Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies and Actim Stats

"Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forty percent of all people know that."

- Homer Simpson, Homer the Vigilante episode

I haven't read much Arsenal news in the past few days, and so it's a bit depressing to click on newsnow. It's the same old shit since last week - we're facing a clear-out, we're broke, we're rich, we're investing in youth, we're keeping faith in youth, our youth is crap, Denilson is the 16th best midfielder in the Premier League...

Gooners are firmly divided about Denilson. He doesn't contribute much on the creative side of things, he doesn't impose himself on games, and he doesn't tackle like a rabid dog on Ritalin. And yet, the stats tell us he's the 16th best midfielder in the Premier League. Denilson detractors say that Denilson's stats are the result of him passing backwards and sideways, and not the result of any special talent on his part. Denilson supporters look at the stats and say... stats don't lie.

Traditionalists tend to dismiss stats as bookish nonsense, the domain of nerds who were kicked off the pitch as kids and who've held a grudge against the more sporty types ever since. Traditionalist prefer to see what a player can do on the pitch, and not what stats get plugged into a computer program.

But still, stats don't lie. Denilson intercepts the ball. Denilson keeps the ball safe and makes the first pass a safe pass. It gives our players a chance to transition from defence to offence. It starts off the offensive move. It's no use hitting a speculative, first-time slide-rule pass if there's no one ready to receive it. Denilson's safety first play gives our team time to regroup. Which is good, as far as I can see. 

Then again, if we can get this man, I'd much prefer him to Denilson.

And I'm just thinking about the Barcelona team that are now, officially, the best team to have ever played football in the history of Earth for all time. There are three ex-Arsenal players (Henry, Hleb, Sylvinho). There is one Arsenal triallist (Yaya Toure), and one Arsenal target (Eto'o). And I'm thinking about how good OUR side could've been if we'd keep some players, bought some others....

But you know, such is life. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We won something

Hey, we won something this year.

A Youth FA Cup isn't to be sniffed at, especially considering the trophy drought over the past four years. And Youth FA Cups can be a springboard to success; I remember the Man Utd side that won it once, or something like that. I don't know. I can't be expected to remember such details; after all, it's not like a Youth FA Cup is particularly important.

And that's the dilemma. It don't mean nothing unless the kids translate this success to the Premier League. It's thrilling to see them winning something, but. 6-2 on aggregate, 2-1 at Anfield for the second leg.

Only one question - why isn't it a knockout tournament like the FA Cup proper?

Adebayor's flip-flop

"All I can say is I am a footballer and if a club like Milan are interested in me then I cannot lie to you, I am happy, because it is Milan. But the thing is that it stops there – I am very happy playing for Arsenal, and this is what I always say."

- Emmanuel Adebayor, talking out of his arse

I'm puzzled as to what Adebayor's thinking at the moment. First he presents himself to Milan like a baboon in heat. Right before a Champions League semi-final. And now that the season's shot to pieces and we're trophy-less yet again, he wants to stay?

I don't get it.

An ambitious man would've kept his mouth shut while we were still in contention for trophies. An ambitious man would've raised a fuss after the season's over, and we're still stuck in 4th and not likely to advance. The fact that Adebayor went about things the other way, shows that he's not an ambitious man.

Maybe Adebayor likes the comfort of 80k a week for a half-arsed job. Maybe Adebayor likes a club that almost guarantees him Champions League football, and the certainty of not having to compete for his position. Maybe the guy wants to cruise on what he has at the moment, and not want to maximise his God-given potential. Maybe he's had enough of working hard and running hard, and he just wants to be a superstar who doesn't have to work. And maybe that's the reason he still wants to be with the Arsenal.

I don't know, and it shits me off. The Arsenal shouldn't be a lazy paycheck. Players should want to play for the club because we're challenging for trophies and we're one of the best clubs in the world. The fact that Adebayor's wanting to stick with us because it's easy shits me off. We're the Arsenal, and we're not the soft option.

I don't know whether we should keep Adebayor. On a good day, when he's switched on, he's one of the best strikers in the world. On a bad day, he's worse than Nicky Bendtner. It depends on which Adebayor fronts up next season. If we get the casual Adebayor of this season, we're better off selling him; for whatever we can get for him.

Man Utd vs Barcelona tomorrow morning. Maybe I'll getup early to watch it. I'd like to see Henry win the Champions League. He was a gun for the Arse, and it's nice to see him achieve his ambition. Awful sad that he couldn't do it at the Arse, though.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Youth FA Cup

Hey, we won the Academy league title and we're in the youth FA Cup final. It's a pleasant surprise, considering how depressing most of the rest of the season has been. And while it's a bit pointless to wax lyrical about kids who haven't done much yet, it's still nice to fantasise. 

We've a good bunch of lads coming through. Jack Wilshere will be awesome for us. Frimpong and Thomas are monsters, and Lansbury's like a two-footed Energiser bunny. Plus, we've got the impressive Coquelin incubating as our next defensive midfielder. There's a lot of talent in the Academy, and it's remarkable to think that these lads could all be in the first team in five years. An Arsenal, English spine - imagine that. 

It's just hype, of course. We had a similarly rated Carling Cup side a couple of years ago. 5-2 away at Anfield. Carling Cup final. Diaby, Denilson, Song, Bendy, Djourou and Quincy were all supposed to the next big things. And what happened? We found out that under all that hype, it was just a bunch of kids with a lot of potential but nothing concrete. This current league-cup double side may be great, but you never know. 

It's good to dream, though. 

Meanwhile, Wenger's after "little Messi". How tiny must that guy be?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Real Madrid and Ronaldo

Turns out that Florentino Perez isn't going to bid for Cristano Ronaldo if he's elected president of Real Madrid. The deal was struck by Ramon Calderon, and now that Calderon's stepped down as president, it's not going ahead. The fact that the pre-contract agreement with Ronaldo is illegal probably didn't help, either. 

There's another reason, as well. 

The £75 million that Ramon Calderon was willing to stump up for Ronaldo was apparently Real Madrid's entire transfer budget. Perez has wisely decided that discretion is the best part of valour, and will ration out the joy with a series of "mini-Galactico" purchases. It's a far cry from the days of mega-signings like Figo, Zidane, Ronaldo and em... Thomas Gravesen, but maybe in the face of the greatest recession since the Great Depression, we've all got to tighten our belts. 

Perez will have to content himself with trying to sign Kaka, Ribery, Xabi Alonso, David Villa....

Meanwhile, Wenger will probably have £50 million to spend. After he sell Adebayor, of course. It's a heck of a lot of money, and if it's all spent, it could aid us immeasurably. Maybe we could buy some of Madrid's surplus players? Or make a bid for Villa and Silva before the other big clubs do? It's worth a shot. Money in the bank's dead money. But money squandered in a wild, extravagant splurge? 

That's pure Perez. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fashions at the Emirates

This'll be quick, because I've 10 mins of internet left. 

The Owl is friends with Cesc and Bendy. It makes sense. Arshavin has a degree in high fashion. Bendy has a penchant for pink boots. Cesc likes his puffy parkas. Together, they're the fashionistas of Highbury. We might not win the league next year (actually if you give creedence to Peter Hill-Wood's regular outbursts, that's highly probable), but we'll win the fashion stakes. 

Maybe the English FA should consider awarding premiership points for the most well-groomed football side?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

0-0 at Old Trafford

So we drew 0-0, and Man Utd won the title. It's not the end of the world. There are worse things that could've happened. In January we were 5th and a game away from being 6th. We were out-played by Everton, and we were shambolic. In May, we're 4th and although we haven't won anything, at least we've achieved the minimum of the Champions League. There are worse things in the world. 

Take me for example. I'm sitting in a cafe off Hay Street and I'm homeless, friendless and  taking advantage of free wifi. Don't know why the hell I'm here, don't know what the hell possessed me to come over to Perth. Just wanted a change, and here I am. In hindsight, it's really quite baffling. 

But on the bright side, at least my mind's off Arsenal's woes.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Shareholder Meeting

‘The idea Arsene Wenger is some stubborn guy who is not open to having his ideas challenged, and there is nobody there who can say, “Listen, we need someone with experience in the middle of the park or at the back”, just isn’t true."

-Ivan Gazidis, lying through his tiger-like teeth

Apparently, there were a lot of prickly moments at the shareholders' meeting. A lot of gooners were upset about the season, and a lot of them asked a lot of uncomfortable questions. Wenger danced, and ducked, and hit back when someone called Silvestre a "geriatric". He looked tetchy and defensive, and didn't want to be there. Despite what Gazidis says, his behaviour was the behaviour of a stubborn guy.

I say apparently, because I haven't seen or read any first-hand accounts of the meeting. It would've been interesting viewing, but the good folks over at ArsenalTV were a bit over-zealous with regards to the editing. From a 1 hour meeting, they released a 35-minute video. Go figure, right? Still, there's a good commentary provided by Vic Crescit of the Arsenal Insider. And a number of quotes supplied by the Times and the Daily Mail. You know you're scratching when you're sourcing from the Daily Mail, but still, one must make do with what one has.

The quotes below are taken from the Times. Bear in mind that these quotes are taken out of context from the Times article, which was taken out of context from the shareholder meeting. I'm not a primary source. I'm not even a secondary source. In schoolyard terms, I'm the final guy in a long chain of Chinese whispers.

Still, what's the use of a blog if you can't use it to express your ill-informed opinion?

“I believe what the team has achieved in the last six months is amazing but at the moment . . . it’s all one big tribunal. I can take that, I don’t care too much about that. For me it’s one of the best seasons for a long time considering where we were in November."

It IS remarkable to have acheived 4th spot and the semis of the FA Cup and the Champions League. Back in January, we were outplayed by Everton and seriously looking at 6th. But if you look at it from January 2008, we've slid quite far. The Arsenal of 07-08 needed maybe two or three players to win the league. The Arsenal of 08-09 need at least three players to challenge for the league. That's a pretty big step down.

“Is it good enough for the club or not? That is not for me to assess. I personally believe that we have to keep a little bit of common sense. Our average age in midfield is 22 — normally you play not to go down in the Premier League with a team like that. It’s as simple as that.”

With the above quote, we get to see the heart of the problem. Wenger defends the season by saying how youthful the midfield is. He forgets to mention the reason it's so youthful - he allowed Flamini, Hleb, Diarra and Gilberto to leave within six months of each other, and replaced them with kids. To get his kids up to 4th place is a remarkable achievement. To take a team that was challenging for the Premier League back down to 4th place, however, is nothing less than a failure.

“We lose against Man United, who have ten times more resources. It’s not a [reason to feel] shame, they are the best in the world."

Wenger forgets to mention that we've the 3rd highest payroll in the Premier League, and the 6th highest turnover in world football. Or something like that. My Internet connection's on the blink and I can't be bothered scanning for statistics, but you get the drift. In terms of resources, we've got almost as much as Man Utd, just just structure it differently.

We have the resources to pay for an expensive squad, we have the turnover of a global club. We're structured in a way that we pay our young players more than other top clubs pay their young players, and hence, we don't pay our top players as much. This is the reason we lose our more experienced players year in, year out (Adebayor this year, Flamini and Hleb last year, Henry the year before that).

“It has become ridiculous. You sit here, you are in the last four in Europe, and every day, you feel you have killed someone. It is unbelievable. If you do not take a distance with it, you think, what kind of world do we live in?"

Well, we live in a world where Arsenal are a big European club that cannot challenge for the Premier League, that pays its young players too much and its older players too little, that will not recruit experienced players to top up the squad, that doesn't practice defensive setups, that fields disinterested, unmotivated players...

In shot, we live in a world where the Arsenal frustrates the hell out of us.

The worrying thing is that Arsene Wenger comes off as a guy who still likes to bury his head in the sand and believe that his way is the only way of doing things. And if he keeps on with this track in the transfer season, we'll be back where we started from next season, with a friable defense and a overly thin squad. And the tragedy is that it doesn't have to be like this at all. Just a couple of signings in the right places, and maybe recruit Keown as a defensive coach, and we'll be right as rain.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bye, Bye Adebayor

"If I feel that a player should go or could go, why not sell him to one of the other top four?"

- Arsene Wenger, about Adebayor

There's a poll at the Guardian over whether we should sell Adebayor to Chelsea. 

It's feasible. Carlo Ancelotti, the man likely to the appointed the new Chelsea manger, fancies Adebayor and would like to work with him. Drogba's likely to leave at the end of the season. And if Chelsea are going to stick with a lone striker, they'll need to replace Drogba with someone with similar physical characteristics. There aren't many players who can play that role at the highest level. And Adebayor's one of the ones who can. 

Adebayor doesn't work as a lone striker at the Arsenal. He's offside way too often. He doesn't impose himself on games anymore. He doesn't work for his team anymore. Instead, he drifts off to the left and tries to be Thierry Henry. He scores the odd great goal, and then fluffs easy chances. But I imagine he'll improves dramatically under a tactically astute manager like Ancelotti

If someone tells Adebayor where to be, when to run, and to work like a packhorse in the mountains, then he will do so. Rio Ferdinand said he was the hardest striker to play against in the Premier League. Adebayor's fast, strong, tall, and has a penchant for the spectacular. He has a lot of gifts that are currently being wasted. Wenger's indulging him at the Arsenal, and if he was playing under someone who wouldn't tolerate nonsense, he'll probably thrive. 

So I think Adebayor to Chelsea would be a good move for Adebayor. It'll be a good move for Chelsea. But more importantly, I think it'll be a good move for the Arsenal. It'll give us £25 million pounds and the chance to buy David Villa. Or Sammy Eto'o. Or Karim Benzema. Or ANYONE who isn't offside 5 or 6 times a frigging match...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Wenger Retrospective

"Life is an endless struggle full of frustrations and challenges, but eventually you find a hair stylist you like."

- Author Unknown

This is Wenger in 1996, when he first started at the Arsenal.

This is Wenger in 1998, celebrating the league and cup double.

This is Wenger in 2004, after winning the league with probably the best team ever.

And this is him now, with the weight of the world on his shoulders...

Wenger's been with us for 13 years. It's a very long time. He inherited a prosaic, ugly football side and turned it into the most beautiful thing ever seen on a football field. He's won two doubles. He's gone unbeaten in a season. He's unearthed players like Henry and Vieira and *cough cough* Ashley Cole. And through it all, one thing's remained constant - his haircut.

He hasn't changed his hair in 13 years. That's a very long time. In that time, we've had eight years of George W Bush, a war on terror, the Galactico era, the rise and fall of Ronaldinho, the geriatrics experiment at Milan, Chelski and Ashley Cole. Wenger's hair has served him well in that time, and has presided over the best spell of football that Arsenal have ever seen. Still, it's time for a change.

A haircut says a lot about a man. Having the same hair for thirteen years says that Wenger is stuck in his ways. That said, I think Wenger has very nice hair and it suits him very well. It's a classy haircut. It just needs a little freshening up - maybe something with the fringe, or some highlights.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Fresh Start

"Maybe football teams and people always have fresh starts; maybe Arsenal and I have more than most, and therefore we are suited to each other."

- Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch

First Lee Dixon. Then Ray Parlour. Now Emanuel Petit. Our former players have been coming out of the woodwork lately, telling everybody that we're short on experienced players. And if we can't believe ex-Arsenal players, who can we believe?

There have been a lot of bloggers posting a lot of hyperbolic crap about the Arsenal in recent days. I find it annoying because it takes focus away from my own brand of irrelevant, pugnacious crap. And I like it when my crap glistens proudly in the limelight. There's only room for so much crap in the Arsenal blogosphere...

Anyway, we all know the problem. 

Put it simply, the Arsenal needs a fresh approach. Wenger's been at the club for over ten years, and most of his staff have been with him for a similar time. All of this current players have been signed by Wenger, and most of them have played under him for many years. And the result of all this is that we've become stale, complacent and short of originality. 

Things have been changing lately. I'm pinning a lot of my hopes Stan Kroenke. Kroenke's stumped up a lot of money to get that 28% stake, and I suspect he not going to stop with just ownership. He'll want to turn Arsenal, a nationally big club, into an internationally big club. And to attract the plastic, glory-hunting global fan base, we need... well, glory. A hat-trick of 4th places isn't going to sway my prawn-sandwich eating prospective brethren from Asia, the Middle East and Australia. 

To attract the plastics, we need trophies. 

I'm hoping Arshavin's signature signalled the start of a new future for the Arsenal. He's a brilliant player, brought up in a different footballing school. He's got drive, ambition, and he's a leader. The effect he's had on the other players has been amazing. It makes me dizzy when I think about what this team would be like with three or four more experience, quality players at the club. But it can't stop there. 

We need new ideas at the Arsenal. I'm not advocating Wenger's sacking. I think he's still the best manager for us. But what I do think is that he needs to bring someone into the club to challenge him and to make him reassess his approach. He needs an assistant manager who has the authority and the gumption to question the great man. He needs someone to organise the team defensively, to motivate them before games, to practise their f@$king set-pieces. 

We need a fresh start. 

I finished up at work today. The last day of five years in my first job, and I finished it both bloody happy and bloody sad. It's the right thing to do, and the exhilaration is making me nauseous. It's time for a fresh approach. I need the kick-start to re-organise my tactics, to get motivated before games, to practice my f@$king set-pieces. 

And as Nick Hornby says, "the neat and obvious synchronism of it all still baffles me."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal

"You would not like to come out and say we will buy four defenders. It is more a question of balance in the team rather than individuals."

-Arsene Wenger, after a very balanced performance.

Contrary to Wenger's assumption, I'd quite like him to come out and say we'll buy four defenders. In fact, I'd be willing to make suggestions, say Richards and Sahko, Zapata and Albiol. We could sell Gallas, Eboue and Senderos in the summer to make room. We need better players at the Arsenal, and the back four would be a start.

I'd also quite like Wenger so say we're going to appoint someone to look after the defensive side of things. Like Martin Keown, or Tony Adams, or Mr T. Someone thuggish and bastardly, and able to instill traditional Arsenal values into our players. To be honest, this is probably more important than new signings.

Wenger also said:

"In the games that mattered in the last three or four weeks, we could not win. That is what we have to analyse."

After he finishes analysing, I really hope he does something about it. Like buy some experienced players.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I got lots of pictures in my head
You better not turn off the projector
I got lots of pictures in my head
You better not save them up for later

- Pictures, Sneaky Sound System

I'm a bit tired this morning, so this will be told out in pictures. 

We're facing Chelsea in the league tomorrow, without Arshavin, and without much to play for. I'm tempted to play the kids for this one, purely because I'm curious about the likes of Coquelin and Jay-Emmanuel Thomas, but then again, we've always got something to play for when we're up against Chelsea. We can't let this man win:

It's the principle of the thing. 

Usmanov is bitter that Kroenke is now the de facto controller of the board, while he's been frozen out. He's trying to curry favour with the fans by offering us his fabulous wealth as a transfer kitty. 

And Kroenke? Well, we just love our favourite American - even if he hasn't done much apart from install a bunch of executives on the board. 

Meanwhile, this man has written a good article about the Arsenal's problems. Since he's someone who actually knows Arsene Wenger, and who has played football under him, it's worth a read. It's nothing earth-shattering, just that we need four new players and a new approach to the side. It's what everyone else is saying. But it sounds better coming from Lee Dixon. 

And finally, Wenger believes that Nicky Bendtner was set up in Trouser-gate. Frankly, no one cares. Bendy was gutted after the match, went out to forget his troubles, got shitfaced, got legless, and almost lost his pants. He's entitled to that once in a while. 

Actually, I feel sorry for him. He's probably the only guy in history to have been depantsed twice in front of a national audience in a single night. Poor Nick.

Anyway, it'll be the Chelsea match in about twelve hours. Enough time to sit back, relax, and wait for a match that doesn't mean much to nobody, but which we'll still watch anyway.  

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Summer Signings

"Clearly, you can prove anything with stats. So I never quote stats. But Chelsea, playing at home, did not control this game. Barcelone won 77.8% of their tackles, more than the home team's 69.8%."

- Myles Palmer, who says the darndest things

Myles wrote anther article as well, about how the Xabi Alonso transfer fell apart over £200,000. That was an interesting, albeit frustrating, read. But I chose the above quote because it's funnier, and cheers me up. Myles Palmer always unintentionally cheers me up. He's like a short-sighted mole with no peripheral vision. 

We could've used Xabi Alonso this year. He's an excellent player, and while he's not a like-for-like replacement for Flamini, he would have improved the team. We've all seen the impact Arshavin had on the side, and I figure Alonso would've done similar. We have a soft chewy centre at the Arsenal at the moment, and Alonso would've been a tough old nut floating in the middle of that caramel goo. 

I'm pinning my hopes on the fact that Ivan Gazidis is a guy who gets things done. He's like a bald-headed tiger. He couldn't look more tigerish if he painted orange and black stripes on his skull. He got down and dirty with Zenit St Petersburg over Arshavin. He's ready for the transfer season, ready to fight the sharks of Barcelona and Real Madrid over the juicy ewes at the Valencia fire-sale.

He's a tiger in a sea of sharks. The sharks might think he's easy prey because he's in the ocean and out of his comfort zone, but they forget that tigers have claws, teeth and the element of surprise. After all, how many sharks know that tigers are relatively good swimmers?

And meanwhile, Wenger is saying the same old things:

"I'm not chasing any player at the moment. I believe my priority is to stay with the squad we have. We will try of course to bring in one or two players to strengthen the squad... if we buy, it certainly won't be players who lack experience. We have enough of those."

It's something he's been saying since Vieira left and wasn't replaced by anyone of experience. Frankly, I'm sick of read it. Really, the only thing that makes me think that this season will be different is Ivan Gazidis. 


Friday, May 8, 2009

On a Friday

Round and round, up and down
Every day I make my way
Through the streets of your town

- The Go-Betweens, Streets Of Your Town

When you put too much faith in your football team, and then your football team disappoints you, to whom do you turn? It's a question I've been asking myself for a few days. Normally, I trawl the internet for something optimistic about the Arsenal, to allow myself the luxury of believing again. But I'm starting to wonder whether that's healthy. 

A fellow can go mad refreshing newsnow

I bought another copy of Fever Pitch earlier today. In one way, it's comforting to realise that Arsenal have disappointed many, many people in the past, and that my situation isn't unique. Many people have lived through the lean periods and come out stronger on the other side. Some have even written award-wining books about the experience. 

Maybe I should go on a shopping binge. I mean, people have told me that materialistic excess can fill the deep parts of your soul, much like alcohol, drugs and charismatic political figures. I could start by ordering an Arsenal stubby holder off the internet....

I'm depressed as shit, but I suppose I'll pick myself up for the Chelsea match. After all, every day, up and down, I make my way through the streets of Islington. Figuratively speaking, of course. 

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Horse's Mouth

I hate Peter Hill-Wood almost as much as I hate injustice. That's a picture of him above. For a man in such a lofty position (right-hand side of Wenger, no less), he makes some incredibly stupid remarks. And here's the latest from the horse's mouth:

"That is not strictly correct. We have never denied Arsene any transfer requests. We spent a lot of money on Andrey Arshavin at the beginning of the year and the money is there in the summer, if he wants. I'm not going to say how much thought, because that would not be helpful to us."

This is, of course, not strictly correct. We know Arsenal's been on a strict transfer budget. It cannot be coincidence that outgoing and incoming transfer fees have been almost exactly equal for a number of years. We were given £30 million last year for transfer fees AND wages, which makes for very little pocket change for new players. 

The money is there, but it's not sitting in a Scrooge McDuck-type money vault somewhere on a hill. The money is in a "transfer facility" which we can tap if required. We tapped it during January when it looked like we were going to miss out on a Champions League spot. There can't be that much money in it. We all thought we'd buy at least two players (a creative player and a defensive midfielder), but we ended up haggling over £2 million for Arshavin over the entire transfer window while our team drifted. If we really had a lot of money to spend, we would've spent much more in January. 

Furthermore, Hill-Wood seems to think that £15 million is a lot of money. He's been living too long in the real world, and not the football one. £15 million for Arshavin will go down as one of the bargains of the decade. We'll never see a deal like that again. If Hill-Wood sweats over £15 million, I'd hate to see his reaction when told how much David Silva would cost. 

He goes on to say:

"Arsene's future is not in question.. he has another season left on his contract and if he was to ask for an extension we would be delighted.... There are other things to think. He is a long-term person. He is not into trying to have a quick fix."

This leaves me sweating. It means that Wenger's going to keep buying kids until he comes across 11 who are capable of challenging for trophies. It's kind of like that monkeys on typewriters experiment, only with football. And he'll be urged on by Peter Hill-Wood and his band of Etonian cronies, who are high on a hill somewhere and swimming Scrooge McDuck-like money vault. 

There is a ray of light, though. Kroenke and Gazidis have arrived, like two reverse conquistadors ready to bring the whole in-bred, upper-class, Old-Boys Arsenal boardroom network crashing to the ground. They're here to overthrow the empire, crack open the fabulous wealth of the Arsenal and splurge on players, Japanese fighting-fish and defensive coaches. Do we need their sort at the club? 

Hell yes. 

N.B. Just want to clarify my position - it's not that I think Arsenal don't have access to fabulous wealth (the two largest shareholders are billionaires, after all), I just think they'd rather not spend it on the non-essentials - like the football team...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Crap on a stick

"Half time now boys. Where's my considering cap?"

- James Joyce, Dubliners

For the first five minutes, we were awesome. There was this little bit when Fabregas took a shot and the ball boggled against two defenders and almost ricocheted in. And then Gibbs slipped and Park scored. Almunia slept and Ronaldo scored. And just like that, we'd done it - we'd blown a Champions League semi-final after only 12 minutes. 

It's half-time now, and it's still 0-2. There's 45 minutes left to our season. This is bitterly, bitterly disappointing, but you know, there's still 45 minutes left to go. At times, I wonder why I started supporting Arsenal when I could've supported Man Utd or Barca, but once you've made your choice, you can't turn away. 

C'mon Arsenal. We can go through with a 4-2. 


1-3 at the moment. 

Spring-cleaning starts tomorrow. Adebayor, Diaby, Almunia and Silvestre need to go and be replaced with experienced, hungry, professional players. We can keep Eboue - he's a pass master - and we can keep Denilson because he's got potential. But the rest of them have to go. 

Maybe we should buy Joey Barton? He'll be entertaining if nothing else. 


1-3 to Man Utd. Outplayed. But there's always next season.


I've had a whole day to think about it, and I never want to be in this position again. I feel sick and tired and incredibly sad. I spent most of the day unfocussed and distraught, and incredibly distracted. I pinned so much of my wavering optimism on this match, and to have it crushed so clinically is disheartening. 

We need to do better next year. Buy players who count when it matters. Sell the ones that crumble with pressure. Work out how to play the big clubs in the pressure moments. Put an emphasis on defence. Flesh out the squad with experience. But will it happen?

I'm too weary to answer that truthfully.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Not a match preview

"It's only after we've lost everything, that we're free to do anything."

- Tyler Durden, Fight Club

So this is it, the last throw of the dice. We're fourth in the league no matter which way we turn. We're out of the FA Cup. We've only got 90 relevant minutes left to our season, and we're doing it against Utd at the Emirates. 

We've got to make it count. 

We can go through. We don't deserve this chance, considering the pathetic performances we've put in over the year, but we're still in it. One brilliant 90 minute burst, and we could be fronting up to our second Champions League final in five years. Wouldn't that be special? 

Anyway, we know the composition of the team; 4-5-1, Adebayor up front, a shockingly weak defence at the back, and square pegs in round holes in the midfield. But it'll work if we're up for it. And it's going to work. I get premonitions every now and then, and this is one of those time. We're down and out, and no one except Stan Collymore gives us a chance. And yet, we play our best in these circumstances. It liberates us. As Tyler Durden said, it's only when you've lost everything, that you're free to do anything. 

3-1 to the Arsenal. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

They Made Theo Cry

“We got a bit of stick as we left the stadium and went to the coach. There were loads of fans there shouting ‘We’re not scared of you’ and a few swear words, shall we say.”

- Theo Walcott, with added motivation to stuff the Mancs on Tuesday

This is confirmation that Englishmen become progressively less human the further north you go. In London, rival fans would applaud Theo and offer him milk and cookies after the match. In Birmingham, rival fans would cuss Theo politely and apologetically - not because they want to insult our Theo, but because it's expected of them. In Manchester though, they wait outside the stadium to hurl abuse and sledge Theo until he cries.

I remember watching the England-Croatia match in a Manchester pub last September, and some of the things thrown at our Theo were appalling. He deserves better from his countrymen, does our Theo. Swearing at Theo is akin to throwing puppies into vats of boiling hot oil. It's just not on. He's such a nice boy.

I can understand if the Mancs were swearing at Silvestre. I was swearing at Silvestre during the match. Silvestre is old enough, and ugly enough, to take abuse. Theo's just a kid. It's not right. It's very disappointing behaviour from the Mancs. But then again, they're only about twenty miles away from Bolton, so I suppose that kind of behaviour is expected up there.

Anyway, Theo's spoken to the Daily Star to big up our team. And much as I like to read that our players are eager to face Man Utd again, it's a bit pointless. Our players talk good before every game, but can't be relied upon to deliver once they're on the pitch. I'm a bit sick of it, really. It's simple: if we play to our potential, we've a good chance of going through; if we blink in the headlights like we did at Old Trafford, we'll lose.

All this talk is just talk, and don't count for nothing. I just hope the Arsenal show up Tuesday night and play without that handbrake that Wenger keeps talking about. We could do with a 3-1 win. Or a 4-1 win.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Arsenal 3-0 Portsmouth

"We dominated completely the first half, we were sharp and composed with a great attitude and and our two-nil lead was well deserved. In the second half we struggled for 20 minutes but when we scored the third the game as over."

- Arsene Wenger, chuffed at the win

Beautiful things happen at night. The stars come out and the moon gives everything a silvery sheen. Your senses become heightened and the smell of roses quickens the heart. Possums crawl up power lines and electrocute themselves. And the Arsenal thump Portsmouth 3-0

It's one of those games that leave you wondering what could've been. We play great football at the strangest times. Around November, we beat Man Utd 2-1 in the Premier League when our season looked shot, and yet last week we lose insipidly at Old Trafford 0-1 when we're playing for a spot in the Champions League final. We play well against Portsmouth, Middlesborough etc., at the end of the season when we're 4th, while we were dropping those matches earlier in the season when we were still challenging for the title. 

It does your head in. 

Still, a 3-0 win is a 3-0 win, and let's not look a gifthorse in the mouth. It secures 4th place. It increases our unbeaten run in the league. It gives Bendtner his first goals in ever so long. And it boosts our fragile egos and gives us hope for the second leg tie against Utd, which is most important. Despite our fabled "mental strength", we tend to fold like umbrellas on a windy day. 

Let's hope the Arsenal can replicate this form on the Tuesday. And we should seriously consider splicing Arshavin's head and spinal cord to Diaby's body for the game. An Arshaby monster would still be 75% Diaby, so he wouldn't be cup-tied, and we'd have the Owl's brain pulling the strings for the Arsenal. 

In other news, Stan Kroenke's increased his stake in the Arsenal to 28%. He's now the largest shareholder at Arsenal, and in conjunction with Danny Fizsman's share, has the majority share. It's good news, because Kroenke's a serious businessman and in it to make Arsenal successful and wealthy - unlike Peter Hill-Wood, who's only in it for the free champagne and padded seats at the Emirates. 

So even if we do go out of the Champions League on Tuesday, at least we'll have something to look forward to - an Arsenal that's not run by cigar-chomping, embarrassing Etonian toffs who don't have a clue about running a modern football club. And what's gong to happen to Peter Hill-Wood? Well, we don't want his sort here. 

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Fink Tank

"So in the Fink Tank, Wenger has a fan. We understand his idea of trying to improve the team over time."

- The Fink Tank, the Times

A prophet is never appreciated in his own town, and a football manager is never appreciated in his own time. In the immediacy of a difficult Premier League season, it's hard to be mindful of the genuine class of Arsene Wenger. At the moment, we're howling at the moon because of the deficiencies of our squad and the baffling tactical decisions.  And truthfully, I don't think we'll fully appreciate the brilliance of Wenger until he's gone. It takes time for genius to be recognised. 

The Fink Tank wrote a good article which recognised Wenger's unique gifts. In it, Finkelstein looks at Arsenal's salary bill and compares it to their league position. And if you look at it that way, it's true, we've over-achieved. And if you bear in mind that a big percentage of the wage bill is spent on enticing youth players away from other clubs, the salary bill to league position ratio more impressive still. 

But there a corollary: we're paying our superstars much less than what they can earn with the big big clubs. When players reach a certain age and realise they could be earning much more elsewhere, they'll jump ship (e.g. Hleb, Flamini). It's understandable, but it's frustrating because we'll never be in the position to capitalise on the youth policy. Despite the impressive economic results, we won't be able to turn it into material success. 

And when you get down to it, that's what we really want. Material success. This is a material world, and we're all material girls and boys. There's only so much comfort you can take from sound economic principles and pretty passing. The heart of a football fan beats for shiny metal trophies. And in our shiny metal lust, sometimes we overlook other qualities. 

I don't know. I was going somewhere with this, but I think I'll stop now. Had enough of blogging for one day. Stuff to do, you know. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Breakaway Serie A

"We have created a new league for Serie A."

- Maurizio Zamparini, Palermo president

I need to write about something other than Arsenal, and this is it: Italy's Serie A clubs are planning to break away from the Serie B and form and independent top-flight league along the lines of the English Premier League. 

It's interesting. It's news. It's got nothing to do with Wenger's tactical blunders, or our defensive woes, or Adebayor's frustrating ability to tease and not deliver. So for the next few minutes, it's what we're going to talk about. 

Serie A's been moribund since the bribery scandal, but truthfully, it's been stagnant before then. It started when Juve and Milan began to co-operate with each other instead of fighting with each other. It continued with Milan realised the Serie A was so uncompetitive that they could play geriatrics and still qualify for the Champions League. It reached a peak (can stagnancy have a peak?) when Juventus was kicked down to Serie B for bribery. 

And now, the league's just drifting. 

There's no money in Italian football. The big clubs have their own pay-TV agreements. The small clubs make do with scraps. The stadiums are half-full, and the tickets are cheap. It's a bit like England before Rupert Murdoch nabbed the First Division and turned England into a land of pay-TV watching couch-potatoes. Rupert Murdoch has many sins to answer for. 

Italian clubs wants a piece of this bonanza. And creating a breakaway league which doesn't have to subsidise a poorer Serie B will help that. Pity the poor Serie B clubs that will now be even more impoverished, but you know, that's the way the cookie crumbles.

It's an interesting development. Will this mean that Italian clubs will now have the financial impetus to compete for the best players? Will this make the Serie A more or less competitive, as more talented payer invariably drift to the big three of Inter, Milan and Juve? Will this mean we can now sell Adebayor to Milan for ridiculous amounts of money?

I don't know. But I'm curious to see what happens.