa

I like to daydream.

Of all my recurrent fantasies, the most football-friendly one is one in which I was born fabulously talented, physically perfect, and Brazilian. I'd have grown up in the favelas of Rio, nurtured at Santos, and spotted by Wenger in the U-19 World Cup. I'd have the feet of Robinho, the explosive power of a young Ronaldo, the teeth of Ronaldinho and the bushy-browed bride of Kaka. Trust me, she's hot.

Career-wise, I'd be extremely well-paid by Arsenal. I'd play in the hole and play cute one-twos with Cesc, Nasri and Eduardo. I'd score twenty goals a season, provide the crucial assist in the Premiership winning match at Old Trafford, and score a hat-trick in the Champions League final. And in the off-season, I'd take great pleasure in telling Real Madrid's network of dodgy agents to "shove it" into a number of unsociable places.

My nickname would be Sinhosa.

It's from a site I stumbled across a few months ago on the Guadrian website. I linked it on the right as Brazil Name, but it does more than that. If you type in your name, you'll get a little Brazil shirt featuring your nickname and the No.10. And you can print it out.

I did that just now, and as a result, I've got a little cut-out "Sinhosa" shirt. I also had a spare passport photo lying around, which I've cut out and attached to the neck. I look quite nice in a Brazil shirt. I'm thinking of getting it laminated. Or blown up and made into wallpaper. It's something to think about on a cold Sunday afternoon.

In other news, Almunia thinks that Theo should become a bastard.

"The only thing Theo maybe has to improve is his character; he's a lovely guy on the pitch - I keep saying to him he has to become more nasty. After this he will be one of the best players in the Premier League."

I hope he doesn't follow that advice. He's such a nice boy.

In other, other news, I've joined a site called Soccer Fan Forums. It's quite wide-eyed and earnest, with none of the cynicism and loathing normally associated with my blog. I find it a quite refreshing read, especially after twenty-odd minutes of whiny, introspective blogmaking. Check it out.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

3-2 to the Arse

"We were always dangerous going forward but we had two lapses of concentration and they scored two fantastic goal. Ajax were sharp and incisive and they took advantage of every mistake we made."

- Arsene Wenger, 3-2 to the Arsenal

So, we're dangerous going forward, but we lose concentration at the back. Gotcha. Arsene Wenger should record that sentence right now, because he's going to be saying that a lot over this season. I know it's still the pre-season, but it's very scary considering we're playing FC Twente next week.

Ajax lost to FC Twente, y'know.

I want to believe. I really do. Wenger's been talking the good talk lately, saying how the pain of last year will drive us on, and how our players are one year older and one year cannier. But it doesn't matter how much pain and how much canniness you've got, if the problems of last year don't get addressed, we're still going to concede goals via high balls through the centre of defence.

Maybe I'm being too harsh. There are three little birds in my head, telling me not to worry about a thing. Because every little thing's going to be alright. We did come back from two goals down. Adebayor keeps on scoring, which is nice. And as Wenger said, as long as we keep on scoring more than the opposition, we're sweet.

Whatever the case, I shouldn't be tearing out my hair in frustration. Not yet, anyway. The season hasn't even begun. There's still time and there's still hope. And I should leave some hair for those crucial games up north where we lose 0-1 against dodgy opposition. Or maybe I should shave it all off first. At least that way it won't be physically painful.

On a brighter note, here's an Adebayor song I thought of in the shower, to the tune of the Toreador Song from Carmen:

Adebayor, that lying, stinking whore
Adebayor, he'll leave us for sure.

Who fucking cares as long as Ade scores?
Three goals or more, one goal for sure

Adebayor, Adebayor, Adebayor
, yor, yor.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Football at the Olympics

Everybody comes back or nobody. It is quite simple. I couldn’t understand why the rule is for three [players] and not for 23, for example. Am I angry? No. Frustrated? Yes.

- Arsene Wenger, with regards to... I'll elaborate

You see, the Court of Arbitration for Sports ruled that Barcelona, Werder Bremen and Schalke didn't have to release their under-23 players for the Olympics. The CAS decided that it was custom to release players, not a law. Wenger's upset because these clubs had the cajones to challenge their obligations, and Arsenal didn't.

It doesn't seem to matter. Lionel Messi, Diego and Rafinha played yesterday despite the ruling. If I was fabulously talented and South American, I'd do the same. Stuff the club. I'd want to take part in the Olympic Games. My stomach turns at the huge propaganda showpiece it's become for the Chinese government. But still, it's the Olympic Games.

Despite all the corruption and the commercialisation and that nagging feeling that all those Australian Institute of Sport dollars would be better spent building homeless shelters, there's a mystique attached to the Olympic Games that is untarnishable. The five interwoven rings is still the best symbol of our shared humanity and the prospect of a united world. Yeah, it's all lovey-dovey, touchy-feely stuff. But if you've got to base your humanistic ideals on something, it's not a bad place to start.

Still, I've decided that I'm not going to watch the Olyroos play anymore. I watched the first 20 minutes of the Australia-Serbia match, and it was hideous. Yes, it was 33 degress and smoggy, but the least they could've done was to break out in the jog every once in a while.

Higher, faster, stronger it wasn't.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My kingdom for a midfielder

"It depends. If we have everybody on board and nobody injured then [OK] but maybe we could do to take one more experienced player."

- Arsene Wenger, equivocating about transfers.

I think Arsene Wenger approaches the transfer market differently to everyone else. Most managers will give lip-service to the kids in the reserves, and then look to recruit from other clubs. In a lucky year, the academy might provide one or two players, but it's a bonus if it does. Either way, the manager will have his scouts looking for seasoned recruits.

Wenger looks at his reserves side as his chief source of new players. He signs them when they're 16 or 17, plonks them in the reserves, and waits. The experienced central midfielder who we desperately need to replace Flamini has been incubating at London Colney for two, three years. Wenger only dips into the transfer market in exceptional cases, such as the Gallas-Cole swap or when a very promising youngster emerges (Nasri, Reyes, etc). Otherwise, he's content to allow the reserves to step up to the first-team.

It takes a lot of guts to do this.

Then again, maybe it's just Wenger-speak. He said that he'll only buy IF someone gets injured. Considering the injure-prone nature of our squad, this is tantamount to saying that we'll trade Cesc's brain and Sagna's left knee to get in an experienced central midfielder.

C'mon Wenger. Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabregas would look nice in the heart of the Arsena. Or just anyone who can shave, really.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

An FM08 review of 2014

2013/2014 was a milestone year for Arsenal. We were undefeated in the season in all competitions. We won the quadruple. We were unbeaten in 100 league games. We swept the domestic awards, with Ben Arfa winning the Player's Award, Benzema the Footballer of the Year Award, and Wilshire winning the Young Player's Award.

And Kolo Toure turned 32.

He's an old man now. He lost his first-team place this year to Mamadou Sakho. His pace is starting to go and he's made some terrible mistakes in defence. In the crunch games, I play Sakho and Richards because they're my two most reliable defenders. Kolo's still captain of the side, but he leads from the bench and Cesc Fabregas has become the de facto captain of the side. Kolo's got one more year left on his contract, and the sad thing is that I'm going to have to let him go.

Kolo Toure has been brilliant for Arsenal. He's captained us to 4 leagues, 4 Champions Leagues, and 3 or 4 domestic cups. He's tutored a whole heap of young defenders who've picked up on his loyalty and professionalism. He was a world-class defender in his time, and will always remain an Arsenal legend.


I've wasted so much time on Football Manager that it scares me (and yes, I have a problem). And over the years, I've thought a lot about the game. The most poignant thing about it is the speed with which a player ages. One minute, they're a promising 20 year old who's won a "Young Player of the Month" award. Seven hours later, they're a 31 year old veteran who's being moved on to Barcelona. It happens so quickly.

A life passes by in the blink of an eye. You've only got so much time to make an impression, and you've got to make it count. One day, you're a kid with the world at your feet. Then you get stuck into the world, and the next minute, you've reached the end of the line. You're 32, you're old, you've wasted your youth waiting for a future that never came.

In 2014, the World Cup will be held in Brazil.

In my FM08 game, I'm manager of Argentina. We've won the Copa America, we've won the Confederations Cup and we haven't lost a game in three years. I've found this great kid named Oscar Trejo who scores a goal a game. We're the raging favourites to win the World Cup.

In real life, I haven't got a fucking clue where I'll be in 2014.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

An optimistic van Persie

“I have learned a lot in the last two years because I have been injured so much. I learned what my body can take and what it can't, so it was an interesting period for me. I hope next season will not be so unlucky with injuries. But at the moment, I just do not want to think about that, the negative stuff. If you think positive, you get positive."

- the (hopefully) injury-free Robin van Persie

When you look at Arsenal's chances next year, Robin van Persie is the answer. He's got the goals in him to push us through to the end of the year. His form in the pre-season games have been encouraging. He's got the potential to form a good partnership with Adebayor. And he's got that bit of magic in him to crack open a 0-0 game.

If he's fit.

That's the rider that's been attached to van Persie over recent years. He's a great player, but gets injured an awful lot. I suspect our physios are doing something wrong, because we've had too many soft-tissue injuries for it just to be bad luck. Still, maybe this year's the year that van Persie shakes his problems and plays a full year for us.

van Persie's right in that positivity plays a big, big part in it. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of his body. He'll never be the fittest guy in the world, but he can nurse himself through 40-odd games a season. His first task is to concentrate on playing every week. There's no need to think about trophies and title challenges and major signings. If he concentrates on playing every game, and concentrates on playing well, then everything will fall into place.

I remember reading a book by Paulo Coelho a few years back called The Alchemist. It's about a shepherd in Andalusia who has a dream of a treasure under a tree. Unlike most people, he believes it. He quits his job, leaves his town and searches for his buried treasure. And as he travels around, he starts to listen to the voice of the universe and things start to happen for him.

That's the funny thing about positivity - things start to happen the moment you start to believe they'll happen. The universe moves to accommodate you. Things fall into place. Good luck runs into better luck. If only you believe, the blind will see and the lame will walk.

And Arsenal will win the Premier League.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A gooner scorned

You play well and show that you are ready to fight for the shirt and for your team. You know how it is - if you score goals people forget the frustration quickly."

- Arsene Wenger, about Adebayor, after the Real Madrid match

I fully understand the reaction Adebayor's getting from us gooners.

Love, in the purest footballing sense, is unconditional. We can love skillful players, we love poor players, we even love ugly, bald players. As long as they try their hardest on the pitch, aren't complete tossers off it, and remain loyal, we'll like them.

However, hell hath no fury like a gooner scorned.

As Wenger says, most of the ire regarding Adebayor stems from our profound sense of betrayal. We loved him unconditionally - well, most of us did. We loved him for his work-rate, his athleticism, for that physical presence that none of the other players provided. We shrugged off those horrible misses as an endearing, lovable foible.

And then he prostituted himself to Milan and Barca.

Football morality is simple. There's a clear delineation between heroes and villains. You can swear and boo and abuse Ashley Cole and not feel like a complete prick. You can believe that your football club is the champion of all that is pure and good in the world, and every other club is a bastion of corruption and evil. For ninety minutes each week, you and regress back to your ten-year-old self and pretend the fate of the world hinges on a football game.

From that point of view, it's clear cut. Adebayor did us wrong, so he's evil. Therefore, we boo him. Wenger's right, though - this hatred is momentary. It'll fade. We'll love him as soon as he starts scoring goals and giving his all to the Arsenal.

In short, we'll love him again as soon as he starts loving us.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The more things change...

"Last year we were really really unlucky. We were only four points adrift and lost only three games. In two of those we were leading 1-0 until 15 minutes before the end. We also got some bad injuries. We need to strengthen belief, not only in the way we play but the way we work. We must keep complete confidence in these young players."

- Arsene Wenger, giving me a bad case of deja vu

I agree with Arsene Wenger.

We were unlucky last year. We lost the title after leading for half the year. We ended up incredibly close, and if we'd been a bit luckier in a few matches we really should've won, we would be champions today. Could've, should've, would've - but we didn't and we aren't. It's been three months since the season ended, and thankfully, the pain of it has receded into a vague, amorphous memory.

Still, when I read Wenger's statements, I can't help but think that I've heard it all before. A big part of the problem last year was that we ran out of steam. We had tired players, injured players, inexperienced players... and nothing we've done over the summer has convinced me that anything's changed. Our squad's still too thin and still too inexperienced. Once the injuries pile up, we'll be playing the kids (or Eboue). It's good in the long-term because our kids will get better, but as Wenger once said, we pay for their education with points.

At the end of last season, the consensus was that we needed a couple of experienced players to complete the squad. We've gained Vela, Ramsey and Nasri, but we've lost Hleb and Flamini. After the transfers machinations, we're right back where we started from. We still need a couple of experienced players to complete the squad. We still need someone reliable to deputise for Gallas and Toure. And we still need a strong defensive midfielder to replace Flamini.

And we're not going to get them.

Wenger's intimated that Diaby's the candidate to replace Flamini. And he's ruled out moving for a central defender; maybe he expects Djourou or Song to step up. Maybe he's right, and we don't need another player. He knows better than me, after all. I'd sleep easier at night knowing we had a big, big signing up our sleeve, though.

So, my prediction is more of the same. Namely:
  1. Wonderful, beautiful, but ultimately frustrating football.
  2. van Persie impressing before missing the season with the flu.
  3. An early season surge to that splutters out around Christmas.
  4. Going down in the quarters/semis of the Champions League.
  5. Wenger scratching his head and saying "Damn, we were unlucky this year, weren't we? Who would've thought van Persie and Rosicky would get injured? Or that conceding sloppy goals would lose vital matches? Oh well, we'll win it next year. This can't happen again, can it?"

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Arsenal vs FC Twente

"In one respect it's a tough draw for us, on the other it's now an opponent we know very well... It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that doesn't come along that often. I'm sure the fans will be delighted."

- Steve McClaren, FC Twente manager

Steve's right about two points:

1. Once-in-a-lifetime experiences don't come along that often - usually, just once
2. The fans will be delighted

I'm especially delighted because they're playing the second leg at Emirates, which means I'll get to see it. In London. At Emirates. For real. I'm a bit blase about it now, but that's probably just shock. I'll be a blubbering mess by the time I get off at Arsenal station. Which reminds me, I've got to get there early and buy a Theo shirt.

I wonder if we'll play a full-strength side?

FC Twente could be a tricky tie. They beat Ajax in the playoff for the CL spot, and they won't be pushovers. They know Arsenal's style of play, would've remembered how PSV played against us two years ago, and they'll probably play narrow and sit in front of goal. Then again, they're managed now by Steve McClaren, so anything could happen....

In other news, Adebayor's getting very Henry-esque with his quotes. His interview with ATVO includes the classic line "at the moment my heart is with Arsenal". Henry should've copyrighted that phrase; it would've earned him a bundle.

Ade also claims he knew nothing about the shenanigans over the summer, as he was at home in deepest darkest Africa. Now, I realise public relations is probably the easiest course to do at uni, but are PR people really that stupid? Or do they just think we are? Someone should just tell Ade that we don't care as long as he keeps on scoring 30 goals a season.

I don't have the patience to sift through that interview. Another day. Maybe tomorrow. Got to do my taxes today.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bentley's all grown up

"Hopefully they want to see characters. They don't always go just to watch the football, they'll come to abuse me. I'll get the banter but I'll enjoy that. You don't to have a boring life as a footballer. If you don't get a buzz off that's probably where you fail."

- David Bentley, anticipating his first north London derby

David Bentley gets off on abuse.

I don't have that kind of personality and I must admit, I've always admired people who have. It must take a great deal of self-belief to listen to all those insults and just laugh it off as good fun. Then again, I guess a footballer's wage helps cushion the ego.

Bentley's done the obligatory "I've been a life-long supporter of X" interview, but something about it rings true. Bentley doesn't seem like a guy who would suck up for the sake of sucking up. He sounds like he's really, really looking forward to shoving it up us Bentley-detractors. He wants to show us that he warranted a place in the Arsenal first team when he was younger, and he wants to show us what we've been missing.

It's going to be really strange for all parties. David Bentley was hailed as the next big thing at Arsenal, and I'm sure spent a lot of his teen years anticipating future matches against Spurs. He would've imagined lining up with Henry and Cole, Cesc and Reyes, and being part of a dominant Arsenal side. He would probably have expected to be a first-teamer for England, as well. Back in the early 2000s, all that would've been a distinct possibility.

It's gone a bit pear-shaped since then.

Well done to Bentley for making the England squad, for forging a Premiership career and for signing for a reasonable sized club. He's always had the talent, and he's making the most of it now. I'm not sure about everyone else, but I regret his departure. I wish he'd waited at Arsenal, because he would be a quite handy player to have around. He's probably not as good as Nasri, but less injury-prone than Rosicky and better than Walcott.

Tottenham have a lot of creative players now. Bentley, Giovani dos Santos, Luka Modric, and possibly Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko, give them quite a threatening side. And Ramos is a very good manager who's had six months to observe how English teams play. So it'll be interesting to see how they'll go next year.