Thursday, August 27, 2009

Arsenal 3, Celtic 1

3-1 to Arsenal on the night, 5-1 on aggregate.

I thought it was a good game in which we dominated. Eboue and Arshavin both scored great goals. Eduardo created a penalty out of thin air. Ramsey and Wilshere both got some games under their belts. And our midfield seemed to tick nicely without Cesc Fabregas.

We started the game in a hurry and we kept good pressure on the ball, but we seemed to run out of steam about the 60th minute and stopped our pressing game. By then Celtic had given up and the match was as good as over, but I think we'll need to work on applying pressure throughout the 90 minutes. If our work-rate drops off against Man Utd over the weekend, that could cost us.

I was really impressed with Eboue today. When Wenger first called him his Pass Master, I thought he was taking the piss, but Eboue does have a knack for making those angled little passes. If we're going to persevere with the Barca 4-3-3, we're going to need more dinky passers like Eboue and Denilson.

I was less impressed with Eduardo's dive. It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't clever. I suppose Eduardo was expecting a full-bodied challenge from Boruc and just wanted to avoid another broken ankle, but still... it looks really bad. I think Eduardo knew it was the wrong thing to do as well, because he seemed distracted after the penalty and missed a couple of shots he normally would've put away.

Still, we're through to the Champions League proper, and if you believe Peter Hill-Wood, it's a prize in itself. I'd disagree with Hill-Wood. I tend to think it's the bare minimum. I expect Wenger to make a raft of signings now that we're assured the CL money. Akinfeev and M.Diarra would be a good start...

One last point - I watched the Maccabi Haifa vs Salzburg qualifier yesterday, and it was delightful to see the reactions of the Maccabi players after they'd won. They were genuninely happy and excited to have qualified for the Champions League. Playing in the Champions League is like a new adventure for them. When you consider that Arsenal's reaction to qualification would be relief, it makes you think. Maybe Platini's rejigging of the qualifying stages was the correct decision after all.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

One week until the season starts

Wearily on I go, pain and misery my only companions. And vast intelligence, of course. And infinite sorrow. I despise you all.

- Marvin the Paranoid (Arsenal supporting) Android

I admit I haven't paid much attention to the Arse since we sold Toure. After that happened, I kind of lost interest. It's really quite depressing. We've pocketed £44 million or so from the Man City deals, but those figures are meaningless if we don't spend the proceeds. And we're not going to spend the proceeds.

The season starts in a week. We're playing Everton away on the 15th. I'm thinking about that match with a mixture of trepidation and antipathy. I want us to play well. I want the Vermaelen-Gallas partnership to click. I want the 4-3-3 to work, and I want the Arsenal to emerge as a team that's stable at the back, clinical at the front, and hard-working and determined all-round.

But try as I might, I can't see it happening. As it stands, our midfield in a week's time will be Denilson, Song and Fabregas. It's the same combination that couldn't beat Man Utd in a Champions League semi-final. It's the same combination that couldn't beat Chelsea in a FA Cup semi-final. It's the same combination that limped over the line for 4th. The question is, have Denilson and Song improved to the point where we can win the games that matter?

I'd like to believe so, but once again, I can't see it happening. I can't see us improving enough to improve. All I can see from here is a year of tiny triumphs and muted failures, eventuating in hard-earned 4th at season's end. And while that would probably constitute a good season for the calibre of player we've got, it's not good enough for a Club with our resources.

I don't think I'm alone in thinking this way. Even the players realise something's wrong with Arsenal approach, if Theo Walcott's comments are to go by:

"The fans have been very patient this year – well, the last few years – of not bringing trophies back to the club. We need to reflect on that, learn from our mistakes from last year and bring something back for them because they are just as important as the players. We need to be a bit more cutting in the last third and be a bit more dirty. Instead of playing brilliant football, sometimes just get a result, grind one out. We'll be doing that this year."

But as I said, I'm at the point where I don't think I care anymore. All I can think about is that £44 million in the bank and Wenger still using the hyper-inflated transfer market as an excuse for not supplementing the side. Yeah, De Rossi would be costly at £30 million, but we can afford him. You don't need a Masters degree in economics to work that out.