Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Boardroom Machinations

"No, it’s business as usual. It’s a transaction between two Board members, both of whom believe in the philosophy of the Club, the self-sustaining philosophy on a day-to-day level. It has absolutely no impact at all."

- Ivan Gazidis, with a nose about the size of Pinocchio's

The big news today is that Danny Fiszman sold 5,000 shares to Stan Kroenke for £42.5 million. This makes Kroenke the second largest Arsenal shareholder with 20.5%, and reduces Fiszman's stake to 16.1%. After the sale, Fiszman did an interview with Arsenal.com and stated:

"I have no current intention to sell any more of my shares in the Club. This sale to Stan was a one-off sale. I certainly intend to continue as a long-term substantial shareholder."

It's interesting because of a number of points:

1. Ivan Gazidis is surprisingly bad at lying. It augers poorly for his effectiveness in the looming transfer window. He's going to have to compete with snakes-in-the-grass like Barcelona and Real Madrid, and unless he can lie effectively, our chances of buying someone in the Valencia firesale are shot.

2. Danny Fiszman didn't wait for the Highbury Square development to go to completion before selling his shares. It's been speculated that the reason the lockdown agreement expired in mid 2009 was so board members could sell at the inflated share price that the Highbury Square should have provided. For Fiszman to sell his shares now, rather than a few months down the track, means that the Highbury Square development will probably not deliver a profit.

3. The board lockdown agreement meant that the board members had to offer each other their shares, before allowing anyone else to buy. The other members also have to approve purchases. So Kroenke's purchase was done with the tacit approval of the board, and gives Kroenke a more promenient role at the club. It also confirms him as the board's preferred potential owner, if and when the rest decide to sell their shares.

4. Alongside the appointment of Gazidis as CEO, it gives Arsenal pretty extensive knowledge of the American sports market in general, and the MLS in particular. Gazidis was the CEO of the MLS before his appointment with the Arsenal, and Kroenke owns the Colorado Rapids. So I expect something major in terms of commercial expansion happening in the next few years.

5. The spotlight now falls on Nina Bracewell-Smith, who has a 15% stake and was ousted from the board last year. With Usmanov on 25% and Kroenke on 20%, whoever she'll sell to will end up with enough shares to mount a full takeover. Which is a problem because the other side will probably refuse to sell. Which would lead to activation of the "death-match" clause in the Arsenal constitution. With this clause, Usmanov and Kroenke will step into a cage and the cage is then locked. Nina Bracewell-Smith will then breaks a pool cue in half and throws the two halves into the cage. And whoever comes out is the new owner of Arsenal FC.

6. It's a great distraction from the other big story of the day, that van Persie's injured himself while on international duty. Again. It's a hamstring strain, so knowing the Arsenal physio team, he'll be out for 3 months at least. Damn van Persie's hamstrings. Gosh darn, golly gosh darn. Can't he stay uninjured for ONE season at least?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cesc was tapped up

"It's true that the president of Real Madrid called me personally, we spoke on the phone, but I never gave him my word, I never said to him that I was going to sign for Real Madrid."

- Cesc Fabregas, in the summer of '07

I don't understand what Arsenal are about, sometimes.

Real Madrid contacted Fabregas about a potential transfer without negotiating with Arsenal. Real Madrid approached a contracted player. It's illegal. It's tapping up. Arsenal should lodge an official protest to UEFA. We should throw the book at them, get a transfer embargo placed on them, or fine them heavily. We should do something about it, because if we keep quiet and take it, it's going to happen again and again.

If we sue them, as Wenger suggests, and we win, it sends a clear message to Real Madrid, Barca, Milan and everyone else that the Arsenal are not a selling club. If we sue them, these yearly flirtations with our big players will stop. If we sue them, we might even get enough money to mount a raid of our own. We might get enough money to get a David Silva or a David Villa in the side.

I'm pretty sick of it. First Anelka, then Overmars, then Vieira, then Henry. And now Cesc. Arsenal play it by the book, and we really should start pummelling other clubs with it. Pelt them with the letter of the law. Harass them until they crawl over on their hands and knees and swear that they'll stop tapping up our players.

It's a world of sharks out there, and unless you're prepared to fight back, you're just a baby seal waiting to be devoured. The only thing these animals understand is dreadful, painful violence - of a legal nature. And unless we're prepared to unleash that violence, it's going to be taken as an empty threat. You know the old saying - you can talk the talk, but you need to walk the walk.

Well, in August 2007, Wenger said:

"I did not allow Fabregas to talk to anybody. He denies he did. If you can get the statement he has done that and that Real Madrid, more than ever, has done that, then we will sue Real Madrid."

Time to walk the walk, Arsene.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Adebayor vs Cameroon

"Adebayor! Emmanuel Adebayor! A-De-Ba-Yor! Adebayor! Emmanuel Adebayor! Adebayor!"

- the rather excitable commentator of the Togo vs Cameroon match

Emmanuel Adebayor's been out of action for ten weeks because of a hamstring injury. But he managed to fly back to Togo for a World Cup qualifier, and he played well enough to monster a defender out of his way and score the winner. He looks pretty fit to me. 

There are conspiracy theorists out there who suggest Wenger's benching Adebayor to retain his transfer value. According to them, Adebayor's leaving at the end of the season. Wenger wants him out of public view so that interested clubs won't realise how complacent, lazy and mistake-prone he's become. It's the approach Wenger took with Henry before his sale to Barcelona. 


I think Adebayor's potentially a world-class striker, but he's been disappointing this year. After the heroics of the 30-goal season last year, he's declined as a player. The old Ade was never a great finisher, but he would contribte so much to the team with his pressing and his work-rate. This season, I haven't seen much of that. He still misses absolute sitters, but he doesn't work as hard off the ball anymore. 

Anyway, things move on. We've been playing van Persie and Bendtner recently, and I like what I'm seeing. Bendtner can't shoot to save himself, but he's got a nice range of passes, good vision, and he'll improve his finishing with time. He offers a lot to the team. Given the choice, I'd rather Bendtner and his lime green boots than Adebayor. If we could sell Adebayor for £25 million, and use the proceeds at the Valencia firesale this summer, I'd be quite happy. There are a couple of Davids in Valencia who would look rather smart in a red shirt with white sleeves.

The News of the World has been really busy with Arsenal news. Normally, I trust the NOTW about as far as I can throw their Sunday supplement, but two stories are quite amusing:

1. NOTW claims that Cesc Fabregas has become arrogant and big-headed since his European Championship success, and wants a transfer to Barcelona. And that since Spittinggate, he thinks the English media have it in for him and want to drive him out of England. I wonder if NOTW editors chuckled at the irony when they printed this story?

2. Wenger's going to bid for Joleon Lescott, the £10 million rated central defender from Everton. Now, I realise we'll need a central defender after Gallas leaves, and I realise that everyone wants us to buy British, but why do we need to buy someone this ugly? 

Quelle horror!


P.S. I was checking out Sergio Ramos' Twitter, and found this entry:

"Estoy leyendo El Retrato de Dorian Gray, y es muy interestante hasta ahora. A mi me encant las obras de Wilde."

It's weird to think that, over on the continent, footballers know how to read and enjoy doing so. I could never imagine Ashley Cole snuggling up to Dubliners.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Maybe I'm xenophobic?

"I do struggle where nationalism, jingoism and patriotism stops and where actually some sort of xenophobic rhetoric takes over. And there is a certain amount of that in the football world when I keep getting told 'how can English football be English football when there are not enough English players in a particular team?"

- Richard Scudmore, who's sick of rhetorical questions which make him squirm

I'm going against the grain here, but I don't think it's xenophobic rhetoric to suggest that a domestic league team should field predominately domestic players. Maybe the implementation is a bit heavy-handed, but on the whole, I like to see clubs being represented by local players.

I think it's to do with authenticity.

We've a four year old A-League in Australia, and the clubs are all franchises. They have no history and they're still pretty soulless. I'm nominally a Melbourne Victory fan, but that's only because they're the only club in Melbourne. If they happened to set put another franchise in Melbourne in a couple of years, I'd be hard pressed to tell the different between the two. To me, Melbourne Victory doesn't feel "real" yet.

What makes a football club "real", instead of a marketable franchise, is the fact that it has history, and that it has links with the community it nominally represents. A lot of clubs pull out all stops to make this happen - sponsoring local events, appearances at hospitals, homework programs with disadvantaged kids - because they know that without a genuine dialogue between the community and the club, they'll never feel like an organic part of the community and their support will be shallow. However, the best way of linking a club to the community is to have players from the area.

There's nothing better than cheering on a player who's grown up with the club, and who's also a fan. It makes the affinity between you and the player so much more powerful. Justin Hoyte, for example, was never talented enough to play for the Arsenal, but we all desperately wanted him to succeed because he's a gooner. Ashley Cole, if he hadn't of been such a greedy &@#$ing $%^, would've been hero-worshipped all his life, simply because he came up through the academy.

I don't think it's just me who like local players. We all do. Even Richard Scudmore admits that:

"We have a quality agenda, what we want is the best players. We would like a huge proportion of those best players to be English. That would tick every box – if they were the best players in the world we would have success at international level."

There's just something about it. It's the difference between getting a pint in the local down the road or the Slug and Lettuce on Main Street. At the end of the day, they both sell the same product, but it's just nicer drinking in the local.

I'm not sure why. Maybe it is xenophobia, after all.

P.S. In case you're wondering, I'm aware of the irony of saying this when I live 10,000 miles away.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mr T's on Twitter

"There some fools goin unpitted on Twitter right now. I'm here to fix it."

- 80s_Mr_T, on Twitter, 2:11PM 27/02/09

I've been playing around with Twitter a bit, and it's not all bad. Found the fake Eboue's Twitter site, and Ashton Kutcher's site. Fake Eboue's really funny; sounds lik a cool guy to have around in the dressing room. Ashton sounds like a sweet, earnest guy, but a bit dim at times.

Best of all, though, I've found Mr T's Twitter page. It's most amusing. As he puts it himself, pity the fool who doesn't know who he is.

I also pity the fools who are trying to blog about Arsenal during an international fortnight. It's pretty damn difficult for a savant like me, so I imagine it's doubly hard for those who actually try to report Arsenal news. You scour newsnow hoping for an Arsenal story, but you really don't want one because it's most likely about one of our players getting injured.

There's a report on sport.co.uk about how we're going to buy Gourcuff at the end of the season. It's a pretty pathetic story, as the only substantiating evidence is a Nasri quote taken from L'Equipe saying:

“He (Gourcuff) had a hard time during his stay with Milan. Many people wrote him off too quickly. But, as far as I am concerned, I was always aware of his potential."

It's not exactly a proclaimation of eternal love and fidelity by young Sammy, but he likes Gourcuff okay. And since Gourcuff's french, young and a potentially brilliant attacking midfielder, I suppose it's reasonable to suggest Arsenal might be after him. My only query is why on earth Milan would want to sell a guy who's just had an outstanding season at Bordeaux and is rated one of the best prospects in Europe.

The Sun's still on about Cesc's spitting incident. Alleged spitting, I suppose, since there weren't any witnesses and it's Horton's word against Cesc's. I didn't even bother linking on the link, because you kind of know what it's going to be about; the uncouth habits of those dastardly continentals.

And then there's Myles, from Arsenal News Review, with dramatic news about Tomas Rosicky:

"My latest info on Rosicky is that he's had body problems for years."

It doesn't take a network of reporters, snitches and insiders to come up with that kind of news, Myles. He's been out injured ever since he signed with Arsenal, and Dortmund sold him because they were sick of his injuries. You could probably google "Rosicky" and the top three links would be hospitals in the General London area.

As I said, I pity those fools (bloggers, that is).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

C'mon the Socceroos

"Australia would become the first country to book a ticket for the 2010 finals in South Africa if they beat Uzbekistan at Stadium Australia next Wednesday and other results go our way."

- Phillip Micallef, giving me tingles

It's the start of the AFL season tonight, and a part of me wishes I could muster some interest in it. When I took the train back from work, it was packed with Richmond supporters heading out to the city. I used to have an occasional fancy for the game as a kid, but now it's like peering over the neighbour's fence - it looks interesting and all, but it's really none of my business. 

I've long since gone over to (soccer) football. Carlton vs Richmond at the 'G? Whatever. I'm rather more concerned about Arsenal vs Man City in two weeks time. 

It's the international break at the moment, and Australia are facing the might of Uzbekistan this coming Wednesday. We're on the brink of World Cup qualification. If we beat the Uzbeks, it's almost certain. That's amazing. In fact, when you think we had to wait 32 years between the World Cups of 1974 and 2006, it's bloody brilliant. What's even more exciting is that the World Cup is next year. Which means I could be in South Africa next year, cheering them on. 

I haven't followed the Socceroos for a long, long time, but one of the great things about being Australian is that there's no shame in jumping on the bandwagon. Australians are natural glory-hunters - as long as it's a sport and Australia's in a winning position, there'll be a group of zinc-creamed, drunken yobs chanting "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!". 

And just think - I could be part of the yobbery next year. 

But as I'm looking at the squad list, the team's almost unrecognisable from the one I remember twelve months ago. No Moore, no Viduka, no Emerton... and who on earth is Mile Jedinak? They must've gone through a major generational change during the year that I lost interest. At least Bresciano and Cahill are still in the team. And Kewell. He might have an English accent now, and living in Turkey, but we still love our 'arry Kewell. 

And if I bone up on our new players now, and learn their names and positions now, I'll be in a position to sneer at the plastic, bandwagon-hopping, glory-hunting, fairweather fans who'll be faking an interest next year. Because we true-blue Socceroo fans have been following Australia since... wait a minute, who the heck is Richard Garcia?

C'mon Australia.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Arsenal's Fiscals, Part 2

"It (the housing criss) does not impact the club because we never based the budgets for the club on anything that happens at Highbury and the two are ring-fenced from each other."

- Ivan Gazidis, chief executive of the Arsenal and favourite puppet of the dastardly Danny Fiszman and inept Peter Hill-Wood

It's an international week, and the Arsenal don't have a match until the 4th of April, a home tie against Man City. Which gives us about two weeks to contemplate our collective navels and think nice thoughts about the Arsenal. Or for me to support the Socceroos in whatever match they're going to play.

Been thinking about the interim financial report a bit. Kept me up last night, actually. That and my dream about killer spies from Thailand. Man, that was a cool dream. I kept trying to play it out while I was awake in bed. I got up to the stage where I was underneath a bridge and sniping FBI agents when I realised I should probably be doing something productive at 6 o'clock in the morning.

But I'm digressing.

Peter Hill-Wood spoke a few weeks earlier about how the Highbury Square development and the footballing business are separate from each other. And it's altogether possible that that's true.

On the footballing side of things, it's looking pretty solid. We're one of the few clubs in England which can support the football costs through revenue earned. It might take a 55,000 crowd to do so, but we're capable of sustaining that. And we might not like our lack of spending, but if it meant that we remain in the black, we'd reluctantly accept it as a necessity as long as we still qualify for the Champions League and still play attractive football.

On the property side of things, it's a bit grimmer. The Queensland Rd project, which looks like a pile of brown-bricked crap when seen from the stadium, looks as bad financially as it looks superficially. The success of the Highbury Square project is dependent on a Singaporean investor who has the option on 100 of the apartments getting the funds to purchase, and dependent on the Arsenal to accept payment in installments, rather than upfront. Which means that the Arsenal will have to extend its loan on the Highbury Square development, which means that the Arsenal will be in the property game for a lot longer than we'd bargained for.

All of this will make the footballing piggy bank, with its nice, black budgets and the healthy crowds, look increasingly attractive to Peter Hill-Wood and the board. What's the chance that, five years down the road, the footballing side of business will be servicing the loan for the Highbury Square apartments? Pretty darn high, I'd say.

Despite what Gazidis says about the two being ring-fenced from each other, I'd be worried about what effect the apartments have on our finances, and our ability to compete with the big clubs. The problem with ring-fences is sheep-rustlers. And Peter Hill-Wood looks like he fancies a nice plump ewe or two.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

All in a Twitter

Mr Happy: What can I do for you today?
Ms Catastrophic: I've a fishbowl on my head.

- from the Mr Men Show this morning

I'm on Twitter.

It's the hippest thing on the net at the moment, and as a hip dude, I'm obliged to join in to maintain my hipness. Otherwise, I'll consigned to the ranks of the hipster doofi, to moulder slowly into terminal unhipness. And then, there'll be no going back. I'll be growing a comb-over and hitching my hipster jeans up beyond my navel, and wearing flares and platform shoes and singing along to the Bee Gees, who once were hip, but are no longer and never will be again.

But I've been twittering for a day and a bit, and it all seems a bit self-absorbed. I know the world wants to know what I think about the Arsenal, but I don't think they're that curious about the minutae of my life. Which, when you get down to it, is what Twitter is all about. It's glorious me in all my mundanity, and I'm starting to think that there's a such a thing as too much information. You don't need to know about me doing me work, and me eating dinner and me scrubbing my backside in the shower.

It's not magic if you can see the strings.

Not much Arsenal news at the moment. There's this from van Persie:

"The quality is there but, also, more importantly, so is the winning mentality. We are just not dropping points any more. We are not doing those silly things any more which have cost us earlier in the season. We have to keep on thinking positively all the time, though."

True to form, he's been saying nice things about Bendnter and Diaby, who are both young and who are both potentially very good players. And he's saying we're invincible at the moment and gonna win the FA Cup and the Champions League. It's nice of him. We need that kind of optimism from our older players. Positivity can be infectious.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Crazy Arsene's football team

"I still have hope because I am a bit crazy. Realistically, we will not win the league, but it doesn’t matter what our chances are – we have to give everything to go as close as possible to the top teams."

- Arsene Wenger, after the Newcastle win

There once was a man called John Ihan.

He started out by opening a mobile phone store, calling it "Crazy John's", as you do. It became successful, and as the years rolled by, he added more. By the time he died aged 42, he'd built up the largest mobile phone retail company in Australia. He's an example of what can be achieved if you really believe, and have the courage of your convictions to see it through to the end.

But I suppose if he'd told people at the beginning how succesful he would become, they would've told him that he really was a crazy mo'fo. That's how they speak in Broadie, you know.

I'm starting to think Arsene Wenger's a similiar sort of guy. Throughout our horror mid-season, he remained upbeat and supportive of our players, despite some truly terrible performances. He kept faith in Song and Denilson when the consensus was that they weren't up to scratch. He even called Eboue his "pass master" and loved him when he was unlovable.

By about mid-January, I was starting to think Wenger was losing his mind. But now, after the Newcastle match, the streets are starting to smell of roses and of Arsenal. Aston Villa lost the other day, 0-5 against Liverpool. We're ten points behind Man Utd and we're three points above Villa. We've got a kindly Champions League draw, and we're in the semi finals of the FA Cup. Fabregas coming back in the weeks ahead, and we're all eager to see him join up with Arshavin.

But best of all, we're playing the kind of football that the Arsenal are known for.

As Wenger said, it's a bit crazy, but you still have to hope. It springs eternal, after all. Whisper it quietly, because if you say it too loud there's a chance you'll be committed, but whisper it with conviction - we're gonna win the Premier League.


Oh, and this is a link to the Treecreeper MySpace site. bbl, a poster at the gunnerblog website, is in a band. Check it out, it's not bad. It's got a chilled-out, introspective indie-western type thing happening. It's actually pretty good. It's music you can happily kill yourself to. It evokes the defeated, abandoned depair of the mid-westAmerican rust belt, which is kind of strange coming from a couple of boys from Buckinghamshire.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

3-1 to the Arsenal

We're the Arsenal and we're okay
We've got Fabregas to make the plays
We've got Arshavin to run all day
We've got Bendtner's lime green feet of clay
We're the Arsenal and we're okay!

- a ditty I made up while looking for a link. I think it's catchy, but I'm running out of words that rhyme with "okay".

IF we win this one, it'll be a great comfort. Man Utd and Chelsea have both lost, so IF we win it, we'll be back in the title race. It's only six points down from here, and we've still to play both sides, so anything's potentially possible.*

I'm saying IF in capital letters because it's kind of doubtful at the moment. 1-1 and a frozen link, which means that even if we do score a goal or two, I'll still be staring at a static image. And anyway, reports are that we're playing poorly.

Oh wait, it's the 62th minute and I'm getting Spanish commentary. Ole the Arsenal! The Owl's got red boots on and it complements his red shirt nicely. Understated, trendy and not a bit garish. So much nicer than Bendy's lime green ones. Just goes to show what a degree in high fashion can do for you. I wonder if the Owl wears yellow boots for away games?

63rd minute and we've scored. Surging run by Diaby. Now, a lot of people will say that that's Vieira-esque, but I think it's Diaby-esque. Nice run through an open midfield, a neat one-two off, and a great finish. Did I mention the surging nature of the run? I think I'll call him Serge from now on.

He comes from Cote d'Ivore!
He shoots, he scores, voila!
Di-a-by! Di-a-by!

And Nasri scored. Somehow. Sometime. Long, long ago in the depths of my frozen link. The bloggers at arseblog say that it's a nice goal, and I'd like to share the moment with them, but I can't. You shouldn't dwell in the past, and anyway, it's better to let sleeping links lie. Oh wait, it was the 67th minute.

I made a prediction somewhere along the line that we'd beat Newcastle 3-1, finish 4th and dump Chelsea out of both cup competitions. It's freaking me out, but the first prediction looks like it's happening. Reports coming in say that Newcastle are giving up.

I think I'll call it now. It's probably finished. 3-1 to the Arsenal, goals to Bendtner, Diaby and Nasri. Martins scored for Newcastle. Lovely, lovely stuff after a horrible first half. Maybe the Alchemist is right, and once you're in tune with the world, good things WILL happen to the Arsenal.

I'll have to upgrade my prediction to "Arsenal to win the Premier League".

I'd like to know what's happening with all these Arsenal streams. They're all either frozen, banned or so jerky that it's not worth watching. Might have to become a Lazio supporter on days I can't get one up; they've got lovely broadcasts happening.

At least I saw Diaby's goal. Nice. We love the Arsenal, we do.

* I just had a look at the table, and realised how ridiculous that sounds. But it's still doable for Liverpool, if we help them along. And I'm an Anyone But United fan as well being an Arsenal one.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Arsenal Fight Club

"The Dallas school system was rocked by allegations on Thursday that staff members at an inner-city school made students settle their differences by fighting bare-knuckle brawls inside a steel cage."

The Age, showing again that Texas is a strange, strange place

The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is, you do NOT talk about Fight Club. From this story from The Age, it looks like someone in Texas hasn't been following the first two rules. 

At first, I wondered what kind of counsellor would think that cage-fighting would be a good way to settle disputes. Then, I thought about how the kids would've felt, being dragged down into the basement, stripped of their shirts and shoes, and told to beat the hell out of each other for the amusement of off-duty staff. After that, I realised that someone in that Texas school has been watching way too much Fight Club. 

I know this because Tyler knows this.

And finally, I came to realisation that while cage fighting sounds bad, it would work in certain situations. Like at Arsenal, where there are more personality clashes than there are decent holding midfielders. And I've been giving thought to some potential match-ups: 

1. William Gallas vs Kolo Toure

Neither of them are particularly tall, and both are athletic types who can go all day. Gallas has the experience, gets into good positions, but is starting to show his age. Kolo got the speed, but not the positional sense. Neither of them have a knock-out punch, so expect this one to go the distance - unless Gallas decides he's had enough and throws a hissy fit in the corner. 

Tip - Toure in ten rounds. 

2. Nicky Bendtner vs Emmanuel Adebayor

Luckily, it's not a kickboxing match, because I doubt either of them would be able to land a kick at the moment. Adebayor's got the speed, the strength and a decent head-butt. Bendtner has the touch and the tactical nous. They're both big bruisers and unwilling to back down, so don't be surprised if they stand toe-to-toe and just belt the crap out of each other. It's one for the ages, folks.

Tip - Adebayor in six rounds.

3. Nicky Bendtner vs The Rest Of The Arsenal Squad

After Adebayor's had his turn, I imagine most of the rest of the Arsenal squad would strip off and jump into the cage and have a go at Bendtner. He's a bit arrogant, our Nicky, and rumour has it that the rest of the squad don't like arrogance. Luckily, the rest of the Arsenal squad are about four-foot-eleven, so it'll be a bit like wrestling with your kids. 

Tip - Bendtner in three rounds, and ice-cream for the kiddies.

4. van Persie vs Anyone?

van Persie's got a golden left foot and no one wants to face him. No one. Remember that jumping, mid-air volley a few years back? Imagine if that was your ball he kicked. Ouch. My guess is that once van Persie steps into the cage, everyone else will jump out. He's a bit prickly, and he's so Dutch that he can irritate you by just looking at you, but no one's going to risk getting hit by that foot. 

Tip - van Persie to own the cage.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Arsenal's Fiscals

"A sold out stadium and significant broadcast income can sustain a 100 million wage bill and service the new stadium debt - just!"

- Nigel Phillips, a dude from the Arsenal Trust who analysed Arsenal's fiscals

I'm no accountant, but I suppose Nigel Phillips is. He's the guy who did an analysis of Arsenal's interim accounts for the six months before November 2008. I'm just the guy who's going to do an analysis on Nigel's analysis. Brace yourselves for some hard-hitting stuff; Nigel's a guy who knows his shit, and has the comfort of comprehension. I'm just a guy who likes parrot the bad news and swear a lot.

Basically, we're fucked.

The housing market's collapsed and we're fucked. We're fucked because we need to sell another 340 apartments to reach the break-even point. Highbury Square isn't going to be the cash bonanza we all hoped it would be, and to be honest, I've seen the piddly little apartments they're trying to flog, and they're pretty shit. If it wasn't for the fact that fat-arsed gooners once ate pies and drank beer there, they'd be almost unsellable.

Our sponsorship deals with Emirates and Nike are fucked because they were front-loaded to provide funds for the stadium construction, and we're now at the back-end of it. Peter I-don't -renegotiate-crappily-thought-out-long-term-sponsorship-deals-Hill-Wood ain't going to renegotiate because well, the Arsenal don't do things like run a business as a business and not as an old boys' club.

And what about being 30 million a year better off now that we've a new stadium? Well, we're fucked. Player payments have increased 50% in four years, meaning that a lot of that extra revenue is swallowed up by Adebayor's bling. To put it another way, we've got 54 crap players in the squad now compared to 61 awesome ones four years ago, and we're paying them 50% more. Even though we're saving 5 million a year by loaning out some of our youngsters, that's a fucked up wage structure.

Nigel does have some encouraging news, though.

Arsenal can still a sustainable enterprise, but only if there's a full stadium. Nigel estimates that it takes a 55,000 crowd to break even. Which means we're all going to have to tighten our belts and buy those grossly inflated football tickets, if we want our glorious Board to continue swimming in champagne and bathing in caviar.

I'm trying to be positive. I want us to draw Barcelona in the quarter-finals because I genuinely think we can beat them. We're going to thump Newcastle 3-1 on Saturday, and Song's going to be man of the match again. And we're going to dump Chelsea out of the FA Cup and make Terry cry like a little girl.

We love the Arsenal, we do!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fear and Trembling with Arsenal

"But Arabaham believed, and therefore he was young; for he who always hopes for the best becomes old, deceived by life, and he who is always prepared for the worst becomes old prematurely; but he who has faith, retains eternal youth."

- Soren Kierkegaard, who must've been a gooner in the years before George Graham

I'm reading this, and I'm thinking about Arsene Wenger and the promise of the next generation. Football's often wrapped up in the romantic, and there's nothing more romantic than the lure of the Next Big Thing. For four years, Wenger's been selling us the dream of a new team filled with Next Big Things, and for four years, we've experienced demented failure and constipated performances. A lot of us are pretty sick of it, and a lot of gooners are coming around to the idea that Wenger needs to leave for the Arsenal to acheive.

There are only so many bright tommorrows you can stomach before you demand a sunny today.

But then, I'm reading Fear and Trembling, and I'm wondering what it means to support a club. It is the prospect of watching a team of over-paid blokes running around and winning stuff? On the surface, yes, but deep down, I don't think so. Why do fans keep coming back game after game, beyond rational thought of better days? The Arsenal didn't win a thing for twenty years before George Graham, but they still packed the stands.

When Abraham was promised a son in his old age, he held onto that belief way after it was physically possible. A normal man would've gone crazy with disappointment. A sane man would've quietly given up his hope and learnt to play lawn bowls. And as I turn the pages, I'm wondering how a man of faith can hold an unwavering, irrational belief beyond all hope of fulfillment.

But then, I remember the Arsenal, and those performance against W.B.A and Blackburn. We shone like a Premiership winning side in those games. When you watch the Arsenal tear teams apart, you realise that that faith is still there, underneath the doubt and frustration. It doesn't go away, it doesn't attenuate. It's just buried, is all. When you dig it out of the earth, it'll still be just as you left it.

And Kierkegaard tells us that it's that faith that keeps you young; not positivity or realism, but the simple, unshakeable faith that can move mountains and quieten seas, and make a 130 year old a new father. It's the same faith that makes a guy hope for a title challenge despite a sickeningly shallow squad, and which allows him to see in our kiddlets the nucleus of a team that'll rule Europe.

I was planing to go somewhere with this, but it's a nice sunny day, and I might take a walk for a while. To summarise, it's the faith that keeps us young and keeps us grounded and gives us the strength to face reality. Because we know that, against all hope, the Arsenal will win the Premier League again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2-1 to the Arsenal?

This is the first day of my life
I swear I was born right in the doorway
I went out in the rain, suddenly everything changed
They're spreading blankets on the beach

- Bright Eyes, First Day Of My Life, who are singing with the child-like wonder of a gooner who's realised that the Arsenal have won a match that he'd thought had been lost. 

I woke up at 6:50 am, and tried to find a live stream to the Arsenal - Hull City match. Found a jammy one that stalled every five minutes, and watched a really lame performance by the Arsenal. We sucked badly, and we went into half time 0-1 down. 

I was pretty annoyed, and all the way on the train, I kept thinking about positivity, and about how the world loves the Arsenal when I'm positive about the Arsenal. But when arrived at work and checked the score, the Guardian website said that we'd lost 1-0 to Hull City. Again. 

So, I was in a bit of a funk for the day. I spent the whole day pissed off at Arsenal for losing that mathch. And, more troubling was that, if even the mystical powers of positivity don't turn around the Arsenal, what hope for my life? I might as well crawl into the gutter in my Theo Walcott shirt and cry out to heavens, "Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me, Arsene?". 

And now,  everything's somehow changed. 

Firstly, I finally found a song that's been buzzing in my head since I heard it on a rooftop bar on a balmy winter's night in Istanbul. It called "First Day of My Life", by Bright Eyes, the kind of whiny, indie-folk, white boy pop song that I really get funky to. It's well worth a listen, but be warned, it is very whiny. 

And then, I found out the real result to the match. 2-1 to the Arsenal, with second half goals to van Persie and Gallas. I'm not sure how it happened, but I think I misread the Guardian live update page. I don't want to look into it too deeply, because I'm still not trusting this slice of good fortune. It's entirely possible that I've suffered a massive stroke, and this news of a 2-1 win is just a pleasant delusion while I'm comatose on the floor. 

It would be a nice stroke, nonetheless, because... we're going to Wembley!

Also, Cesc Fabregas apparently spat on the Hull City assistant manager. Which, if true, is very bad. We love our spiky, brilliant little Catalan captain, and we love how passionate he is about the Arsenal, but there's no need to act like a shit. Spitting on people is unacceptable. There are enough uncouth footballers around without one of the nicer, more grounded ones acting like a total A*Cole. 

Oh Mr Fabregas, behave!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ramsey's growning pains

"Aaron Ramsey is not in the squad too. At the moment he is growing in stature and a bit tired so we will rest him."

- Arsene Wenger, on the squd for tommorrow morning's Cup tie

I'm not sure whether Wenger's speaking figuratively or not. Either Ramsey's suddenly realised that he's one of the brightest prospects in England and has over-exterted himself with that thought, or the boy's grown a few inches in height and needs to rest a bit. I'd like to believe it's the latter, but I too know what it's like to think about things too hard and then need a good lie down.

Ramsey wouldn't be the first kid in the headlights. Jack Wilshere was in the spotlight earlier in the year. And Our Theo has been the focus of an almost unseemly interest since he was snapped up by us as a sixteen year old. I imagine it's difficult to be thrust into limelight as a kid, but in a way, you're ready for it as a sixteen year old. You're focused, the adrenaline's pumping through your veins, and you're prepared for all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

It's six months down the track that it hits, when you're at a big, big club and flitting in and out of the first team squad. Existentialist ennui. It happens to us all. Ramsey's settled down as a player and it's just a job now. One day, he was probably sitting in the dressing room and the thought came up - will his life for the next twenty years be about running hard and kicking hard and sweaty rub-downs by Tony Colbert.

And he's wondering, is this it?

That kind of thinking is tiring, and I'm sure Ramsey needs his rest. Unfortunately, it's one of those things he's going to have to work ou on his own. It's quitting time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Positivity's starting to scare me

"Some Tottenham fans said to me, 'I hope we don't win at Villa'. I have never heard such crap in all my life."

- Harry Redknapp, who's going to hear crap like that ad nauseaum

Tottenham beat Aston Villa overnight. 2-1, with goals to Jenas and Bent. Which means we're in 4th, and on course to qualify for the CL next year. Which would've been unthinkable just a month ago.

We're all Spuds, today.

I've never been a positive person. I've always been the kind of guy who'd lean back and make cynical, snide remarks. But these past days of days have really freaked me out. Squeezing past Roma on penalties. 4-0 win against Blackburn. 1-2 loss for Villa. A midfield combination that's starting to work. Arshavin playing like the bird of prey he is. It's like, if you think nice thoughts, nice things will happen to the Arsenal.

It's an intriguing thought, and one that deserves investigation. So we're going to win the Champions League this year. And the FA Cup. And Liverpool will catch Man Utd and Guus Hiddink will quit Chelsea at the end of the year. All this will happen because I'm now a postive person.

Yes, we can.

Nice things are happening to Tottenham, too, which is nice. They're too good a side to get relegated. They're 11th now, and remarkably, are within shout of a spot in the UEFA Cup. If they keep up this run of form, they'll be saying how they're going to crack the Top 4 next year.

I'm just glad we're in the Top 4 now.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Power of Positivity

"Fly Emirates to Melbourne."

- one of the hoardings at the Emirates, making me wish if only...

One of these days, I'm going to swallow my pride and subscribe to ATVO, or something that gives me a reliable link to Arsenal games. I'm getting pretty sick of dodgy links that freeze, or Russian links that paste ads over the screen.

Half time, and we're 1-0 up. Theo ran down the right flank, crossed it low, and Arshavin slid in to poke it in at the near post. It's the Owl's first goal for the Arsenal, and hopefully the first of many, many more. And Song's running, like people do when they play football. We're passing well, and playing well, and the Arsenal are doing alright.

At least, I think so. The blue banner over the screen's been increasing in size, and it covers the whole of the pitch, now. I get a great view of one of the Emirates' stands, and commentary on the game in Russian. But at least it doesn't freeze.

I love Theo, I really do. When I watch him play, I wish I had a daughter with whom he could marry. He's the only one of our wingers who has the raw pace to run past the opposition, and it really adds something to the team. Its exciting, and focuses our passes remarkably well. We've missed it all year.

Beautiful Arsenal are back.

Arshavin's just done his second goal. Dribbled to the byline, dribbled past a defender, dribbled close enough to the near post to spit on it, and slammed it in over the keeper for a goal. Off about a 15 degree angle. The Owl is going to be awesome for us, I'm very happy with him. He's cheap, too - all he wants is a bucket of bloody rats and a place to perch after games.

I really don't know what's gotten into Song. Surging runs, crunching tackles.... it's like he's trying to play like a defensive midfielder. Who's the saint that finally kicked some sense into him?

And Eboue just scored. A simple tap-in after the keeper blocked another effort by the Owl. And now he's doing a funky dance to celebrate. 3-0 to the Arsenal.

Eboue again, off a penalty kick. A Blackburn plaer slammed into Vela and the ref called it. 4-0 to the Arsenal, and we're flying. And another dance. With Arsenal and form, it's like a bit like Australia and the weather. Topsy-turvy stuff.

But we love the Arsenal, we do.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Farrago of Positivity

"But I made it very clear a few weeks ago - and again recently - what the future will be after 30 May. I don't have to do that again."

- Guus Hiddink, who's sick of repeating that he won't be Chelsea manager after May 30th

We're playing Blackburn later tonight, but I'm not concerned about that. It's only Blackburn, after all. We beat them 4-1 or 3-0 or something like that earlier on in the year. We're on a high after squeezing through to the CL quarter-finals on penalties. And we've got the Owl to hoot up and down that right flank.

I'm heavy into positivity at the moment.

Villa's bubble seems to have popped. Martin O'Neill is worried about the tie against Tottenham, and they've some pretty difficult matches in the next few weeks. There's the real possibility that the Arsenal could be 4th again after this weekend.

Best of all, Hiddink's not going to stay with Chelsea. As an Australian, I love Guus Hiddink nearly as much as I love Arsene Wenger. I know Guus is a bit of a mercenary who's coaching Russia because of the mega-roubles he's earning, and he's driven by the pursuit of financial fulfillment as much as he is by personal achievement. But when I think back to that brief period when Guus was manager of Australia, all my memories are golden.

I've been a bit confused now that Guus is Chelsea manager. It is my duty to hate everyone associated with that club, and with certain players, it's a pleasurable task. They don't have very lovable characters at Chelsea. But Guus? When I see photos of him in his Chelsea tracksuit, I don't know what to think. In my mind, he's still the lovably gruff old dude who helped us qualify for the World Cup. And yet, he's Chelsea, so I can't love him anymore.

It's been a strange time for me. I feel like a kid in the aftermath of a messy divorce, who's forced to spend his Saturday nights watching his father slick back his hair with brylecream and trying to act twenty years younger. I'll be a lot happier come 30th May, when Guus goes back to Russia and gives up the odiousness of the Chelsea post, and the Arsenal have secured 4th place, won the Champions League and the FA Cup, and in the middle of advanced negotiations with Valencia for David Villa and David Silva.

Positive thoughts, tonight.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The English Are Coming

"Some people are not happy... but England has created top quality.... The standards are really high here and the ones who lift the standards should be admired, followed and copied and not be the victim of jealousy."

- Arsene Wenger, scaring the hell out of me

There's really not a lot to write about, so I'm going to pontificate.

Wenger's had a go about the global fear that English clubs are dominating Europe at the moment. He says that fame is fleeting, success is cyclical; basically, all that crap about enduring English pre-eminence with a little bit of grace because it's not going to last.

I suppose the more paranoid, xenophobic English, Top-4 football fan (and aren't there a lot of those around?) would be a bit jumpy after all the antics from FIFA and UEFA. 6+4 homegrown player rules, revamped Europa leagues, footballers in skimpy uniforms... football administration's in a bit of a shock at all this Englishness in football at present, and they're screaming out propositions without doing due diligence.

I kind of understand Blatter, though.

There's a real danger that other top teams in other leagues will see the English way of playing (getting imported technical players to play at the high-tempo, bone-jarring English speed) as the mode de jour, and ape the English. We've seen Man Utd make mince-meat out of Inter, and Liverpool destroy Real Madird, by playing technical football at a speed that the continentals can't cope with. There's a real danger that Mourinho will realise that, and start introducing a faster tempo game next year.

The problem is that Serie A clubs will be forced to follow Inter's lead, in order to keep pace. It's okay for the top three or four teams, who can all afford players of that skill level, but it's going to be hard work for the lower-level clus. They'll have to decide between slow technical players and physical players with poor ball skills. And knowing how bloody pragmatic the Italians are, we'll end up with half of Serie A clogged with Bolton-esque sides.

Now, that's fine for the Serie A, which was moribund anyway, but what if this disease spreads to Spain? If Barcelona, the most beautiful football club in the world, gets mauled by Man Utd, I'm sure a bunch of La Liga sides will start to see the benefits of a high-tempo, pressing game with physical players that can run a lot and kick a lot and not do much more besides. And that'll be a footballing tragedy.

The greatest game I've ever seen was Valencia vs Villareal. 3-3 draw, on a balmy winter's night, with a last minute equaliser and with football so beautiful it could've been played in silence and still moved me to tears. Everyone was comfortable on the ball, and everybody knew where to move. It was so amazing I'm unashamed to admit that after the game, I tore my clothes off, cried like a little girl and had "Villa for Ever" tattoed on my chest.

The thing that keeps Sepp Blatter, Michael Platini and me up at night is that, if this dominance continues, the Valencia vs Villareal tie in 2015 will end up like Bolton vs Blackburn. And no one wants that to happen.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

7-6 on penalties

Junebug skipping like a stone
With the headlights pointed at the dawn
We were sure we'd never see an end to it all
And I dont even care to shake these zipper blues

- 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins

I'm listening to The Strokes at the moment, and it's suddenly occurred to me that all the songs on my flashdrive are probably at least 5 years old. Unless you count The Fray, of course, but I'd rather not. Suppose it indicates something, but I don't know.

We got through, 7-6 on penalties. We played poorly, conceded a really weak goal in the first half. The Roma guy crossed it low into the box, Diaby faked a dummy to let the ball pass through, Clichy wasn't marking Juan, and Almunia can't make a match-winning save to save his life. He can bleach his hair dye his goatee brown, but he doesn't do great saves. It's just not his thing.

Bendtner did a bit. Nice shimmies on the right wing, but he's a bit too one-paced to be a winger. Nasri did a bit; not really effective, but had some nice touches. Diaby made a credible imitation of a defensive midfielder.

We played too quickly in the first twenty minutes, and our players aren't skilled enough to control the ball at pace and pass it on. Both teams turned it over so many times that it was like watching fart molecules diffuse into a stagnant room.

But 7-6 on penalties. We made a hash of it, conceded a weak goal, played like crap, missed a penalty and sneaked through despite our performance. We like to do things the hard way, the Arsenal.

We love the Arsenal, despite it all.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More Than You Can Chew

"He had really enjoyed the pancakes but then he started foaming at the mouth and went down like a sack of stones."

- a witness on the late Boris Isayev, champion pancake-eater at Butter Week

It's uncouth to make fun of the dead. They've a nasty habit of reaching up from beyond the grave and inflicting grisely accidents upon attractive, annoying, holidaying American college kids. In serialised movie form.

But in the case of Boris Isayev, you've got to make an exception.

Boris Isayev won an eating competition by downing 43 pancakes. He then choked on a piece of pancake as he was collecting his prize. Witnesses are in a state of shock. Who would've thought that the pancake would fight back? Vladimir Putin's declared war on pancake separatists, saying this attack on Boris Isayev is a direct attack on the Russain people, and has started shelling Moscow's Pancake Parlour in retribution.

Pancake lovers are still in a state of shock.

It's a tradegy that's shaken the pancake-eating fraternity to the core, and the aftershocks will reverberate throughout the gluttonous world of competitive gross-out eating for years to come. Already, the desserts section of the International Surf n' Turf, Scarf n' Barf Championships have been cancelled out of respect for Mr Isayev. Competitors will instead eat a pancake in remmebrance.

Still, I like this quote from the paper:

"The exact cause of death is not clear but doctors believe he choked after a piece of pancake got lodged in his throat."

You reckon?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pillow Talk With Theo

"All the injured players lie on the beds together so there is a lot of banter around and that keeps everyone's hopes up."

- Theo Walcott, from The Sun

I get the mental image of a bunch of voluptous ladies sunning by the pool. They've all got sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats. They turn their heads as one, first left, then right, and then they all turn over to tan their backs. The symphony of an Australian summer that I've missed out on, so to speak.

And then, I remember that injured footballers, while desirable in their own special way, aren't comely young ladies in broad-brimmed hats. They're just a bunch of hairy, groaning, sweaty dudes who are paid way too much money, and who have spent too much time being rubbed by Tony Colbert.

Poor Tony Colbert.

It's been a busy few weeks for him. Eduardo, Theo, Cesc, Adebayor, Diaby, Rosicky... but at least van Persie's been injury-free this year. The boys out on the physio tables have missed van Persie this season, though. He was in the middle of reading Anna Karenina to the boys, and they're all waiting breathlessly to see whether Anna can recover after that nasty colonel dumped her.

We're getting players back. Eduardo a few games ago. Theo the other night. Cesc coming back soon and Adebayor probably as well. Rosicky's a bit of a basket case in terms of injuries, but you know, Tony Colbert needs someone to keep him company.

Roma up next. C'mon the Arsenal.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Back on the Bandwagon

"It's not true, it's just Yellow Pages."

- Andrey Arshavin, BBC Football Focus, rebutting rumors that he flies his hairdresser in from Russia to cut his hair

A 3-0 win to the Arsenal.

Granted, it's only a FA Cup tie, and it's only against Burnley. In the hackneyed words of lazy commentators, we only did what was expected of us. Still, it's a 3-0 win, and after the lethargy of the previous month, we've had two games with scorelines of 3-1 and 3-0 respectively.

We've missed Eduardo. Eduardo had a very good match, and we've missed his nose for goal and his dinkiness in general. In a team of dinky passers, he's probably the dinkiest, and we need him to knit the dinky passes together into something coherent and lethal.

We've also missed Theo Walcott, who returned from injury today. We've missed his pace and his directness. I don't think it's a coincidence that we had our best run of form when he was a fixture on the right wing. He's not quite there yet (he hasn't quite worked out when to pass and when to shoot), but the talent's there and we're a better side with him there. Plus, it's he's such a nice boy.

All in all, I'm thinking it's time to get back on the bandwagon.

I'm watching an online interview of Andrey Arshavin from the BBC right now. Before he came to Arsenal, I had reservations about him. He didn't seem real. After he signed, I was curious about him, like how you sit in a new car for hours and fiddle with the radio. But now, he's played for the Arsenal a feel times and he's lost that new car smell. He's just an Arsenal player now, and I love that. He's an awesome player, and I'm profoundly grateful we've got him.

It's a good interview. He prefers to play as a second striker in a 4-4-2, and as a winger in a 4-3-3. I'm thinking half the squad prefers to play as a second striker, so maybe Wenger's thinking about a tactical change in the summer. He's quite taken by Guus Hiddink as a manager, and thinks the Russian team will implode if he leaves to manage Chelsea full-time.

And despite his protestations about his Russian hairdresser, he does have a suspiciously shorter hairdo than normal. His Russian hairdresser once said that he'll cut Arshavin's hair shorter now, so that he won't have to fly to London so often. If I was a journalist, I'd be sniffing a story here. There's a Pulitzer in the offing.

Sounds like Arshavin's a bit of a fibber.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

On Gael Clichy

"We talk as players and we understand the frustration of the fans and it's their right to express themselves. I'm not saying I totally agree with them but.... when the results are not as you want, then the frustration is there."

- Gael Clichy, who's nicer than Ashley C*le

Most match days, there's a ten year old kid hiding under the bench in the middle of the Arsenal dressing room. His name's Robbie, and he crawls under there so he can watch the Arsenal players prepare for games, listen to Wenger's pre-match address, and steal the players' wallets when they're out on the pitch.

One day, he stays behind. It's a horrible match, and the Arsenal are listless and shoddy again. Around the 80th minute, when Robbie's biting Adebayor's gold chains to make sure it's real, the sound of crying and sobbing fill the corridor. Robbie's only got a few seconds to throw Adebayor's bling back into the pile of faux-gangster crap and duck back under the bench.

It's Eboue, and he's crying.

A few minutes later, Gael Clichy enters the room and embraces Eboue in a big bearhug.

"Let it out, mon ami."

"They were so nasty, Gael. Why, why are people booing me? Mr Wenger calls me the Pass Master. Why don't the fans love the Pass Master?"

"They're not booing you, Manu... they're, um, they're cheering you on. They're, um, saying E-boo-ee."

"Really, Gael?"

"Really, E-boo-e."

Robbie's nauseated by what he's watching, but then, at least he didn't have to watch the football match. That would've been much, much worse. He thinks Gael's a nice guy, though, to comfort Eboue like that.

Like Robbie, I can kind of see Gael Clichy as a diplomat. He's a networker. He's the kind of guy who mends fragile psyches and pumps up battered egos. He tries to get everyone to get along, and most of the time, his words are sugar sweet and comforting as molasses.

In the above article, Clichy's trying to explain that Wenger's an amazing manager, that success is just around the corner, and that we're better off with Wenger than without. And he makes it all sound quite reasonable - despite the fact that we're 5th and have a serious problem with the quality and quantity of the squad. But when it comes out of Clichy's mouth, it don't sound so bad. One bad season out of thirteen (?) is pretty good.

But I have to say, I think that booing is counter-productive. I never understood why people would pay that much money to watch a football game, and then boo the players off the field. It just leaves a nasty taste to the mouth. I mean, try and be happy when you're watching the Arsenal. It's an amazing experience, and booing tarnishes it.

Anyway, it hurts the booer much more than the (E)booee.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Who's The Killer At Arsenal?

"It's all right having a team that can pass but sooner or later you have to give the ball to someone who can do something, like Man United with Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez. They have got people who can suddenly kill you and that's important. Modric is that type for me, he is important."

- Harry Redknapp, about Modric's performance in the Carling Cup final

Apparently, Tottenham have a guy who can kill you. His name's Modric, Luka Modric. He likes his vodka martinis shaken, not stirred, his cars to be fast and armed to the teeth, and his women to be feisty, sexy and with exotic sounding names, like Juggy Jugs Galore or Ripponella di Chemisa.

I think 'Appy 'Arry's onto something there. A football team needs someone who can finish off a move. There are a lot of players out there who can pass sideways and can be drilled to move within a tactical formation, but there aren't a lot of players who can take the ball in the final third and make footballing babies.

At Arsenal, the choice of killers is pretty limited. We've got van Persie, who's injured a lot and who hasn't been that prolific anyway, and we've got Eduardo, who's still recovering and who, despite the hype, isn't proven in the Premier League. Adebayor's changed since he got his big, Henryesque contract, and Bendtner and Vela are still kids.

That's it, as far as killers go. It's a far cry from the days of Henry, Bergkamp, Pires and Ljungberg.

At the moment, we've a bunch of really talented playmaking midfielders who love to pass the ball but who don't like to take shots. Arshavin's going to be special, but it'll be a while before we see him kill moves for us. Nasri, after those promising early games, is flickering in and out of form like the 21 year old kid he really is. Cesc's injured, and we're left with Denilson and Song as our central midfielders.

If you look at the recent Arsenal games, the problem's a lack of imagination in the middle of the park and a lack of inspiration. Denilson distributes the ball with a harm-minimization mentality. That's fine, but when he's partnering Song, it doesn't leave us with much. Song might have great hair, but he doesn't do creative, imaginative passing.

When a team lacks creativity like ours, you kind of need a killer in the side. Someone who can latch onto a long pass and score a freaky goal. Someone who can dribble past five players, side-step the goalkeeper, and tap it in. Someone who can do something against the run of play and pinch a win.

As Harry said, Man Utd have Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez to turn to when they need that special goal. We really don't. Which means we need someone like David Villa or David Silva. Or preferrably, both.

Friday, March 6, 2009

We Want The Davids

This is a much better photo than the one I posted the other day.

It's one of David Villa and David Silva, presumably celebrating a brilliant goal. Scoring brilliant goals and playing breathtaking football is all they do over in Valencia, you know. Over there, they bitch and moan about how it's so boring to see fluid passing and footwork, and 40 yard screamers and dribbles.

Anyway, Valencia's in financial trouble. Serious financial trouble. The kind of financial trouble that Liverpool will soon be mired in, and which will soon consume Man Utd in a hellfire of HBOS-sized proportions. Valencia have to sell their players to try and pay off €450 million. That's a lot of money, and they'll probably have to sell their best players. That means David Villa, David Silva and Raul Albiol will soon be drooled over like a trio of prized heifers at the Royal Melbourne Show.

Your Real Madrids and your Barcelonas are probably going to slink down to Valencia and nab them, but we really should give it a shake. We need the Davids. Can you imagine a midfield of Arshavin, Silva, Fabregas and Nasri, behind a strike force of van Persie and Villa? It'll be more decadent than Marie Antoinette's play farm with the permed woolly sheep.

Wenger should get a mugshot of Villa and Silva and put them up in the Arsenal dressing room. Give the boys something to play for. If we do really well and make 4th place, Wenger will promise to buy Silva and Villa. I'm sure van Persie will perk up at that news. He might even sign a new contract.

We love the Davids, we do.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What's Robbie Thinking?

This is a picture of Robbie Keane after he scored against 'boro. Tottenham won 4-0, and it was a big, big win for a club that's fighting against relegation. It's also the first goal for the Totts after six months playing for Liverpool.

In the photo, Keane's got the arms outstretched and I imagine he's about to jump up and punch the air, or turn around and hug his teammates, or something suitably celebratory. Maybe even do that "cowboy roll and shooting Indians" celebration that was his trademark as a younger man. Something suitably ecstatic, because scoring in the 9th minute does give your team a substantial advantage.

But whatever he does next, Robbie Keane doesn't look happy.

He looks contemplative as he's wheeling away. He's staring with unseeing eyes as he's running down the byline. He's in his own little world and no one can touch him. The Spuds at Shite Hart Lane are probably howling at the moon and wagging their tails with joy, but Robbie Keane is a million miles away.

It makes you wonder what he's thinking.

Maybe he's thinking about the fickleness of fate. It's been an eventful year for Robbie. He was bought by Liverpool in the summer, and had a chance to partner Torres. He was with Liverpool during their title run. He probably dared to hope that he'd win a Premiership medal, something that would've been beyond him at Tottenham. Things would've been looking up for him. And then the January window came and went, and now he's back with the Spuds, in a relegation battle with a dysfunctional team.

Maybe he's thinking about how, odds on, he'll finish his career playing for the Spuds. At 29, he's captain of the second-biggest team in North London, and unless the Spuds sack another manager, there's not much chance that they'll sell him again. And anyway, Liverpool were probably the only Top 4 club who were willing to spend on him. It would be quite daunting to picture the rest of his career slipping past him as Tottenham shoot themselves in the foot over and over again.

Maybe he's thinking about dinner. There's certainly a hungry look around the jaw. Maybe he's silently debating between curry and pasta. I'd go for curry if I was him. A nice vindaloo and a Cobra is a very English meal in the dead of winter. Pasta's fine as a food staple, but it's shit if you're supposed to be celebrating.

Or maybe he's wondering if lasagna's still on the menu at Spuds.

I just realised I've a giant picture of Robbie Keane plastered on my blog. It's no longer the prettiest Arsenal blog in the world. In fact, it's probably the ugliest, even uglier than the one with the picture of Eboue, Song, Denilson and Diaby hold hands and dancing the mambo.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

3-1 to the Arsenal

“At the moment, there is pressure on Villa, on us and everybody. We have to come back as quickly as possible.”

- Arsene Wenger, I can't remember where but probably The Times

It's been a long time since we had a 3-1 scoreline. Around six months ago, we were bitching about how we played fluidly going forward and scored freely, but spoilt our attacking endeavour by conceding weak goals at the back. And then Hull happened, then Sp*rs, and then to top it all off, we were left with a catatonic side without a Catalan in sight.

And we realised (or at least I realised) that you can take attacking, kamakazi football for granted. I wouldn't mind going back to the days when we won 3-1 three out of four games and lost the other one 0-1 from a corner. At least then, we were playing pretty football.

I saw twenty minutes of the WBA game, and we didn't do too badly. WBA defended poorly, and so did we. WBA played poorly, and so did we. We did manage to score three times, though, so it was palatable. Our passing was poor and often misdirected, and we really didn't have many ideas. Still, we won. And winning ugly is enough.

I'm hoping rather ferverently that this 3-1 win will inspire our boys to score more goals. Football matches much, much easier to win when you're scoring goals. In fact, I'd say that the secret to good football can be encapsulated with two directives: 1) score more goals than the opposition, and 2) don't play Eboue. We managed to do the first one this match, and I'm confident we'll be able to accomplish both in the coming weeks.

We're getting a bucketload of players back from injury.

Walcott's aiming to come back for the Roma game. And Adebayor and Eduardo and Cesc are coming back in the weeks ahead. If you add a fully fit Arshavin to the mix, we've got a potentially potent attacking line-up re-emerging at the Arsenal. It's probably still not going to be enough to save 4th place, but you never know.

As Wenger put it, we just have to come back as soon as possible.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Anyone But United

Around the beginning of the season, I had a bit of affection for Man Utd. Good side, playing attractive football, with a manager who'll probably go down as the greatest ever in England. They play prettier than Chelsea did, and they didn't have Terry or Cole in their side. Ferguson's a ruthless, relentless manager, and you've got to admire a guy who's still willing to learn and sacrifice to succeed after 30 years (?) in the trade.

In last year's Champions League final, I was going for United.

But it's all changed. Liverpool lost over the weekend, and with that, their title hopes are pretty much shot to pieces. In England at the moment, there is only Man Utd, then daylight, then three flagging sides, and then the basketcase of nervosa known as the Arsenal. The prospect of Man Utd winning three Premierships in a row is nauseating, but inevitable.

At the moment, I'm firmly on the Anyone But United bandwagon. It is sickening to imagine that they're on the way to another seven, eight year run as top dog. It is sickening to think that the Arsenal are sliding down to mid-table mediocrity like a whimpering lap dog. And it is incredibly sickening to think that no one has been able to knock Man Utd off the perch - not Arsene's Invincibles, nor Mourinho's Annoying, Boring Bastards nor Benetiz's Mechanical Army. We're just good enough for a couple of seasons' worth of ascendancy, and then we all fall on our collective arses.

C'mon Arsene. The world needs you to pull your fucking head out of Song's arse, smell the shit and overhaul this fucking side again. There is no fucking way I'm going to go through another seven years of Man Utd dominance.

It's too horrible to contemplate.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

0-0 against Fulham

"It's been an entertaining 0-0..... if Arsenal don't win here and Villa win as expected against Stoke, Arsenal can kiss the Champions League goodbye."

- the commentator from the FSC stream.

There's a couple of minutes of injury time left, and we're screwed.

There's no pressure from our boys, and little to no ideas, either. Fulham just made like ten passes together without a single challenge, and only lost it when they passed to Clichy. We've had few chances, but we don't really take them.

It's much like the past few games, I suppose. Eboue's done surprisingly well as a sub, and Arshavin's pretty damn good, but that's pretty much it. Wenger looks pretty pissed off, but there's no one left to blame expect himself. It's his team, his tactics, and his series of 0-0 draws.

It's a mess in midfield. The boys string a number of neat passes outside the opposition defensive zone, and then run right through the middle of it, muck it up and lose the ball. There's no one to provide real width and pace since we lost Walcott all those months before. And we're suffering for it quite badly.

Bendtner's not the answer. I know he's only 21, and he's scored 9 in 31 games (decent for a 21 year old in his first or second real season), but he's not ready to lead the line for a top 4 Premier League club. We need someone better. Like Villa. Or Eto'o. Or Batman.

We need a few signings come end of the year. Real superstar signings that won't break the bank. There's a few around, but we've got to start looking with intent, and not the in the half-arsedly laidback way in which we conducted the Arshavin deal. If we get our shit together, we could have a side like this at the start of next season:

Arshavin__The Hulk____Fabregas___Superman
van Persie___Batman

That's an exciting side.