Monday, May 31, 2010

The 327th last day of my 20s

We're thinking about replacing Cesc Frabregas with Yoann Gourcuff. Cesc, we're willing to sell for £45m. Gourcuff, we're willing to buy for £21.8m. Here's a thought - why don't we try and buy Gourcuff regardless of whether Cesc is leaving? I'd really like to see is if we could accommodate Cesc, Gourcuff, Arshavin, van Persie and Chamakh in the same side next season. If we did that, we might even be able to persuade Cesc Fabregas to stay another couple of seasons.

So on the 327th last day of my 20s, I went to work and came home. Listened to Bob Marley in the car. That's about it. Been thinking that it's halfway through the year, and although I've done nothing, time's really dragged on. It seems like a long time since my birthday, but it's only a month ago. It seems like forever since I settle the house, but that was only two months ago. And yet, looking back, all I've been doing this year has been killing time.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The 328th last day of my 20s

So on the 328th last day of my 20s, I skipped my jog because I couldn't be arsed, went to church, went to lunch, came home and mucked about on the computer for a bit. My brother and his family came over for dinner, so I played with my nephew for a bit.

I'm thinking I should pack in the entries on the days when nothing happened, but I probably shouldn't.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Merida's left

It's a pity that Fran Merida decided to join Atletico Madrid. He's got a lot of potential and I wish he'd stay another year to see if he could make it at the Arsenal. But then, I suppose he's seen that Wenger prefers Denilson and Diaby in the central midfield roles, and Arshavin and Nasri on the flanks, and decided to leave. At 20 years of age, he's champing at the bit for a chance at first team football, and Atletico Madrid is offering it to him.

It's the downside of Arsenal's youth policy. The idea was to recruit a bunch of youngsters, train them together, and then hope that they'll be good enough and loyal enough to win trophies with the Arsenal. Of course, some of them weren't going to make it. If Merida and Wilshere are competing for the same position, you'd have to say that Wilshere's the better long-term proposition. So we're going to be losing some really talented kids along the way, but hopefully, we'll keep the best ones at the club.

Merida had this to say:

So on the 329th last day of my 20s, I went to work, came home and reorganised the study. Nothing else. Can't be arsed. Having a bit of a lull at the moment. Really tired, need to sleep.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The 330th last day of my 20s

Not much Arsenal news again.

Barcelona's been stirring things up again, saying that Cesc's decision to leave was prompted by Peter Hill-Wood's stupid remark about Cesc not being able to get into the Barca first team. This is so blatantly untrue that it's dumber than anything Peter Hill-Wood has said this year. Cesc has been at the club for seven years, and he's probably lost count of the number of times that Hill-Wood has insulted him with a silly gaffe.

This is a low blow from Barca. So far, Barcelona have trotted out every La Masia player in front of the media and got them to say that Cesc has "Barcelona DNA". Then they got Cesc's father to say that Arsenal should let him leave. And now, they're turning our own foot-in-mouth chairman of the board against us. That's like teasing the disabled kid at school.

Barca proudly proclaim that they're mes que un club. It's true. Not only are they a club, they're also a bunch of cunts.

So on the 330th last day of my 20s, I went to work, came home... and waited. I'm seeing the girl of my dreams tonight. Wondering if it'll be awkward talking to her after getting rejected. I'm not sure. The only thing that would make it awkward would be if I was trying to preserve some dignity, but honestly, I think I left dignity behind a long time ago.

A couple of hours later, and the answer is hell yes.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cesc's great conversation with Wenger

"It was probably the greatest conversation I have had with someone in my life. I respect him so much. He told me to concentrate on my football and the World Cup and he will deal with whatever happens in my future."

- Cesc Fabregas, about a talk he had with Arsene Wenger

I've been lucky enough to have been in the middle of a few great conversations before. As a rule, they tend to be cathartic, visceral and you always leave with your view of the world subtly altered. While you're in one of these conversations, you feel as if nothing else in the world matters except you, the other person and the train of thought that's linking the both of you together.

I suppose Cesc Fabregas had one of those with Arsene Wenger the other day. It's not up to us to speculate what it was about, although I doubt it was to debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (the two options being a finite or an infinite number), or to debate what is the point of defence when you've an Almunia in front of goal. Cesc seems like a thoroughly pragmatic fellow, and at the moment there's only one pressing question when it comes to Cesc and Arsenal.

Cesc also had this to say:

Some bloggers have interpreted this to say that Cesc isn't going to Barcelona this year. I'm not sure. It just means that Cesc is leaving it up to Wenger, and focusing on the World Cup. If Cesc really wants to play for Barcelona this year, I'm sure Wenger would let him. Wenger's not a guy who holds players against their will. I presume Wenger told him that if he really wanted to leave, he'd let him leave when Barcelona offer a fair price.

This is supported, weirdly enough, by Peter Hill-Wood. Normally, I wouldn't trust anything Hill-Wood has to say, but this sounds trustworthy:

It sounds an awful lot like a chairman of the board distancing himself from the responsibility of being the one letting Cesc Fabregas go. What he's saying is that ultimately, the decision (and repercussions) belongs to Wenger, and not to blame the board if and when Cesc goes. It's the typical cowardly comment we've come to expect from this bunch of chaps who hide behind Wenger's coattails.

However, I'd like to point out to Hill-Wood that if he has no intention of making a comment on Cesc to Barcelona, he should stay on gardening leave instead of talking to every fucking footballing media outlet he can find. Fronting up to the media to say "no comment" is a pretty big comment in itself.

So on the 331st last day of my 20s, I went for a run, came home and tried to teach my nephew to crawl, went to work, and then caught up with a friend for dinner. It's his first week of work in about 8 months, and he's understandably knackered. Saw Prince of Persia with him afterwards.

It was put to me by my nurse today that asking the girl of my dreams out on for a weeknight dinner was a bit forward. I was surprised - I tend to use weeknight dinners as catch-up time with people after work - but she told me it was a red banner date time. So I suppose it's not that surprising the girl of my dreams said she was "busy". Should've started with something smaller, I suppose, like coffee on a weekend afternoon or just random late-night calls. Oh, well... I should've done a lot of things, but then again, fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

My nephew's almost ready to crawl. He can pivot around on his stomach. He can push up on all fours for up to five seconds. If he's really motivated (i.e. when he wants chew on the edge of the rug) he can kind of shuffle/drag himself forward, but it's unreliable - half the time, he pushes himself backwards. It's really exciting. Can't wait to see him finally do it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Is Gary Cahill worth the same price as Cesc Fabregas?

"Gary could play for any Premier League club. If someone offers £30m, you'd probably say that is fair. He is at the top level and that is why it would have to be something like that. It would be wrong if we stood in his way."

- Owen Coyle, with a strange idea of a "fair" price for Gary Cahill

Gary Cahill is an uncapped 24 year old English defender. He plays for Bolton Wanderers and is untried in European competition. However, he's had a couple of good seasons in the Premier League, and he hasn't broken anyone's legs yet. So compared to Martin Taylor and Ryan Shawcross, he probably looks like fucking Maradona. Bolton manager Owen Coyle rates him highly, but would reluctantly let him go for a transfer fee in the vicinity of £30m.

My only questions is, if Gary Cahill is worth £30m, how much is Cesc Fabregas worth?

Barcelona are still trying to drive down Cesc's transfer price. Their latest ploy is to use Cesc's father to tap up his son. Speaking on Spanish radio, he said:

It's pretty low of Barcelona to involve Cesc' father. What's next, a tearful plea by Cesc's grandma to come home to try so he can try her homemade paella? If they had any guts, they'd just stump up £50m for Cesc. They'll make a serious bid for Cesc this summer, but this approach is craven. They should realise that they should just throw money at Wenger - you know he's going to cave him eventually. We don't need Cesc Fabregas to win another 3rd place trophy next year.

So what's going to happen if we lose Cesc this year? I'm not sure, but I'm betting on more of the same, but of lesser quality: a brief title challenge, an "unforeseen" injury crisis, an eventual 3rd or 4th place finish, while featuring less talented footballers displaying less pretty football.

Oh well. At least we'll always have the Carling Cup kids to look forward to.

So on the 332nd last day of my 20s, nothing went right at work. The last couple of days have been a struggle. I'm tired and distracted, and things keep happening to try my patience. I keep thinking about her, wondering what the hell I'm supposed to do now. I've had these feelings for months, and now, it's pretty difficult to work out what I should do with them.

At the end of the day, though, I had a talk with my last patient. He's the local pharmacist, been coming to the clinic since '76. He grew up in the area, went to England for a couple of years after he graduated, and was lured back to Australia with an offer of a partnership with the local pharmacy. So he packed up his bags, came back home, and he's been working there for the past 50 years. It's a hell of a long time to be in one place, but he's "never wanted to take on the world", and he's really content with what he's accomplished.

Got an email from Gil Sung, a Korean guy I met in Galway when I was backpacking. When I met him, he'd scampered off to Europe to live a bit before his 2 year conscription started. He was planning on flying off to Russia and taking the Trans-Siberian Railroad back to Korea. He's in the middle of his military service now. He attached a couple of photos of me and him at the hostel. And I'm thinking that when I was in Galway, I was formulating plans that didn't involve me staying in Melbourne, working the same job and having the bad taste of falling heavily for a girl who doesn't reciprocate (again).

John Lennon said that life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. I'm sure my last patient didn't think he'd spend the rest of his working life in the same pharmacy when he accepted that offer. And I'm pretty sure Gil didn't want to do two years in the army. But they're both fairly happy with the outcome. Maybe it's a case of keeping an open mind while you're waiting for something to come up.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Peter Hill-Wood Speaks!

Things had gone quiet on the Cesc to Barcelona story, so today, Peter Hill-Wood decided to talk about it. He told the Daily Star:

It seems to me that if you're trying to fend off an approach for your best player, the one thing you wouldn't want to do is to keep the story in the media. It's the kind of thing that destabilises a club. So it beggars belief that Hill-Wood would say anything about it.

A few hours later, Barcelona director general Joan Oliver responded with:

So Barcelona are going to take their sweet time to make their move. If Cesc leaves this season, we're going to need time to look for a replacement. Maybe that's the reason they're stalling - they're confident that they'll get Cesc eventually, so they're trying to squeeze us for time to get a replacement, in order to drive down the price. Or maybe they're just a bunch of bullies who like fucking with our heads.

Either way, I wish Peter Hill-Wood wouldn't antagonise them. If we keep really quiet and pretend nothing's happening, maybe they'll get bored and move on to their next Arsenal target... Emmanuel Eboue.

In other news, Aliko Dangote, the Nigerian chap who's been interested in Nina Bracewell-Smith's shares, has stated:

At least we know that Dangote is a real Arsenal fan. Only poseurs and glory-hunters like Usmanov want to invest in the club. Genuine gooners prefer to buy shares, sit on them until they appreciate, and then flog them off to the highest bidder, all the while investing fuck-all into the club itself. Actually, someone should remind Dangote that buying Bracewell-Smith's share isn't really investing in the club; all it does is make one rich old lady a little bit richer.

So on the 333th last day of my 20s, I handed in my resignation letter, gave them a month's notice. It's for the best - in one clinic, I see (at most) four patients a session, and the other clinic is dangerously under-resourced, uses run-down equipment and services unreliable clientele. They're nice enough people, but there are just too many headaches to make it worthwhile.

Been in a funk all day. I told my nurse (the weird sex-dream one) that I'd asked the girl of my dreams out on Sunday, and she replied "you do know it's a no, right?". And that killed the rest of the day for me. Yeah, deep down, I knew it was a no. But the heart wants what the heart wants, hope springs eternal, shit happens... and when reality bites, moat of the tie I just sink into comfortable delusion.

I suppose I should thank my nurse for puncturing my delusion. My nurse spends every other weekend luring rabbits into open paddocks and shooting them. Se's used to killing warm, fuzzy, inconvenient things, and I probably should be grateful for her for killing my warm, fuzzy inconvenient delusion...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nothing to report about the Arsenal, folks

Not much going on with the Arsenal these days. Even the mooted Cesc to Barcelona deal has gone underground. We've been flooded with various retaliatory transfer rumours, ranging from Ibrahimovic and Toure, to Gourcuff and Gomis, and even to youth players like Gai Assulin, but who takes them seriously?

If Cesc goes, I'd like to see a bid on Gourcuff. I doubt it'll happen, but it would be nice to see him reunited with Chamakh. That partnership would add an interesting dynamic to our current style of play. The problem is that Bordeaux would likely use any bid of ours to try and recoup the lost transfer fee from Chamakh's free agency. So if we made a bid of 25m, we would really need to be 34m to succeed.

Meanwhile, Nina Bracewell-Smith is going to sell her shares to a Nigerian chap. She hired an American company to flog her shares all over the world, and it's taken her months to find interested parties. I never understood the appeal of spending that much money on shares of a company that doesn't pay dividends. Unless you want a place on the directors balcony to hang your "Signings or Sign Out!" banners.

So on the 334th last day of my 20s, I dwelt a bit on last night's conversation with the girl of my dreams. Wondering whether it's possible that she really is too busy this week for dinner, and that she'd be amenable to the idea a bit later. It's the start of tax season, and she knocks off work between 7-9pm every night. If it was me, I wouldn't want to go out to dinner after a 12 hour shift. Should've asked her about another time. Now I've got to wait another week before I can call her.

Dammit - nonchalance can be an over-rated virtue.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

(I don't care that) Inter won the Champions League

So Inter beat Bayern 2-0 overnight to win the Champions League.

I didn't watch the match. I woke up at 2am, and went back to sleep. The next time I woke up was 7:30am, and by that time, the match had been over for 30 minutes. I missed the replay this afternoon. But still, it's a match that involves two teams which have no relationship with the Arsenal, so who cares?

The one interesting for me is that, after winning the treble, Mourinho is suddenly a manager in the highest bracket. Before this second Champions League title, you could say that Mourinho had: fluked a treble with Porto; won successive league titles with unlimited money with Chelsea; and maintained the status quo with league titles with Inter Milan. But after winning the Champions League again, Mourinho has turned into a historic figure. He's knocked out the league winners of England, Spain and Germany to win it. He overthrew the greatest team in the world in the semi-final. And he did it with a team in a moribund league with second-hand (and second-rate) class players. Real Madrid beckons, and who's to say that he won't have statues raised to him in Porto, London, Milan and Madrid in the future?

In Arsenal news, little Theo is ready to show the world that he's grown up since the last World Cup. He's had four years more experience, and although he's still a work-in-progress, his potential is electric. He said:

I think with a good World Cup and a injury-free pre-season, Theo will be ready to impress next season. It was difficult last season because of his injuries, and because he had to adjust to a 4-3-3. But he's got the ability to shine for us. And he's such a nice boy as well. Let's hope he can shine for England when they get knocked out of the second round by Australia.

We love you, Theo!

So on the 335th last day of my 20s, best-laid plans fell apart. I kept seeing the girl of my dreams around church, but for one reason or another, I never got around to asking her out. We just kept missing each other. Ended the day in a focused discussion at my mate's house, where four people told me in excruciating detail why it wouldn't work. It's a matter of faith; she has it, I don't - or at least, not to the same degree. No matter how I squirm or argue or manoeuvre, it's a roadblock I can't get around. And to be honest, it's not something about her that I'd want to be able to manoeuvre around. It's intrinsic to her nature, and it's partly the reason I like her so much. There's really only one thing I can do about it, and it's not going to be pretty.

I think I should still ask her out, though. Just for the hell of it - and just in case....

Two hours later, and I called her and... it's the start of the tax season and she's really busy with work at the moment, but yeah, she'll call me when things get less busy. Yep, it's a brush-off, but she's just so damn nice about it you don't really feel bad about it.

As I've said before, she's an amazing girl.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Will our damnedest persuade Cesc to stay?

Peter Hill-Wood has weighed into the Cesc Fabregas debate, saying that we don't want Cesc to leave, and that we will do our "damnedest" to keep him. I hope our "damnedest" includes cracking open the transfer kitty to buy four or five top quality players, hiring a defensive coach to help out management, and doing an intensive review of our injury-management protocol. Because if our "damnedest" is just to offer Cesc more money and try and fob him off with promises of a brighter future, I'd actually encourage Cesc to go back to Barcelona. Cesc is 23 and doesn't want to waste another season killing time at Arsenal. He wants to be a contender.

We've also signed Marouane Chamakh from Bordeaux on a free. It's a transfer that's been 12 months in the making, and let's hope that it's the first of several new acquisitions. We need at least a couple more to make the team stable. Chamakh had this to say:

It's a nice thing he says at the end, that he will be "giving everything to help the team win trophies next season". Some gooners will be deflated at the signing of Chamakh, and some will be delighted. But no one will give a fuck what they thought of Chamakh's arrival if he helps us win a trophy next season.

That's the crux of it, I suppose. Cesc wants trophies. Chamakh wants trophies. Gooners want trophies. About the only people who don't want trophies are Arsene Wenger, who's so trophy-starved that he thinks that 3rd place is a trophy, and the board, who thinks a financial position is a trophy. The problem is that those are the people who will decide whether we have the squad to compete for trophies.

So on the 336th last day of my 20s, I went for a jog in the morning and then went to work. Thought about calling the girl of my dreams in a break, but it was so busy that I didn't have time. Thinking about doing it now, but don't know what to say. Brother and his family are over for dinner. Think about it later.

Friday, May 21, 2010

We should swap managers with Barca

This is an interesting comment from Barcelona presidential candidate Sandro Rosell:

Most presidential candidates run on the platform of how many superstars they can bring in. Joan Laporta himself came in on the back of a bogus "Beckham-to-Barcelona" ticket, and when that fell through, had to bring in Ronaldinho to avoid getting lynched. For Sandro Rosell to run on a platform of relative financial prudence is kind of refreshing.

There's an interesting article on Rosell on wikipedia. Rosell was Laporta's running mate, and was instrumental to the Ronaldinho to Barcelona deal. He resigned from the board in 2005, claiming Laporta had failed to carry out their original plan for the club. Since then, he's been critical about the way Barcelona's been run, calling it "absolute anarchy".

It'll be interesting to see what would happen if Rosell got elected. Some of the more mediocre senior squad players would probably leave. More youth players would be promoted. The redevelopment of the Nou Camp would probably be put on the back-burner (how can you make a 100,000 seat stadium more profitable?). And they probably won't be willing to shell out £50m for Fabregas to act as Xavi's backup.

I'm not sure Guardiola would be impressed. Barcelona have the best team in the world, but there are a few areas that need to be reinforced. David Villa's been signed to replace Henry. They'll probably need a new left-back / centre-back as well. Guardiola is great with getting the best out of players, and he's great at promoting players through the club, but he also likes his marquee signings. Alves and Pique a couple of seasons back, Ibrahimovic and Chygrynskiy last season, and Villa and Fabregas now?

Would he be willing to stay at Barcelona and have a restrained transfer budget?

There's only one manager in the world who could keep an elite club competitive, and yet is willing to keep it financially solvent. And that one manager is Arsene Wenger. So if Rosell gets elected, what are the chances that Guardiola walk and Wenger is appointed manager? And if that's the case, what's the chances that we'll hire Guardiola?

It makes a perverse kind of sense. Barcelona needs a manager who can reduce their debt. Arsenal need a manager who can turn a talented group of individuals into a talented team. Wenger needs a club that will push him to win trophies. Guardiola needs a club which, um... plays like a crappy version of Barcelona's football. Guardiola has won everything under the sun, and he needs a new challenge. Wenger likes playing young players, and La Masia is the best youth academy in the world.

So would anyone else swap Wenger and Fabregas for Guardiola and money?

So on the 337th last day of my 20s, I cracked the shits at work. I'm sick of equipment that doesn't work, and of bosses who are too absent to fix it. It pisses me off in a big way. Can't wait to give notice next week.

Listened to Plastic Beach by Gorillaz today. It's not bad, but it's a bit disappointing when compared to Demon Days and Gorillaz. It's a series of aural doodles that sound nice as commuting music, but nothing stands out like Feel Good Inc, Clint Eastwood or 19-2000.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

24 hours until "Cesc to Barca" concludes

Barcelona claimed that the Cesc Fabregas deal would be done within 48 hours, and 24 hours have elapsed since that claim. There's only 24 hours left for the biggest deal in Europe to take place. Joan Laporta's getting desperate, and has called up Jack Bauer to hurry things along:

Jack's got Wenger strapped to a chair in a dingy North London apartment and he's breaking Wenger's fingers one by one. Wenger gives a Gallic shrug with each sickening crack, and Jack's getting annoyed. Pretty soon, he's going to have to do to Wenger what he did to that Arab terrorist a few seasons ago...

Ivan Gazidis has Joan Laporta in a headlock and is screaming at him to tell the media that they're not after Fabregas. Laporta slips out of Gazidis' grip and elbows him sharply in the neck. Gazidis grunts and then karate-chops Laporta. He drags Laporta to the toilet and repeatedly flushes Laporta's head in the bowl. But still Laporta won't refute the Cesc to Barcelona stories in front of the media...

Cesc is stuck at Heathrow, and his flight to Barcelona's in one hour. His girlfriend's on the Tube and there's a delay on the line. He's frantically calling her, wondering if she'll make it in time. He's dreaming of tapas and sunshine and the brilliant blue of the Med. He doesn't want to have to wait for another flight to leave London behind...

Peter Hill-Wood is out in the backyard of his Kensington mansion, pottering around. He's been on gardening leave since David Dein took over from the club. He doesn't want Cesc to leave either, but who gives a fuck what Hill-Wood thinks? He doesn't have much of a say nowadays, and contents himself with smoking fine cigars, chairing the board and talking shit to the tabloids every month or so...

And all the while, the clock's ticking. Will Jack finish off all of Wenger's fingers and have to start with his toes? Will Gazidis hunt down the rest of the Barca board once he's finished with Laporta? Will Cesc's girlfriend make it to Heathrow in time? Will Peter Hill-Wood find time to say something truly stupid to the tabloids again?

Guess we'll have to find out tomorrow, next episode.

So on the 338th last day of my 20s, I took my parents out for breakfast for my dad's 60th. Had a look at buying a new pair of running shoes, noticed the sports store have is stocking Arsenal shirts now. Thought briefly about one or the other, and then realised that if Wenger's not going to be stuffed with spending our money on players, I'm not going to be stuffed spending money on their shirts.

Went to a church function after work, fully intent on asking the girl of my dreams out. Keyed up for it. Looked around the room for her, couldn't find her. Bumped into her sister instead, and was told, in the kindest blunt manner possible, that I had no chance and to save myself the impending pain of rejection and consequential awkwardness.

This is going to kill me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So, Cesc's really going to Barca?

This must be how England felt when Europe fell to Nazi Germany.

Barcelona have just signed Valencia striker David Villa for £34.2million, subject to a medical. He'll sign a 4 year deal and probably replace Henry in the left forward role. But Barcelona aren't pausing for breathe. They've conquered Europe, signed up the biggest gun striker in Spain, and now they're training their eyes across the Channel.

Next up in their sights is Cesc Fabregas.

Barcelona's been at Cesc for years now, but every summer Cesc has always politely refuted claims that he's ready to leave. This time it's a bit different. This time, Cesc said:

Whether this is a sign of Cesc really wishing to leave Arsenal, or whether it's just exasperation at the end of the season, is something we'll find out in the next few weeks. If it's true, it'll be sad to see Cesc go, but truth be told, I'm also happy for him as well. It's not like he's a money-grubbing, glory-hunting Judas. Cesc just wants to go home, hang with his mates, train under his childhood idol, play for his boyhood club... it just sounds really exciting. If it wasn't for the fact it'll gut our midfield, I'm sure every gooner would wish him nothing but success.

So what would happen if we lost Cesc Fabregas? Will we crack open the transfer kitty and actually buy some players? Or will we just hope Nasri, Diaby and the others will step up next season? It'll be interesting to see, but whatever happens, the Arsenal will be much diminished next year. You can't just replace the guy who's been the heart-beat to the side.

I suppose in about three or four years, we'll have Wilshere and Ramsey in the middle of the park, with Coquelin or Eastmond as our holding midfielder. Song would've slipped into centre-back to partner Vermaelen. Vela and Walcott will be the outside forwards, and Bendtner would be our centre-forward. In three or four years' time, we might well have that youthful side brimming with promise that Wenger's always been on about. But in three or four years' time, Cesc, van Persie, Arshavin and Sagna will all have reached or past their peak. They'd be foolish to waste their careers waiting for a side that may or may not come of age.

So if you're leaving, Cesc, good luck. I wish you all the best.

So on the 339th last day of my 20s, I went to work. Had dinner with a mate, who spent two hours persuading me to call the girl of my dreams and ask her out. Sweated in the car for about ten minutes before calling her. We had a bit a chat, but then I lost mobile connection before I had the guts to ask her. It should've been the first thing I asked her, but I got lost in the sound of her voice in my ear.

Damn, she's amazing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Aren't Transfer Circuses Supposed To Be Fun?

I don't understand why people call the summer transfer season a "circus", as if it was a bad thing. Circuses are usually quite fun for the audience. You get to see acrobats and clowns, eat fairly floss, and clap delightedly as men in top hats whip lions in a cage. It's probably not that great for the animals involved, but from an audience point of view, a night at the circus can be quite entertaining.

Similarly, a transfer season is usually the nicest part of a football fan's year. You get to dream of all the great players your side will sign. On the downside, you worry about the players who are coming out of contract, but then you get to feel all that relief when they commit to a few more years to the club. For a couple of months, you can dream of success in the upcoming season. Sure, like a circus, it's all make-believe - when the transfer season ends and the clown wipes away his heavy makeup, you're left with a wrinkled old man with fluorescent hair who didn't sign anyone because it might kill his existing players - but it's still fun while it lasts.

So while in all probability, we're not going to sign a new 'keeper, we can still dream about signing Hugo Lloris or Andriy Pyatov(?). We can dream about the perfect defender / defensive midfielder who will offer strength, determination, presence, leadership, experience, youth, tactical discipline, aerial presence, a clean medical history and be an EU national to boot. We can dream about an Arsenal that we know we deserve, and for a couple of months, there's no one around to tell us anything different.

Hope springs eternal, you know.

Then there's the flip-side. And while it's a bit distressing to hear another "Cesc to Barca" story, you can always appreciate their creativity. Like this comment from Barcelona vice-president, Rafael Yuste, about Barcelona's interest in David Villa and Cesc Fabregas:

The thing I love about this comment is how Yuste simultaneously claims that Barcelona is honouring Arsenal's contract with Cesc ("it is very important to talk to his club") and yet admits that they're tapping Cesc up like crazy ("what makes it easier is that both players want to come to Barca"). It's breath-taking in its audacity, and it rivals anything that Dennis Lachter can come up with. Although, why Barcelona are so intent on Cesc this season is a bit puzzling.

Personally, I don't think it's the right time for Cesc to move to Barcelona. He's not going to push Xavi out of the side, and Guardiola's too pragmatic to go for Cesc - Xavi - Ineista in the midfield. He'd be an expensive super-sub, and frankly, that's a luxury that Barcelona can't afford. They've other positions to worry about (left back and left wing, for example). I'm sure Cesc is tempted by the thought of playing under Guardiola and with his mates from La Masia, but he's always been a sensible kid and the sensible thing is to wait for another couple of years and then join Barcelona when Xavi's starting to decline.

So on the 340th last day of my 20s, I went for a jog and then went to work, thought about resigning but decided to wait another week, went out for dinner with my family to celebrate Dad's 60th. My brother's got a toothache, and if he's in bad pain tomorrow I'll have to do it. Had a talk with my sister-in-law about the girl of my dreams - came to the conclusion I should suck it up and just ask her out. I mean, what's the worst that could happen, other than rejection, humiliation and massive emotional distress? And how would that be different from any other day of my life?

Listened to a bit of Indigo Girls in the car today. The CD buyer at the local library has similar tastes to me (indie folk-punk, 90s electro-rock-pop with a slice of mainstream hip hop), and she appears to be quite a fan of Indigo Girls. So I thought I'd give it a go. It's not bad, but I have the same problem with this band as I do with Ani DiFranco - I feel out-of-place listening to it with a penis.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mourinho disses the Arsenal

"Arsenal won it in an incredible way [2003-04] and after that they thought they could win in a different way. They cannot win it in a different way. Either they go back to where they were or they don’t do it."

- Jose Mourinho, winning it in the regular way

Jose Mourinho's won the double in Italy, and is on track to win the treble. Inter have won the Serie A for three or four years running. Mourinho has now won stuff in three different leagues, and come the end of the month, he may've won two Champions Leagues with two different clubs.

So I suppose Jose Mourinho's got a reason to be a bit smug.

If it was anyone else saying something like that, I'd agree. Arsenal can't do it with a paper-thin squad, a shit 'keeper, and no tactical discipline at all. Arsenal can't do it with a cavalier attitude towards defence. Arsenal can't do it with a crap medical staff. But most of all, Arsenal can't do it if we keep selling players without replacing them with similar quality, and then fob off our lack of ambition by saying stuff like "qualifying for the Champions League is a trophy".

However, since it's Jose Mourinho saying this stuff, I've got to disagree. I kind of wish that Wenger will shelve the cheque-book, resign Almunia and Fabianski on mega-long contracts, and try to win the Premier League next season with a 2-4-4 formation. And I kind of sympathise with Wenger for his stubbornness. If Mourinho was taking pot-shots at me, I'd be wanting to prove him wrong as well.

The thing about the Wenger era is that it's been a series of "almost-there" seasons, punctuated by a couple of teams of supernova-bright brilliance that outshone every trophy in the world. The late 90s side, the early 00s side... these were team of such transcendent beauty that it doesn't matter that they didn't rule the Premier League like they should've. We had three perfect seasons.

Mourinho has had many trophies and many seasons of success. He's won the Champions League, he's won league titles, he's knocked the Greatest Side In The World out of Europe, and he's odds-on to win the treble this season. But how many perfect seasons have he had? And would he trade it all in for a season managing the Invincibles?

Well, no. And if you're honest with yourself, you'd take the groaning shelves of shiny trophies over a perfect season as well. But still, Wenger doesn't see it that way. He's after one last perfect season before he retires. And you don't get to make a perfect season by playing football the regular way.

So on the 341st last day of my 20s, I went to work, came home, had dinner, wrote in the blog. Quite tired at the moment. Maybe watch some TV and then go to bed. Thinking about resigning tomorrow.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ashley C***'s won the double

"I came here to win trophies and this is the third one I've won here. It is a great achievement for me and I'm very happy and to do the double here is fantastic."

- Ashley C***, happy to win trophies with Chelsea

Well, Chelsea beat Portsmouth in the FA Cup. It's a little sad because Portsmouth is staring into the abyss of financial doom, and a shiny new trophy would've made everyone a little bit happier. It's also sad because it means Ashley C*** gets to say things like the above.

C*** left the Arsenal and signed for Chelsea. He was stiffed on a contract and run off to Chelsea looking for a new deal. When Arsenal found out, we hung him out to dry, and he got angry about it. He signed for Chelsea, and five years down the track, he's got another double and we're fielding a team of mediocre young footballers instead of experienced pros.

A footballer's life is lived within the span of ten or so seasons. If you take aside the fact that C*** is a c*** of the highest order, you've got to admit he did the right thing for his career. You don't want to spend it waiting around for your colleagues to grow up. You want to be in thick of things, winning things, living out all your dreams without regrets of what might have been. Hang around and wait for years and years, and you might have nothing to show for it. Jump ship and hang onto something real, and who knows? You might find everything you're looking for.

So on the 342nd last day of my 20s, I went to church, went to lunch and had fish and chips, had a chat with a mate who's about to redo his high school diploma, and came home and had dinner with my brother and his family. I met my nurse at the church, and I agreed to met up with the girl she vaguely knows. It's the sensible thing to do. As my mate said, I should keep my options open.

The girl of my dreams is tired or depressed, and disinterested in me. She has problems of her own and I'd loved to talk to her about them, but she doesn't confide in me. I talk to her, and ask her stuff. She replies, but just she's being nice, and she's killing me with her politeness. I'm just a stranger to her, and you don't show your true self to a stranger. If I had a chance with her, I'd wait for her forever, but if I don't have a chance...

Maybe Ashley C*** was right.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Signings or Sign Out

Does a gooner have the right to protest?

I'm thinking about that sign at the Emirates for the Fulham game, "Signings or Sign Out". And there have been talks about a black scarf day at the Emirates Cup if we fail to sign a 'keeper over the summer. And there was that shareholder's Q&A last year, when Wenger was questioned about his penchant for signing geriatric French defenders. These are signs of discontent amongst gooners.

Peter Hill-Wood probably thinks it's a sign that supporters are getting a bit lippy, and need to be flogged, or sent to the gallows or the colonies, or whatever they do with commoners who dare to question their betters. Ivan Gazidis probably takes the pragmatic view that for every gooner who tears up their season ticket in digust, there's ten more willing to take their place. And Arsene Wenger is probably speechless that there are gooners out there who think 3rd place isn't a trophy.

So how much say should a supporter have in how their club is run?

Clubs tend to emphasize the unique bond between a club and their supporters, and rely on unwavering loyalty from their supporters. Supporters spend a lot of their disposable income on season tickets, new kits every year, programmes, away tickets... and all in the name of "supporting the team". No other commerical entity enjoys such financial commitment from its customer. You don't see kids walking into MacDonald's dressed like Ronald MacDonald and singing songs about the Hamburgler.

And yet, are clubs held accountable to the wishes of their supporters?

Considering that I'm half a world away from the Arsenal, I'm not the best judge of it, but I'd have to say no. We get stage-managed Q&A events with the pre-approved questions and smiles all around. Discontent is vociforiously shouted down as "disloyalty". Banners are taken down mid-match. From half a world away, I get the impression that our club thinks that supporters should be seen, should pay for merchandise and provide an atmosphere at home games, but they definitely should not be heard.

It's a disappointing turn of events. A club, if open and accountable, would allow discontent to raise its head. It would listen to criticism, try and see what it can do to help, and then change its approach to accomodate the disenfranchised supporter. Stifling opposition will encourage the bitterness to spread.

It's not difficult to understand the basis of the doom and gloomer argument: use the money we have to buy experienced players to create a squad that can challenge for the league; don't use the money to fund a youth policy that's creating lazy, unmotivated, untacitcally undisciplined footballers; do everything in your power (within reason) to compete as hard as you can in every competition you're in.

These are emeniently reasonable points. You can say what you want about debt and interest rates and fiscal responsibility, but I think we've taken our eye off the ball. A club is in place to advance the dreams of its supporters. The dream of supporters is to win stuff. A club the size of the Arsenal has a duty to do everything in its power to support those dreams.

And no, Wenger, 3rd place isn't a trophy.

So on the 343rd last day of my 20s, I went for a jog, went to work, came home, ate two lunches, and had a nap. I do like a good nap. At work, my nurse (not the weird sex dream one) offered to set me up with a girl she vaguely knows. She knows virtually nothing about her, other than her availability.

My nurse tried setting me up with her cousin last year - I took her out a couple of times and I ended up pissing them both off within a month. So I guess she's learnt her lesson - only set me up with girls she can afford to let go. I'm of two minds about it; my heart's not in it for the obvious reason... but as my mate has repeatedly told me, I have no chance with the girl of my dreams.

So why not?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chamakh's not going to kill van Persie

"He looks a good player. He is strong in the air and scores lots of goals with his head. He looks confident on the ball so hopefully the transfer goes through. It is good for all of us to have competition and that's why I am happy to see him coming."

- Robin van Persie, regarding Marouane Chamakh's imminent arrival

Well, van Persie doesn't think that Chamakh's arrival will kill him. In fact, van Persie seems to relish the prospect of having another striker in the squad. So maybe the arrival of new, experienced players doesn't have mean the death of one of our bright young things.

With Chamakh and van Persie both looking for a starting spot, there's been a couple of theories about how we'll line up next season:

The first theory is that we'll revert to a traditional 4-4-2. Personally, I don't think it's likely. The reason we moved from a 4-4-2 was because we didn't have the box-to-box players to play in central midfield. We needed a dedicated defensive midfielder to sit in front of the defence and cover for the surging runs of our kamikaze centre-backs. I don't think that that's changed in the intervening 12 months. If anything, we're more likely to need TWO defensive midfielders to cover for our kamikaze centre-backs, our suicidal full-backs and our manic-depressive goalkeepers.

The second theory is that we're going to see van Persie at the head of a 4-3-3, with Chamakh replacing Bendtner on the right. For whatever reason, Wenger loves his weird right-wing centre-forward idea. And it worked fairly well early in the season. We used it to release pressure from the midfield, and I remember Bendtner got a lot of free headers in the early games. Chamakh's got the mobility to play that role, and his work-rate is pretty good. And when van Persie gets his inevitable four-month lay-off, we'll see Chamakh slide over to the middle, and Bendtner will start on the right.

I'm actually quite excited about Chamakh joining the Arsenal. From what I've seen from Bordeaux's matches in the Champions League, he's an intelligent, hard-working centre-forward who can lead the line, stretch the defence, has a header like a mountain goat, and who lacks a bit of presence in front of goal. He's perfect for Arsenal. My mouth is watering in anticipation of all those chances he'll create and then fuck up.

Whatever the case, I don't think we'll be seeing any body-bags outside the Emirates this summer.

Incidentally, if Arshavin leaves, I'd like us to start playing Walcott on the left. I think Theo's a lovely boy on the right wing, but he'd be a much nicer boy on the left. That way he'll make the most of his three gifts - niceness, blinding speed, and a decent finish. I think it's a bit of a waste trying to turn him into an outside winger if he can't cross, can't beat his man with the ball, and has poor decision-making skills. He's better off cutting in from the left and shooting on sight. He can be the left-wing Freddie of the '10s.

In other news, Cesc Fabregas is suffering from the impatience of youth. As he told Marca:

I suppose a month can seem like a long time when you're young. When you're in school, a two week term-holiday can feel like forever. I'm guessing that it's much the same with footballers and their summer vacations. I wouldn't read too much into this quote. Cesc is probably kicking around at home, gotten bored with all his Playstation games, and is wondering what he's going to do until it's time to jet off to South Africa. Two whole weeks with nothing to do??? He's going to go crazy.

So on the 344th last day of my 20s, I went to work, came home, ate a pie and a couple of chicken drumsticks. I had one of those disturbing sex dreams about one of my nurses the other day, and it's made working with her these past couple of days a bit weird. It makes me start noticing things about her that I really shouldn't be noticing in a work environment. She's blonde, petite, and has interesting features in all the usual places... and every fortnight she goes into the hills with her brothers to shoot rabbits and foxes.

So I'm thinking maybe not. I draw the line with girls who are proficient with firearms and able to hit moving targets from a distance. It's a sensible precaution for a guy who's ended up pissing off every girl he's ever met.

Listened to Fleet Foxes' eponymous album in the car today - it's quite interesting, like a collection of gothic, folksy, agricultural hymnals. I've never heard anything like it. Listening to Bic Runga's Beautiful Collision at the moment, which isn't nearly as interesting but which is a nice sugar-poppy way to end the day.

All in all, a disquieting day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Are we going to kill Szczesny?

Wenger's going to have to decide whether to kill Wojciech Szczesny.

In the past few weeks, we've been linked with Gianluigi Buffon, Igor Akinfeev, Joe Hart, Pepe Reina, Diego Lopez, etc,. If any of these rumours are true, we're going to invest a lot of money on a 'keeper who's going to be charge for quite a few years. If we get one of the young 'keepers, like Hart or Akinfeev, we might have one for the next decade. Young Wojciech might only be 19, but depending on who we buy, he may find that the door's slammed shut on his chances by the end of the summer.

If we manage to get a 'keeper of the calibre of Lloris or Akinfeev, I'd personally lead Wojciech out behind the shed and shoot him myself. We need a great 'keeper at the Arsenal, and I don't see the point in spending £20-£30m on a 3-4 year 'keeper like Buffon when we could get someone who could play for the next decade. There's no such thing as spending too much on a young 'keeper - they're like property, you know the good ones will appreciate with time.

Of course, we're likely to prevaricate, and wait for Wojciech to grow up. Another three, four years, and he'll probably be at the same stage as an Akinfeev, Lloris or Hart. Still, that means three or four more years of watching Almunia flap at corners and Fabianksi suffering emotional breakdowns on the pitch.

It's not going to be a pretty 3-4 years.

In other news, it looks like William Gallas is on his way out of the club. He was demanding a two-year, £80,000 a week contract, and Peter Hill-Wood told him (quite possibly literally) to fuck off. Gallas is likely to sign with Paris-SG, who can't pay as much as we can, but who can offer the attraction of not having to play in front of Almunia.

Peter Hill-Wood said:

It makes me wonder if Peter Hill-Wood is involved in transfer negotiations personally. It would explain why we failed to resign Cole, Flamini and Pires in the past, and apparently have now failed to resign Gallas. Someone should take Hill-Wood aside and quietly explain that the "take it or fuck off" gambit doesn't quite work when the player has better offers from rival clubs.

So on the 345th last day of my 20s, I skipped my run because it's been raining. I listened to The Cure and Jeff Buckley. I wrote a resignation letter, and I'm quite proud of it. Now I just have to decide when it's expedient to hand it in.

Had dinner with an old uni friend whom I haven't seen in months. Had a chat. He hasn't changed since uni. I suppose he's found his niche in life and he's just chilling. Then again, I suppose I haven't changed much, either.

I would never have thought it while still at uni, but I kind of miss it. At uni, you take the people you hang out with for granted, you think they're always going to be there. When you graduate, and go off on your separate paths, it's that much harder to keep in touch. And as Mary Schmich once said, you need to "work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young."

I didn't understand it when I first heard the song, but I'm starting to understand it now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The 346th last day of my 20s

There's not a lot of Arsenal news going on, is there?

I'm a bit tired to do a post-season review, and besides, I think I did one a while back. I don't really see the point of doing another one, since it would be a carbon-copy of last year's one: good in the beginning, "unexpected" injuries to key players, mid-season lull, end of season revival, finishing 3rd or 4th with the promise that our young players are "ready to step up" next season.

If we get the right players, then there will be change. If we get the right coaching personnel, or if we start coaching defence, then there will be change. But if we keep going on this youth policy without tweaking the side, we're going to be in the exact same position in 12 months' time.

It's a bit annoying.

So on the 346th last day of my 20s, I woke up, played a bit with my baby nephew, went to work, spent an hour in a staff meeting wondering at the pettiness that workplace interactions can inspire, had dinner with a mate and came home. Found out that this mate's best friend is the girl of my dreams' ex-boyfriend. Getting information from him was like trying to squeeze blood out of a stone, though.

My nephew's growing up so quickly. He's almost ready to crawl. He can get on all fours for a couple of seconds. He can wiggle around on his belly like a polar-fleece clad caterpillar. He's so close to putting it all together, and he knows it. There's this look of intense concentration when I put things just a couple of inches out of his reach, and he's striving to get them. Maybe this week, maybe the next... and then my little nephew will be just that little bit more independent, just a little bit more ready for the big, bad world.

I realise I'm phoning in a lot of posts these days, but that's the monotony of life, isn't it? Stuff happens in its own sweet time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The 347th last day of my 20s

On the 347th last day of my 20s, I went for a jog and came up with a new Arsenal song, specifically with the doom and gloomer in mind. To the tune of Friday I'm In Love by The Cure:

I don't care if Clichy's poo
Bendtner's shit and Walcott too
Almunia, I don't care about you
It's Arsenal, I'm in love

Arshavin's such a transfer tart
Diaby plays without a heart
Vela doesn't even start
It's Arsenal, I'm in love

Fabregas, waits
van Persie's leg will always break
But Wenger still prevaricates....

I don't care if Nasri's crap
Denilson plays like he's a hack
We're only going to sign Chamakh
It's Arsenal, I'm in love

Eboue, you can hold your head
Tomas, Ramsey stay in bed
Wookash, drops the ball instead
It's Arsenal, I'm in love

Fabregas, waits
van Persie's leg will always break
But Wenger still prevaricates....

Otherwise I went to work, did stuff, came home.Another phone-in day. Played with my nephew in the morning and during my lunch break. He's much happier in the morning than in the evenings.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The 348th last day of my 20s

On the 348th last day of my 20s, I went to work, came home, had dinner, took a shower, went to sleep. Today was a perfect example of a phone-in day. If I did anything of note, it must've happened when I was asleep.

My brother's off in Hervey Bay in Queensland for a couple of weeks for work. So my sister-in-law and my nephew are staying over for a couple of nights. It's nice coming home and seeing my nephew. He's such a cute little kiddie. Doesn't help that uncomfortable feeling that I'm stepping into my brother's shoes, though....

Oh, and the Arsenal finished 3rd. It's a small improvement from last season, but we're still very far from where we want to be. Let's not be satisfied with small victories, Arsene - let's use it as a spur for greater things.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The 349th last day of my 20s

I was planning on watching Fulham vs Arsenal later tonight, but my head feels like it's going to explode, so maybe not. I'm nauseous enough at the moment without having to think about Silvestre and Fabianski in the same Arsenal line-up. Anyway, we can't lose this match. If we win we're 3rd, and we don't need to play a Champions League qualifying tie. If we lose, we're probably 4th, and we get the match-gate receipts for a Champions League qualifying tie. So really, it's a win-win for the Arsenal!

In other news, Inter Milan are going to try to sign Cesc Fabregas in order to persuade Jose Mourinho to stay. Real Madrid are going to try to sign Cesc Fabregas in order to persuade Jose Mourinho to join them. Man City will probably jump in and try to sign Cesc Fabregas, Jose Mourinho, the entire Inter Milan defensive line-up, all Real Madrid's galacticos, and a partridge in a pear tree.

So should we be worried? Luckily, Arsenal are in the box-seat for this one - all we have to do to persuade Cesc Fabregas to stay is to hire a defensive coach, sign a few experienced pros to bulk up the squad, and get a new fucking 'keeper. It shouldn't be that hard to do all that. Sadly though, I think it's more likely for City to buy the entire Inter Milan 1st team, than for Wenger to address our faults in the summer.

So on the 349th last day of my 20s, I went for a jog, went to church, went out for lunch and was delighted to find out that the girl of my dreams has incredibly geeky tastes (well, she's the girl of my dreams for a reason), developed a migraine and spent most of the arvo in bed. Then I got up, had dinner, typed this blog, and am currently thinking very hard about sleeping the rest of the night through.

Fulham vs Arsenal? I think I'll pass. To paraphrase Linda Evangelista, I don't get out of bed for anything less than an end-of-season title-deciding match.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

We're back to "Internal Solutions"

"If we bring some players in then they have to be experienced. I think we have been in the race this year with the team we had. We will be stronger next year just with the internal improvement and with the experience these players will have."

- Arsene Wenger, on the dreaded internal solutions

The Telegraph considers the above quote to be a tantalising sign that Wenger's going to go for a big-name signing. I consider the above quote to be a deflating sign that Wenger believes in the status quo and that no significant changes will occur over summer.

The reason I believe there's not going to be a change this summer is that Wenger's been saying we're only in the market for "top-class" signings ever since we sold Vieira and forgot to replace him. Since then, we've signed players like Fabianksi, Silvestre and Campbell, promoted Almunia, and we're STILL only in the market for "top-class" players.

Wenger thinks we're going to improve naturally through internal improvement. I've got doubts about this. Bendtner and Song have improved. Diaby and Nasri have shown glimpses of their potential. Walcott has been missing all season. Denilson has been a bit lightweight. Unless Wenger sprinkles some fairy dust over all these players, they're not going to magically turn into world-beaters.

Actually, I wouldn't mind relying on internal solutions if we managed to employ a hard-line defensive coach to instil some hunger, pride and tactical awareness in our youngsters. Our performances since Tottenham have been rather limp. I tend to think we've got a good range of players at the club, but they lack application and a winning mentality. In the early weeks of this season, we saw how awesome our team could be if we're hungry, determination and willing to press for every ball. The reason we faded away was that our application tailed off as the season wore on. What we need next season is a sustained effort across the whole season. If we get that, I think we can challenge again next season.

But then again, a good 'keeper wouldn't go astray....

So on the 350th last day of my 20s, I felt uncomfortably like I was acting as my brother's surrogate. My brother's off interstate for a couple of weeks for work. Yesterday I went clothes shopping with my sister-in-law and my baby nephew, and as she later remarked, that kid could've been misconstrued as being mine. And today, I had an early Mother's Day lunch with my parents, my sister-in-law and my baby nephew, and my brother's in-laws. I don't know how that came about, but it was a bit strange; and mildly disturbing, to say the least.

No wonder my nephew been looking at me strangely. He can't quite figure it out, either.

Friday, May 7, 2010

For a second, I seriously considered Buffon for Fabregas

Juventus are going to offer Gianluigi Buffon to us in exchange for Cesc Fabregas. The sad thing is that our goalkeeping situation is that bad that I'd actually consider it for a few seconds. We can make do without Cesc Fabregas in a 4-3-3 (Nasri and Ramsey have to step up, though). We can't make do with another season of Almunia or Fabianksi in goal, though.

It brings to mind other fantastical swap exchanges that might happen. Say, Arshavin for Pedro and Busquets. We lose an enigmatic 29 year-old winger-playmaker-forward, and we gain a couple of young players who can know how to play a 4-3-3. Or maybe Gallas, Nasri and Diaby for Lloris. We get the best young goalkeeper in the world, and they get an injury-crooked defender and a couple of talented, disappointing midfielders.

It's going to be an interesting transfer season. We bought Chamakh on a free. We're losing Gallas on a free. We're bringing in (at most) two more players. One of them will be Gallas' replacement. Which leaves £15m (in transfer and wages) for another player - either a goalkeeper or a defensive utility who can play holding midfield and centre-back. So really, we've only got the funds to strengthen two areas of our team (attack and either goalkeeper or defence). It's looking like a choice between two evils.

So on the 351st last day of my 20, I went shopping for a jacket with my sister-in-law. She's got an effective screening technique - grab a lot of them, head to the dressing room and try them on. It's different from my normal shopping technique, which is to walk around getting steadily more flustered, until I panic and grab something at random. I think her technique's more effective than mine. This time around, I got something that actually fits.

It's 3 hours later, and I must say, it's a damn fine jacket. It has to be the best thing I've bought in a couple of years. I think I'll sleep in it tonight.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lachter isn't working for Arshavin anymore?

"Denis Lachter has not been representing my interests for a year now, he is not my agent. He does not have any information regarding my prospects and career plans, so his statements about my future endeavors shouldn’t be taken for a fact or paid attention to."

- Andrei Arshavin, from his official website

I've been following the Arshavin to Barcelona story fairly closely so far. I think Dennis Lachter is an evil genius of a football agent, and I admire the sheer amorality of his work. This guy does everything he can to get his client the best deal. And if the above quote is true, he's even willing to do it for his former clients as well.

What a guy!

Ordinarily, I'd see this a pretty firm denial of everything Lachter's said. But then again, this IS Dennis Lachter we're talking about. It's not beyond Lachter to get Arshavin to deny any official link with him, thus allowing Lachter free reign to wreck havoc without any of damage falling onto Arshavin. Actually, it's not beyond Lachter to fake his own death, then declare in his video will that his last wish was for Arsenal to sell Arshavin to Barca.... with Lachter getting a £3m posthumous agent fee.

I'm not sure what's going to happen next. It could be that Lachter goes deep undercover, and won't surface until the World Cup, when we find out that he's sold Pedro to Man City for £100m, and Arshavin's been trialling secretly at Barca. It could be that Lachter starts making even more outlandish comments about Arshavin, Arsenal and Barca. Whatever the case, I'm hooked. It'll be much better viewing than the World Cup.

In other "news", Chamakh acknowledges his pre-contract with us, and admits he's going to be an Arsenal player in 11 days' time. He says:

Chamakh's getting quite emotional about moving here. I can sympathise. I've been quite emotional after our recent run of results. I can imagine Chamakh feeling a couple very strong emotions about the thought of joining such a squad next season. Well, he's signed already, so he's not in a position to back out now.

Where is he going to play? Probably up on the right when van Persie's well, and he'll probably move into the centre when van Persie breaks down. He's fast enough, strong enough, holds up the ball and has a good header. He'll do as a centre-forward, and if we can keep the other players interested, hard-working and injury-free, we might do alright next season.

So on the 352nd last day of my 20s, I woke up, had a run, went to work, came home. Not a lot else happened. My shoulder aches, and I'm finding it hard to get it past horizontal. Think lI'll take a shower.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Guardian wants Arsenal to sign Joe Hart

The Guardian thinks that Wenger thinks that Joe Hart should sign for Arsenal. It's difficult to tell, because the Guardian don't offer any quotes from Wenger, but if it's printed in a national paper, surely it's true? I suppose there's little chance of it happening, since Hart will be needed to cover for Given's injury, but still, it's nice to dream that we'll soon field a 'keeper who isn't either Fawlty or Flappintaski.

I'm not convinced that Joe Hart is the way to go. He's still very young, and has just had his break-thorough year at Birmingham. Next season, he'll have a more difficult run. If he plays for the Arsenal, he'll be stuck behind a kamikaze back four, and a team that doesn't practice set-plays. There is a fair chance that he'll be loaded with unrealistic expectations, and when he fails, he'll be jeered and booed until my throat is hoarse.

It'll be better for him if he stayed at a club which values defending.

I'd like a 'keeper with a bit of experience. Buffon is apparently thinking about leaving Juventus. If he does, I'd like us to buy him. He's probably off his peak, but he'd still be a great 'keeper for us. Or anyone, really, just as long as they'll be able to handle 'keeping in front of a defence that collapses whenever it feels like it.

So on the 353rd last day of my 20s... it wasn't my day at work. Things didn't turn out well. Nothing bad happened, but things were counter-productive. I finally gave up one hour before closing time, shut up shop and finished work. Nothing good was going to come out of that day. Had dinner with my mate and his wife, talked a bit more about her sister. Well, they talked and I whinged. Those two have the patience of saints.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Backburn wins and I don't care

Is there anyone fit for the Arsenal these days?

I got up this morning to look at the Arsenal results, and we lost 1-2 to Blackburn. I was so indifferent I didn't even read the match report. I checked my email and looked at my Facebook instead. It wasn't until the evening that I bothered to check the line-up. After I saw the line-up, I realised that a loss was reasonable, always on the cards, and the result of a simple equation: Fabianski + Silvestre = Fail.

It leaves us having to get a point or more against Fulham to secure third place. It would be squeaky bum-time if 3rd place was a prize worth fighting for. But no one's really worried, especially not Wenger. After the match, our manager said:

I suppose we don't need to worry about what Tottenham or Man City do because 3rd is just as good as 4th. Both give you a Champions League qualifying spot. 4th gives you a potentially tougher draw, but stronger opponents also gives you better gate receipts in the qualifiers. When you're an economic manager, you have to think about such things.

One other thing that an economic manager has to look out for is the health of our returning young players. Håvard Nordtveit, a young man with a promising future as a centre-back, is planning on going rock climbing in the summer. Considering the impending departures of Gallas, Silvestre and Campbell, it might pay to dissuade Håvard from his plans, and carefully wrap him up in five metres of bubble wrap. Because considering the alacrity with which Fate seems to dole out freakish accidents to Arsenal players, it is highly possible that while climbing, Håvard might break a foot / strain a hamstring / run into an English centre-back who's "a good lad without a malicious bone in his body".

Oh well, if he makes it out of the Vats alive, there's a good chance he'll see match-time next season. Let's hope he can step up to the plate.

Anyway, last game of the season is against Fulham. An interesting question: which set of fans would be happier at the end of the season? Arsenal will (probably) finish 3rd and will make a profit. Fulham are battling mid-table, are financially reliant on a sugar-daddy, but have a first-ever Europa Cup final to contend. If you're sober and sensible, you'd say Arsenal. We can look forward to another year of Champions League football and another another of financial prudence and sporadic good form. Fulham, on the other hand, have been struck by a bolt of lightening... and we all know how many times lightening can hit the same place.

Still, how many gooners would trade places with Fulham fans? A legitimate cup run, versus financial prudence and sobriety? I see the sense in desiring safety, but I remember the excitement of the Champion League run in 05-06, and I want another one. As much as Peter Hill-Wood would like us to think, Champions League qualification isn't a "prize in itself" - at least not in a footballistic sense. Football fans get high on the fumes of trophy polish, and we haven't had much of a sniff these past few years.

So on the 354th last day of my 20s, I had a free afternoon because there was a blackout at the clinic and I can't work without electricity. Made it home before the storm started. Played a bit with my baby nephew, who kept crying whenever he looked at me. Tried to make plans with my parents for Mother's Day, found out that they already had plans. Started getting suspicious that they're seeing other people's children on the sly...

Monday, May 3, 2010

The 355th last day of my 20s

"Well we had those disappointing results at Tottenham and Wigan. Unfortunately that is where we lost the title. We five games to go, we were in a very strong position. I believe if we had won at Tottenham, then we would have been level with Chelsea today. And that of course brings immense regrets. But to be faithful to what we have done during the season it is important that we finish well, first to be in the top three, then be as close as possible to the top teams."

- Arsene Wenger, before the Blackburn game

It doesn't matter whether we win or lose, it's how we play the game.

That's what I've been hearing since I was in primary school. It was a useful lesson when I was twelve and I couldn't believe why other people were so stupid at maths. It was even more useful when I was seventeen, when I had become one of those "other people" who were stupid at maths. If you put your sense of worth in the results, you're never going to be satisfied, but if you put your sense of worth in the effort you put it, you're always going to be happy with the outcome.

So on the penultimate game of the season, maybe it's time to take stock of what we've done this year. We sold Adebayor and Toure, we brought in Vermaelen. We changed to a 4-3-3 and were flying before injuries brought us back into the pack. We did alright against the small clubs, but were stitched up time and again by the big clubs. Ramsey got his leg broken. Campbell came back and restored his reputation. Remarkably, we hung onto the title leaders until April, and then it all fell apart.

Was it a disappointing season? If you followed the season closely and got your hopes up when we went on that late-season winning spree, then yes. If we'd managed to strengthen in January, we would've won the league. If we'd bought a decent 'keeper, we would've won the league. If we'd had the foresight to plan for the inevitable absences of van Persie, Gallas and Song, we would've won the league. If we had any sort of defensive discipline, we would've won the league.

However, how many would've expected us to be 3rd at the end of the season? I didn't. I thought we'd be 4th, after fighting off Aston Villa and Man City all season. I never thought we'd be in contention until April. And really, that's a minor victory in itself. It's something to be glad about. We made some small improvements, and while there's still a lot of work to do before we're title contenders, we're heading in the right direction... hopefully.

Now all we have to do is: sign a fucking 'keeper, hire a defensive coach to oversee our tactical organisation; sign a fucking 'keeper; instil some discipline and hunger in our squad; sign a fucking 'keeper; bolster the squad with a few experienced players; sign a fucking 'keeper; review our medical team and our injury-management protocols; sign a fucking 'keeper.

I think I've said all this in an earlier post. But the problem is that the problems with Arsenal are remarkably clear to all. It just beggars the mind that Wenger doesn't want to acknowledge them. I hope Wenger's "immense regret" at the disappointing close to the season forces him to do some serious soul-searching over the summer, and finally address the issues that are holding us back.

As for the game against Blackburn, who really gives a fuck? I don't. I'd like us to win, but who cares about a dead match? The only thing I care about is what changes Wenger introduces in the summer.

So on the 355th last day of my 20s, I went to work, ate a cheese and herb scroll, sat in a medical centre waiting room for an hour reading Northanger Abbey, came home, had dinner, and started typing on this blog. And I kept thinking thoughts that aren't particularly constructive, and which are turning my brain into a goo of taffy-like consistency.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Blame the board, not the manager

"Anybody who is a real football fan or a real Arsenal fan will know it is David Dein who made the modern team what they are and it is he who brought us to the point we are at now. Arsene Wenger was merely, commercially appropriate."

- the blogger at Arsenal Muse

There was an interesting comment made by Arsenal Muse a couple of days ago. He said that managers and players win competitions and garner accolades, but it's the club which is ultimately responsible for success. Which, I suppose, means that it's the board that sets the agenda for the manager, the board that signs off on transfer funding and wages, the board which pressures the manager into either striving for trophies or playing within their finances.

No prizes for guessing where our board's priorities lie.

I think the reason for most gooners' exasperation at the board stems from lack of clarity at our goals. Either we're a club with the finances to legitimately challenge for the league, or we're not. Either we have the resources to buy the three players we need to complete the squad, or we don't. Either we make a full-bloodied challenge for the Premier League, or we dick around with a youth policy that's confusing and contradictory. It's irritating when we're constantly told one thing, but all evidence points to the other.

A lot of malcontents blame Wenger for everything. It's Wenger's fault that: we've got a squad filled with injury-prone players; we've tactically inept; we field shit goalkeepers; we have indulgent, spoilt young players who can't deal with pressure. While Wenger can be blamed for some of these things (tactics and player motivation are managerial issues) I think the lack of pressure from the board also creates a certain indulgent environment at the Arsenal. Wenger know he can do whatever he wants as long as he maintains Champions League football. He's allowed to neglect defensive drills, persist with his favourites, and not be mean to his players, because he's good enough to achieve targets on a tight budget.

The question is whether this is Wenger's fault. He been given a brief to achieve Champions League football on a budget. He achieves it every year. If you look around Europe, there aren't a lot of managers who could've done what Wenger's done.

However, to retain Champions League status, Wenger's had to do something strange. He's had to over-pay his youngsters to lure them from top clubs. He's had to continue to over-pay them to stop them leaving, and often he's paying wages based on potential, not ability. So he's got a bunch of players who are over-paid and who probably can't be offloaded until their contracts have been run down. Which means that it's often more cost-effective to persist with players that aren't great at the moment, but who may be great in the future, and who are still good enough to maintain 4th.

So we're treading water to see if our young players can amount to something. It's the commercial expedient thing to do. We achieve the board's primary goal every year. We continue our "interesting experiment". And if these players suddenly to click together and get it right, we've got team that's worthy of a premiership challenge. And that's happened twice in five years, so it kind of works.

And yes, we're still indulgent on our players. And we're stupid tactically. And we don't defend set pieces. And we have a bad medical team. But these are the consequences of a complacent regime. These are the 5% that hurt our team's premiership prospects, but which don't matter much in terms of finishing in the Top 4. Think about it from Wenger's point of view - why bother with this 5% if we're going to be another 10% short for being a Premier League contender anyway? It's just not worth it.

So, my contention is that the board sets the agenda. If we're unhappy with the way the club's been run (and I am unhappy), we've got to look at the board, not the manager.

So on the 356th last day of my 20s, I had an in-depth discussion with my mate and his wife about the girl of my dreams. It turns out that I have no chance; she likes committed Christians and pretty boys, and sadly, I am neither. But my mind is being slowly torn apart with strain. I have two choices: ask her out now with the certainty of failure but with this burden lifted; or turning myself around, and asking her in about 200 days' time, but under this stress for the whole time. My mate, who's worried about my sanity, recommends the former. My mate's wife, who's not so worried about my sanity, thinks I should do the latter.

I'm leaning towards waiting and changing, and allowing my mind to get stretched like taffy in the meanwhile. She's worth the risk to my sanity. She's worth a lot of things. And I hate failure. Although, as my mate suggested, I could do both - ask her out, get rejected, work on myself, get rejected in 200 days' time...

I bought Dookie on the way home. It's a funny album. Listening to Jeff Buckley (Je N'en Connais Pas La Fin) at the moment. I love the melody - it's wistful and dreamy, and it leaves me wishing that I can still remember my high school French.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Assou-Ekotto only plays for Spuds for the money

"I don't understand why everybody lies. The president of my former club Lens, Gervais Martel, said I left because I got more money in England, that I didn't care about the shirt. I said: "Is there one player in the world who signs for a club and says, Oh I love your shirt?" Your shirt is red. I love it. He doesn't care. The first thing that you speak about is the money."

- Benoît Assou-Ekotto, in a disarmingly honest interview

You've got to hand it to Assou-Ekotto. Most players in his situation (talented enough to play in the Premier League, not talented enough to shine) would keep their mouths shut, put their heads down and toe the company line. They'd say that it's an honour to pull on the shirt, that it's an honour to play for the club, that it's an honour to be loved by the fans.... and that they'd still play for the club for free, if they had to. It's common sense - unless you've the ability of a Ronaldo or an Arshavin, it's better not to make a name for yourself. Otherwise, people might start to question why you're earning such large amounts of money for running hard, kicking hard and sticking it up some foreigners.

Assou-Ekotto, on the other hand, freely admits that he plays football for the money. And beside the obvious dig that the only reason ANYONE would play for Tottenham would be for money, what he says is quite striking - he doesn't care personally for the footballers in his team (although he agrees that they're good guys), and he sees it as a 9 to 5 with obscene wages and a very early retirement. However, because he treats it as a job, he's also thoroughly professional and gives each training session and each match his full attention.

Makes you wish that some of the Arsenal players were only in it for the money.

Of course, most football fans want players to have some connection to the club. It's nice to read about how your captain loves the club and wants to stay the rest of his career. It's nice to see the academy kids come through the ranks and play with the same club they've been at since they were 11. It might just be a platitude, but it's reassuring to believe that the players care about the club as much as we do. Otherwise, we're stripped of the illusion and left with the reality that we're contributing a lot of money to make a bunch of young 20-somethings exceedingly rich for something they may not give a toss about.

But still, I think that as long as the player gives his best on the pitch, and isn't a complete tosser off it, it's good enough for me. Football is a results-orientated business. I'd rather we sign a pay-check player who's professional enough to not fuck up every game, rather than a good guy who loves the manager and the club but who has a game-fade every match. At the moment, I think we've enough of the latter at the Arsenal.

We're up for a few signings in the summer. Chamakh will be announced before the World Cup. Gallas will probably leave, and we'll bring in another defender to replace him. And as for the third? I'm hoping a goalkeeper - no real preference on whom, just anyone who's better than Almunia and Fabianski.

Whoever our new players will be, I bet there'll be a great show of kissing of badges, love for the club, admiration for Wenger, and belief in our rolling 5-year-plan and our glorious youth project. Really, I don't care anymore, I just want a sustained effort at the Premier League next season and an end to the fuck-ups that cost us year after year after year.

On the 357th last day of my 20s, I went to work, read a bit more Northanger Abbey, was offered a personal make-over in a few weeks time by my nurse (similar advice as last week - glasses, hair gel, nice T-shirts), and had a nap. I find myself increasingly tired on a Saturday afternoon, and often need a nap. I've asked around, and it seems common with people of my age. I'm left wondering whether I should admit the inevitable and buy a couple of cardigans and comfortable slippers.

Northanger Abbey is a strange, strange book. It's so self-consciously proud of the talent of the author. It's so eager to impress. The introductory essay in my edition describes it as juvenila, and I'm being to suspect it's true. This book is like the origin film in a super-hero franchise. You can't read the book without having one eye on the future.

Also, I think Henry Tilney's a bit of a tosser.