Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Interesting Transfer rumours

So according to First Post, we're not getting Schwarzer. But we are getting Lloris for £14, and we're also getting rid of Almunia at the same time. We've also rejected an Inter Milan bid for Cesc Fabregas in exchange for Sulley Muntari and £28.7m.

I don't believe any of it. Firstly, Schwarzer for £4m is a steal. He's experienced, better than Almunia, and he's Australian. Secondly, if we're too cheap to pass on Schwarzer, we're not going to pay £14m for Lloris. Thirdly, we're not going to get rid of Almunia if we've made him the vice-captain. Fourthly, if Inter can't afford Mascherano, they sure as hell can't afford Cesc Fabregas.

I'd like it to be true. I'd like Arsenal to bid for Lloris. I'd like to be shot of Almunia. I think Fabregas for Muntari and £28.7m is cheap, but I'd love to see the reaction from Barcelona when they hear about it.

So on the 237th last day of my 20s, I watched Scott Pilgrim vs The World with some friends after work. Laughed my head off. It's the funniest film I've seen in a very, very long time. And it's not just funny. It's charming, and sweet, and intensely romantic in a daggy, nerdy, gamer kind of way. And if a girl's special, if she's the girl of your dreams... why wouldn't you be willing to fight off all her psychopathic exs in order to be with her?

Spent most of the film thinking that the GOMD would love it. She's got a great sense of humour. She's got a daggy streak in her as wide as a scientific calculator. And she's a gamer. Wish I could've taken her to see it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Jack The Peacemaker

When I first saw the headline "Jack Wilshere arrested in early hours of morning and released on bail", my immediate thought was that Jack the Lad really was "Jack The Lad". I feared that English Footballer's Disease had spread and claimed the brightest prospect at Arsenal.

I'm glad to say that I was mistaken. The police said:

What a guy! Jack Wilshere made his senior club debut at 16, his international debut at 18, and just a few nights ago, in the early hours of a London night, he has also made his debut as Keeper Of The Peace. Jack is an Arsenal player, an England player and a Peacemaker. It's just staggering to list his accomplishments so far, and mind-boggling to imagine his future deeds.

But seriously, it's impressive to see an 18 year old with the presence of mind to respond appropriately in a crisis, and the conscientiousness to help out. Well done, Jack, whatever it was you did. You're a credit to the Arsenal.

So on the 238th last day of my 20s, I went to work, caught up with a friend for dinner, played pool, came home and started blogging. Missed playing pool; haven't really played regularly since uni. Problem is that I don't see winning as a primary motive in pool - it's really more about physics and appreciation of chaos theory. Not much else happened today. Was too sleepy to get up for a run in the morning, decided to give it a miss. Had baked beans on toast for breakfast.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Arsenal 2, Blackburn 1

So we won 2-1 against Blackburn. It wasn’t a bad effort. We conceded a weak goal, we scored two good goals, and we won despite a lot of scrappy play. We had some good players and some poor players. We were let down on occasion, but mostly, we did alright.

And besides, three points from Ewood Park is always welcome.

I thought Theo had a great game. He was direct and fast, and always offered an option out wide. He’s also started shooting from distance. His goal was indicative of how he’s going to be effective in the years ahead - cutting in from wide, latching onto a through ball, cold-blooded finishing. It’s just a shame that he hasn’t really improved the winger aspects of his game. If he had the option of going out wide and crossing the ball with accuracy, then he’ll be an amazing player.

I’m not sure what happened with the conceded goal. They came down our right flank with speed. Sagna was nowhere to be seen. Koscielny drifted across to mark the winger. Vermaelen and Clichy got too square and no one was marking Mame Diouf. It’s a bit sloppy, and we scored again later, but it’s something that needs to be ironed out. Defensive discipline is important.

I found it funny when Cesc Fabregas got substituted and gave his armband to Song. Song then walked over and gave it to Vermaelen. Vermaelen then gave it to Almunia, who put it on. It just shows the leadership deficit at the club. Why is it that the only player willing to assume a leadership position is the player we’re all hoping will be displaced by a new signing? Why aren’t Song and Vermaelen eager to put on the armband? What does this say about the moral fibre of our side?

Meanwhile, Stoke are going to sue Arsene Wenger for accusing Stoke and Ryan Shawcross "of being like rugby players”. Manager Tony Pullis said:

I would find this funny as well if it wasn’t so sad, and petty and dumb. Ryan Shawcross, (a good lad without a evil bone in his body), broke Ramsey leg last February. Ramsey will be out for nearly a year, and there’s a chance he’ll never be the same again (look at Eduardo and Diaby). I think calling them “rugby players” is mild, to say the least. If I was Arsene Wenger, I wouldn’t just be making disparaging remarks in a national paper.

So on the 239th last day of my 20s, I went to church, had lunch, went home. Had lunch at the same table as the GOMD’s mother, which was a strange experience. I was torn between sucking up to her about Christianity, and taking the piss out of Christianity by being overly sanctimonious. I’m not sure how I came across. It didn’t help that my friend kept rolling her eyes and laughing whenever I said something devout. Hard to appear genuine (or be genuine) when one feels like one’s playing to a crowd.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I think I'll watch Arsenal vs Blackburn tonight

So on the 240th last day of my 20s, I went to work, had lunch with my brother and his family, checked out when the Arsenal are playing Blackburn, and will have a nap when I finish writing this post. I'm terribly tired at the moment, and will have to get up later on to watch the match.

I went to this fixture two years ago. I stayed in a hostel in Manchester, and took two buses to Blackburn. Had curry chips in a greasy chippery opposite the ground. Sat in the third or fourth row around the corner flag. Watched the Arsenal win 4-1 or 3-0. We were amazing going forward, but got scythed through the midfield whenever Blackburn had the ball. We became much more composed when Denilson (?) was replaced with Song in the second half.

That was two years ago. It's strange to think it was that long ago. In that time, Song's improved out of sight. Cesc has become one of the best midfielders in the world. But Almunia's still shite, and Arsenal are still thin in numbers and experience. We're still hovering between 3rd and 4th, and we need something cathartic to happen to make us league contenders... like buying a fucking goalkeeper.

I miss watching live football matches. I watched four Arsenal matches: two at the Ems, one at Blackburn and one at Bolton. The difference between watching the Arsenal in real life and Arsenal on TV is like.... well, it's like the difference between real life and TV. I'm going to have to go back there again to watch the Arsenal again. Maybe I'll do it when we're interested in winning trophies again.

Blackburn away is going to be a tricky fixture, mainly because Blackburn away is the continuation of Fat Sam away, and Fat Sam away is always about how weak continentals don't like it "up norf" and don't like the rough stuff. So I'm kind of worried about this one, especially since we've got Koscielny and Chamakh still getting used to the Premier League, and Almunia still getting used to being a first choice Premier League keeper.

C'mon Arsenal, let's do it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wenger says it's okay to sign 30 year olds now

"It’s not over 30, it’s over 32. So when you have a player 32 he will just get a one-year contract. It depends on the positions as well. If a central defender, then no problem to sign them until 34. But a striker is different. After 32 you go from year to year.”

- Arsene Wenger, transfer theory revisionist

Turns out that 2 + 2 = 5, four legs good but two legs better, and Oceania is at war with Eurasia and Eastasia and has been since the beginning of time. And Arsenal have an over-32-year-old policy, not an over-30-year-old one.

It's something Wenger's done to justify the signing of Squillaci from Sevilla. Squillaci's 30, a journeyman defender, and French. Wenger's done some pretty radical things in his time, but this is up there with the signings of Silvestre and Bischoff. You look at the transfer fee (€4m) and the years on the contract (3) and you wonder if that money could've been better spent on a younger player who could still give the side experience, leadership and support.

I'm getting a bit sick of seeing Wenger buying kids for the attacking positions, and buying "geriatrics" for the defensive positions. Why can't we just buy a bunch of 25-28 year olds for the key positions, and let them provide the leadership and the experience for the kids? Squillaci gets a three-year contract, will probably be okay in the Premier League for a couple of years, and then get released on a free transfer. Why not pay £15m for a Mertesacker or a Zapata and then sell him on for £15m again in four years' time?

But I'm really angry about Wenger changing his transfer policy in such an ad hoc manner. If we're extending the over-30 policy for Squillaci and Silvestre, why didn't we extend it to Pires, Gilbert Silva, Vieira? In his first ten years, Wenger created a successful footballing culture. He then gutted that culture by selling off all the experienced players, and replacing them with kids who didn't know the first thing about being part of a successful football team. And now he's realised his mistake, and he's trying to inject some experience into the side by buying cheap journeymen, washed-up defenders and experienced free transfers.

It just doesn't wash with me. I wish he'd stop trying to cover up his mistakes. He made a gross error of judgement when he let the Invincibles all leave at once. He made a mistake in Transfer Theory, but that's okay, everyone makes mistakes. But I wish he'd stop thinking we're idiots, and I wish he'd just be fucking honest for once and admit he was wrong.

So on the 241st last day of my 20s, finished up at the place in Wandin, bought some tomatoes and mushrooms and had rather too much spaghetti for lunch. Feeling rather full at the moment.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

On Arshavin and Ben Arfa

"I want to win the Champions League. [When I retire] I want to be remembered as a small Russian guy who did some magic things where people did not understand how he did it."

- Andrei Arshavin, a magician

Andrei Arshavin wants a lot of things. He wants to be a magician. He wants to be remembered as a small Russian guy. And he also wants to win the Champions League. The first is plausible. The second is probable. And the third? If he achieves that with the Arsenal, he'll definitely be remembered as a small Russian guy who does magic things.

It's difficult for Arshavin because he's being played out of position. We should really play him as a withdrawn striker behind the centre-forward, and make him the focal point of our attack. We should keep Cesc level with Song, and give Cesc the Xavi role. We should play van Persie and Walcott on the flanks, and we should have Chamkah as our centre-forward. As for Nasri, Diaby, Denilson, Rosicky, Wilshere and Eboue, we should bench them and only give them games when they show that they can (a) keep fit, and (b) work like hell during matches.

Arshavin has aspirations to do magic. Let's give him the stage to pull rabbits out of his hat.

As a aside, The First Post is linking us with Hatem Ben Arfa, with a bid of £12m being mooted. It's a signing that would kill Jack Wilshere, but I've got to admit that it's a bit tasty. I have a soft spot for fragile, attacking French play-makers. There's a certain je ne sais quoi about them. Like Nasri, who has bundles of talent but no consistency. Or Diaby, who has all the physical attributes of a great midfielder, but none of the application. These guys frustrate with their potential, but they've got so much potential that they hook you in and make you keep faith with them.

My favourite Championship Manager side has a five-man midfield of Ben Arfa, Wilshere, Fabregas and Nasri as the four inter-changing, creative attacking players, and Sankhare as the defensive anchor. It was amazing - my side played like Barcelona, but with French players in Arsenal colours. At times, it was as beautiful as watching youTube highlights from our Invincible season. And if we sign Ben Arfa, we're going to field 80% of my Championship Manager midfield. That side won over ten leagues and ten Champions Leagues in a row, was unbeaten for three years, and made a profit from transfer signings every year. Is it possible that with 80% of my CM midfield, we'll have 80% of my CM success?

I hope so.

Then again, it'll be a weird transfer if it happens. I'm not sure where we could play Ben Arfa. He's a winger / withdrawn striker type of player. He'll be competing with Cesc, Nasri, Rosicky and Arshavin for the same position. If we're buying him as cover for Frimpong, it'll be a strange, strange deal. Unless we're buying him so we can convert him into a goalkeeper....

So on the 243rd last day of my 20s, I went to work, had my hair styled, had dinner with a friend and got a couch and a bedside table. I've got a spiky, twisted kind of hair style at the moment, held together with a combination of wax and gel. It's quite a feat of engineering. I'm not sure about it. The friend who did it for me is quite impressed by her handiwork, but other people shrug their shoulders and say it's alright, but it was alright before as well. I thinking I should think less about my hair.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Financially, Arsenal’s doing well

Thinking about Arsenal’s finances, and we’re remarkably stable. When you consider that Chelsea and Man City are basically printing money to stay afloat, Liverpool is one step away from being nationalised and run by a bank, Man Utd are owned by family who are about to be squeezed by debts from both ends, Aston Villa can’t run a profit and run a proper club, and Tottenham have highly plastic accounts... the fact they we make the Champions League every year and still make a £30m profit every year is highly remarkable.

Just read an article from Swiss Ramble about Internationale. They’re owned by the Moratti family, and while you know that the club is subsidised by the family, it’s shocking to realise that they lose over €100m a year. It’s incredible that wages constitute 104% of revenue. And it’s staggering to think that Massimo Moratti’s lost €1.15 billion in his time as president. They’ve managed to win the Champions League again after 40 years(?) of trying, and they’re top dogs of Italy again after decades of dominance by Milan, but was it really worth €1.15 billion?

I think we’re probably the only big club in the world (except Bayern Munich?) which posts regular profits and stays near the top of the league. The price we’ve had to pay is that we’re not in contention for the major trophies, and we’ve had to rely on kids and journeymen instead of star players. Our financial position is something to be proud of, but I can’t help but think we’ve gone too extreme in our policy.

There’s got to be a middle road we could tread. Maybe there’s a fiscally responsible way to buy a few experienced players of the right age, temperance and ability. We could get a Kjaer or a Zapata and still turn a profit. We could hire a tactical coach to drill our team in set pieces and defensive marking. We could buy a fucking keeper who can do the job. All of these things can be done without breaking the bank.

Of course, we got into the financial position we’re in because we didn’t address our problems by throwing money at them. So maybe glaring, unsolved weaknesses are the price to pay for where we’re at.

So on the 243rd last day of my 20s, I went for a run, went to work, had dinner with a friend. Broke my vegetarian vow by having tuna at breakfast and beef vindaloo at dinner. Never mind, will start again tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Something about Jack Wilshere

"He is strong one against one, he has good commitment and it is important in the development of a player for him to start there. After, you can always push a player higher up but let's start with the difficult work. Once you do that, you can always take the easier job. And I always have many offensive players."

- Arsene Wenger, on starting Jack Wilshere in a holding midfield position

It's an interesting idea to play Jack Wilshere in front of the defence. Wilshere is regarded as one of the brightest young prospects in Europe, and he's earned that reputation as a creative, dribbling, passing, play-making kind of player. It seemed logical to give him exposure in his preferred role, but instead, Wenger's plonked him in a holding midfield position.

I suppose it's part of Wenger's philosophy to have a group of ball-playing, multi-positional footballers who can interchange with each other at will. So Jack Wilshere will learn to be as adept at marking and pressing as he is at passing and creating. And when he finally does get his chance to play in the hole, he'll have all the insights needed to impose himself on a game despite being marked by opposition midfielders.

It's something Wenger's been doing to Walcott for the past three years. He was bought as a striker, and has gained experienced on the right wing. He's got some of the skills to be a striker (pace, finishing) but not the tactical intelligence or the guile. So he's spent three years learning about how to make runs, when to make runs, when to cut inside, when to drift outside... in short, all the things needed to turn him into the next Thierry Henry.

So it's interesting. You follow Arsenal, and you follow the Arsenal in the present. You only see the Arsenal in the present. Wenger manages this team in the present, but views it in the future. He sees Jack Wilshere as a nuggety playmaker with a bit of mongrel about him. He sees Theo Walcott as a pacy striker who like to drift right and cut inside with devastating effect. He sees Alex Song as a behemoth who plays as a hybrid defensive midfielder / third central defender. He sees young players working hard to reach their potential, and he can picture them as the finished article in the future. And from what I can imagine, that's a stunning dream.

So sometimes, I can see why Wenger wants to let his vision play out. If it works, it's going to be a thing of transcendent beauty.

Oh, and we've signed Sebastien Squillaci for £5m. As I've said previously, I'm not sure about this one. For a bit more, we could've got a lot better. Sounds like false economy to me. Oh well, we need experience at the back, and if Squillaci can provide the sort of steadying influence that Sol Campbell did last season, he'll be alright. I guess Wenger's still dreaming that Djourou, Nordtveit and co. can come up trumps.

So on the 244th last day of my 20s, I made a vow to abstain from meat for a week. So I bought KFC for dinner. I'm starting to think that Hot 'n Spicy is better than Original Recipe. It holds its shape better - Original Recipe skin tends to get saturated in fat and oil by the time you start to eat. There's also a mellow heat to the meat, which is a pleasant distraction from the nausea of ingesting all those saturated fats.

Does KFC count as meat? I'm not sure it should.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Almost, nearly, probably, about to sign Squillaci (maybe)

It's increasingly likely that we're going to sign Sebastien Squillaci. Apparently, we've agreed terms with Sevilla, and all that's left is a medical. Squillaci is sure enough of a transfer that he stepped down from Sevilla's Champions League play-off match, to avoid being cup-tied for Arsenal. So it's pretty likely.

I'm not sure about this one. £5m for a 30 year old defender, who isn't a regular for Sevilla, seems to be quite a lot. We're at the point where we just need SOMEONE in the squad, but I'm not sure Squillaci is the best option. When you consider £12m-£15m could probably land you a Mertesacker, a Zapata, a Kjaer, or even a Sahko, then it seems like false economy to spend £5m on a depreciating, mediocre talent like Squillaci.

I suppose I should have more faith in Wenger. He's the guy who bought a right-back (Sagna) when we had arguably one of the brightest young right-backs in Europe at the time (Eboue). He's the guy who let Toure go and brought in another short central-defender (Vermaelen). He's still got an eye for talent, and when he takes a plunge on a player, he's usually right.

Then again, he's also the guy who bought Silvestre from Man Utd for £700,000. So even Arsene Wenger can be wrong. Let's just hope he's not wrong this time around.

And let's hope that this isn't the last signing of the summer. We need a goalkeeper as well. Schwarzer, Given... whoever, I don't care anymore. Get just someone competent in front of goal, stop worrying about killing Fabianski and Almunia, and start worrying about killing us gooners, Wenger!

So on the 245th last day of my 20s, I went to work, worked, and then came home. At the moment, I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to turn 10 oranges, 1 head of broccoli, 1 bag of potatoes, 6 carrots, 1 zucchini, 6 eggs and 1 avocado into a meal. I suppose I could make a gigantic bowl of mashed potatoes / frog-in-a-hole type meal, with orange juice and an omelette. Or I could just go get a pizza.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A 6-0 win, but we're still crap

"He had a good preparation for the first time in a long time. He takes life in a positive way. He sees the glass as half-full so he took it as another challenge. That's what's amazing about Theo."

- Arsene Wenger, on hat-trick hero Theo Walcott

We beat Blackpool 6-0 last night, Walcott got the first hat-trick of his Arsenal career, and we kept a clean sheet. But we're still crap. Let's not go over the top with this result, and start predicting league trophies and European success. We're still crap. We were crap before Blackpool, and we're still crap after Blackpool. The nature of our crapness is such that it'll be the constant in a season of fluctuating form, amazing wins and frustrating losses, horrific injuries, stylish play and the inevitable dreadful goalkeeping errors. If we keep hold of the fact that we're crap, we'll be able to ride the emotional roller-coaster of an Arsenal season a bit better.

Theo was impressive, but remember, it's just Blackpool. Where was Theo against Liverpool? Where was he in the World Cup? Where was he last season? Theo is a flat-track bully who can punish teams who are in awe of him (i.e. Blackpool) but who doesn't have the nous or guile to overcome a disciplined, organised Premiership-level defence. He's a nice boy, for sure, but remember, he's still crap.

Look at Chelsea. They've just beat two sides 6-0, and you don't hear them saying that they're going to win the league, or that they're going to dominate Europe. Chelsea beat Wigan 6-0, and they shrug their shoulders and just get on with it with natural cool.

In fact, I'm furious at Arsenal for wining 6-0. How dare they score so much in a game that didn't require it, and score so few in games that matter, such as against Liverpool? Why do they play with sparkle and invention when they're against crap sides, and why don't they show up against sides that are organised? It's like they're taunting us with their ability.

We still need a central defender and a goalkeeper. Almunia and Fabianski are liabilities. And Song's playing at centre-back in the second game of the season. Think about it - our back-up, back-up centre-back, the one who's our first-choice defensive midfielder, is being drafted in because all available cover has been used up, by the second game of the season. I shudder to think what will happen if we don't sign a defender in the next few weeks.

And I don't know if this post is a wind-up, or sarcasm, or where it's genuine. Got a grinding headache above my left eye, and I'm not feeling straight at the moment. Who knows, I might've morphed into a bitter, disenchanted gooner who cheers when we lose and boos when we win, all because I hate Wenger so much that I'd wish us to lose in order to drive him out.

I hope not, though. I hope it's just the headache talking.

So on the 246th last day of my 20s, I sat opposite the GOMD at lunch, and she didn't make my headache go away. So I'm not sure whether she's got miraculous powers after all. She might just be a special, special girl who lights up my life but who doesn't have the ability to cure physical ailments. Oh well, no one's perfect.

Also dragged four friends along to watch me get a haircut. I wanted us all to get matching haircuts, but I was the only one shaggy at the time. So they just sat around and gave moral support. Really touching, I suppose.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Squillaci and Schwarzer

"It depends how long the road is. We just walked into the road, you know? If the road is very short we will not be very far. At the moment it will be very premature to announce that Squillaci will join us."

- Arsene Wenger, regarding our transfer negotiations with Sevilla about Sebastien Squillaci

In the past few days, we've been increasingly linked to Sebastien Squillaci, a 30 year old French international central defender, currently playing for Sevilla. The deal's supposed to be either £4m or £6. I suppose we should be happy that we're still looking to sign someone, but still, why are we trying to sign an obscure 30 year old Frenchman with no resale value and questionable fitness and speed?

Wenger seems to have got in the habit of buying 30 year old defenders. And strangely enough, there's no talk of Squillaci killing Nordtveit or Djourou. There's no talk about the introduction of a rolling one-year contract. It's a weird transfer, like the Silvestre to Arsenal deal of a few years ago, sans the nausea and discombobulation of seeing a Man Utd player in an Arsenal shirt.
I'm tempted to just go with the flow, and just take it on faith that if Wenger's impressed with this guy, he'll be good enough for us. But that overlooks that Wenger's been trying to artificially inject experience into the team by buying old French geezers in defence. And it overlooks that Squillaci is towards the end of his career, and he hasn't done much in his career to show that he worthy of playing for a big, big club.

Squillaci to Arsenal sounds like a cut-price deal for a cut-price player.

Another cut-price deal that's been mooted is Schwarzer to the Arsenal. Wenger's trying to hush it up and protect his incumbent, saying;

I totally agree with that. The last thing we need is our two goalkeepers get distracted from the game, and play even worse than they can. Let's get the boys into the right frame of mind (the ball is my friend, I want the ball, the nature environment of the ball is in my hands) and keep our frantic transfer dealings on the quiet.

Let's not announce our progress until we've actually signed someone.

So on the 247th last day of my 20s, I woke up tired, went to work, voted, then bought a pair of pants and a jacket. Had spam on toast for lunch. Thinking about the smaller number of federal candidates compared to state ones. I seem to remember that state elections usually have seven or eight candidates, but the federal one today one had four candidates. I suppose the federal nature of it must weed out all the zany independent candidates.

On the 248th last day of my 20s, I stayed up late and pissed off the GOMD. She's not really that pissed off, because she doesn't care enough about me to really get pissed off. Which, really, is much more depressing than if she's purely angry.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Given vs Schwartzer is a club vs country question

If we’re going to get a keeper this year, it increasingly looks like a choice between Shay Given and Mark Schwartzer. It seems like Wenger had his hopes on Joe Hart at first, then tapped up Schwartzer as a consolation target, and then started stalling once it became clear that Given’s available. At the moment, it’s a matter of whether Given wants to leave (he does), Mancini is willing to let him leave (he is) and whether Wenger and the Arsenal can arrange terms with him before another club snaps him up (it’s possible). If not, then we’ll go for Schwartzer.

It leaves me in a bit of a club vs country dilemma. I love the Arsenal, and Given is hands-down the better option. He’s younger, better, and has had more experience with big clubs. But I also love the Socceroos, and it’ll be great to see one of our boys wearing a red shirt with white sleeves. So if Schwartzer gets signed, a part of me will be very happy indeed. It’s not often that an Aussie gets to play with one of the big clubs in world football.

It’s a bit of a fallow period for Australian football. We did alright in the World Cup but we played dourly. We don’t have any really talented players coming through (aside from maybe Tommy Oar). Four years ago, our best players were all in the first and second divisions of European leagues. Now, our best players are scratching around for clubs to take them. So we could do with the boost that a signing to the Arsenal would give.

So is it wrong to want to compromise the Arsenal’s quality in order to give Australian football a chance? Is it wrong to wish that Arsenal would sign Schwartzer (because he’s Aussie) and not Given? My head says that Given is the better deal, but my heart tells me that I’d be prouder to wear an Arsenal shirt with Schwartzer on the back than anything else.

So on the 249th last day of my 20s, I didn’t do a lot. I locked myself out of the house first thing in the morning, and had to get the spare keys off the neighbour. Took some Codral to get me through the day. And for some strange reason, sang “We Love The Arsenal” on the drive to work, in my best Cockney accent. For some reason, I always speak in Cockney when I sing an Arsenal song.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Arsenal Fanshare’s a good idea

"We believe it is fundamentally helpful to the club to have supporters who are active and engaged. The important thing is that supporters are valued and nurtured, not exploited. That is good for the club's soul, and for its all-round health."

- Ivan Gazidis, about the mooted Arsenal Fanshare proposal

For as little as £100, an Arsenal supporter will soon be able to buy 1/100th of an Arsenal share, and gain full shareholder rights: the chance to attend the annual general meeting, ask questions of the directors and vote on policy. It’s due to a proposal called Arsenal Fanshare, organised by the Arsenal Shareholder’s Trust, and it’s supposed to enable a degree of fan representation at the Arsenal governing level. All the major shareholders (Fiszman, Kroenke, Usmanov, Bracewell-Smith) have endorsed it.

In some ways, it’s a good idea.

Firstly, as the major shareholders have endorsed the plan, it puts to bed the idea that we’re on the brink of a takeover. Kroenke and Usmanov can hardly launch a takeover after saying that fan-ownership is a good idea.

Secondly, it gives the club a bit of stability. There’s been a lot of turmoil, intrigue and back-stabbing in the past ten years, our board and major shareholders are in a transitional period, and the issue of our ownership is in a state of flux. If a large block of shares (say 30%) eventually become owned by a fans’ trust, it’ll give our board the kind of stability and continuity that it enjoyed in the years before SkySports.

However, my main concern is that Arsenal fans are being told to cough up even more money to prop up the Arsenal share-price. Gooners put £10 a month into Fanshare, a fund which tries to buy shares at £10,250 a share. Fanshare, by it’s very nature, creates demand for available Arsenal shares and props up the trading price. So for major shareholders looking for an exit strategy (i.e. Fiszman and Bracewell-Smith) it gives them a measure of insurance against a price drop, as well as create a captive buyer for their shares if no other bidders come forward. For major shareholders who are biding their time before a full takeover (i.e. Kroenke and Usmanov) it protects the value of their investment.

So why are gooners being encouraged to spend money to prop up a few shareholders’ portfolio? Don’t get me wrong - I’m still very much in favour for this proposal. It’s a generational thing, and I can see a time in the distant future when the Fanshare (or the Arsenal Shareholders Trust) has a major stake in the club, has a seat on the board, and allows the fans a chance to participate in creating the Arsenal we all wish we had. I look forward to that day. But I’m not about to fall on my knees and praise Gazidis for a proposal that gives the existing shareholders many, many benefits.

If the board really wants to be good guys to the fans, they’d get Wenger to buy a decent keeper, a decent centre-back, a decent defensive midfielder, a tactical defensive coach to assist Wenger, and make it an imperative that Wenger tries to win the Premier League.

So on the 251st last day of my 20s, I drove my parents to the airport, went to work and tried to nap in the staff room, had dinner with a friend, and came home. Pretty tired, been up since 3:30am. It’s the equivalent of 2:00am according to my body clock.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I’d rather sleep than watch the Arsenal

I’m wondering whether I should stay up to watch the replay of Arsenal vs Liverpool. First, I’ve read all the reports and I’ve formed opinions of the match already. Second, I’ve never been able to sit through a replay - there’s something missing when it’s not a live match. Thirdly, I’m still recovering from my headache, I’ve developed tonsillitis, I’m coming down with a cold, and I’ve got to drive my parents to the airport at 3am.

Maybe it’ll be better to get an extra four hours sleep and start my 10-11 season with Arsenal vs Blackpool. At least that one promises to be a good Arsenal win. And who knows, by that stage, we may well have a proper keeper in goal after all....

So on the 252nd last day of my 20s, I got irritated at a patient of mine who kept apologising. I do it myself - the first word on my lips is usually “I’m sorry?” - but it’s incredibly irritating when you’re on the receiving end. I wanted to tell the guy to shut the fuck up, but I was afraid his next words would’ve been... "I’m sorry". Felt a bit guilty about feeling this way because politeness should be encouraged, but still, there’s a definite line between good manners and obsequiousness.

Been thinking about the election. I’ve flipped through the pages whenever I come across it in the newspaper. It doesn’t interest me anymore. Gillard lost me when she decided to victimise asylum seekers to win the bigoted, xenophobic vote. Abbott lost me when... I can’t remember when, but it was a long, long time ago. Both parties have ignored the pressing issue of the day (greenhouse emissions). I’m just waiting for the day when 10 million other Australians see the light of day and start voting for the Greens.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Arsenal 1, Liverpool 1

I haven't actually watched the match yet, but I know we drew against Liverpool. We dominated possession but couldn't score a goal, we went behind through Ngog, Cole and Koscielny both got sent off, and Reina made a mistake in the last few minutes to give us a goal and a draw. So I got the gist of it from the internet, and I suppose I'll make up my own mind tomorrow night when I'll get to watch the replay.

Comments that I read suggest that: Wilshere isn't ready for a first-team place; Koscielny is promising but we're seriously limited in terms of centre-backs (down to Vermaelen and Song after ONE match); Arshavin is lazy and unmotivated; and we desperately need a goalkeeper. All of this is stuff we kind of already know, it's just that it'll still a bit of a shock to see if unfold. This team needs surgery in order to win the Premier League. And all we're getting is a couple of placebos and a lolly-pop.

Almunia is feeling the pressure of the speculation about his position:

Sometimes - okay, most of the time - you forget that footballers are people first and heroes / role-models / celebrity object lessons / communal mythological characters second. They're just guys who happen to be really, really talented at running good and kicking good. So yeah, I kind of feel sorry for all the crap I've been hanging on Almunia. It's not fair to bag a guy who's just trying to be the best keeper he can for the club he loves.

But then again, the sad truth is that we need a better keeper if we want to win the league.

So on the 253rd last day of my 20s, I dealt with the aftermath of a terrible headache. Took two indomethacin and spent as much of the day as I could closeted in the staff room with my eyes closed. Better off going to bed.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not tonight Arsenal, I have a headache

So the season starts tonight. Arsenal vs Liverpool. I intended to watch it live at the TAB down the road, but I’m going to rain-check. Got the sort of splitting headache which only goes away with a night’s sleep. And if I don’t sleep soon, I’m going vomit.

Arsenal are in a world of trouble. No Song, no Fabregas, no van Persie, no keeper. We’re playing a debutant in Koscielny, and probably two 18 year-olds in Frimpong and Wilshere. We’re playing with either Almunia or Fabianski in goal. It’s not going to be pretty, and the best we can hope for is that we’ll score more than them. Which would be interesting considering it’s the debut for Chamakh as well. Looking forward to that.

There’ll be a replay on one of the digital free-to-air channels on Tuesday. Might wait until then. I hopw we win, I really do, but if we lose and lose badly, maybe it’ll prompt Wenger to try harder in the transfer market. So silver lining do occur.

So on the 254th last day of my 20s, I developed a headache in the afternoon which became monumentally bad. Nausea, dizziness, throbbing grinding pain... it was nearly incapacitating for the whole night. And then the GOMD came over and talked to me, and it went away. But then she went away again, and it resumed. She has miraculous powers, that girl.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Denilson doesn't like Tottenham

"It's true they shocked me last season, they did much better than I thought. So, yes, we have to take them very seriously now. In football, you know anything can happen but I still cannot believe they will achieve more than us."

- Denilson, about hating Tottenham

Denison doesn't like Tottenham. No one associated with Arsenal likes Tottenham. But whereas before we hated Tottenham with the disdain of a superior to the decidedly inferior, this season we hate them as equals... of sorts. Of course, like Denilson, I cannot believe that they are the same as us, but facts don't lie: they have qualified for the Champions League, as we have; they won't win the Premier League. but neither will we; they will be challenging for the last two Champions League spots, as we will be.

For the first time since colour TV was invented, Arsenal and Tottenham go into a season as peers.

Denilson tells us that he "still cannot believe they will achieve more than us", but what does that mean? We don't achieve anything that the moment. We coast along in 3rd or 4th and we don't have the squad to compete seriously for trophies. It might be unbelievable that Tottenham will leapfrog us and win trophies, but it's believable that we're in the same boat as Tottenham. And for a relationship that's as mired in hubris as ours with Tottenham, that's a bit of a concern. We might be in for a major correction in that relationship in the near future.

Denilson is a true believer, though. He thinks we can break through this year and win a trophy. He bases his thinking on the retention of Fabregas, the signing of Chamakh, the abilities of kiddies like Wilshere and Gibbs, and the improvement of players such as himself. I'm hesitant about this. We were close to the title last season, but ultimately failed because we didn't have enough fit players and we fielded liabilities in goal. If squad players like Denilson improve another 10%, would we have the squad to challenge for the title? Maybe. But we'd still need a competent keeper, a manager with defensive nous, and a physio who can keep van Persie fit all season. I don't think that'll happen.

An interesting thing about this article is that it supports Wenger's theory that if you bring a player to a club young enough, you've got his allegiance for life. I don't know how many other players take their local derbies seriously. I can't see Berbatov really understanding the Manchester derby. I can't see Aquilani treating the Merseyside derby as anything other than another game. But Denilson's been at the club for long enough, been steeped into the traditions sufficiently, that he's been indoctrinated with hatred for all things Tottenham. It's nice to know that, despite appearances, our players do genuinely give a fuck about our major rivalry games.

So on the 254th last day of my 20s, I went to work completely drained. Spent the night before at Pancake Parlour playing cards with some friends, and waiting, hoping, wishing that the GOMD would've joined us. Finally left at midnight, spent the night tossing and turning. Really missed her.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Schwartzer to Arsenal?

"I need it to happen. I've had a couple of chats with Mark (Hughes). It's delicately poised. Who wouldn't be keen to go to Arsenal? At this stage in my career it's an amazing opportunity to play at that level and one I want to take."

- Mark Schwartzer, about a possible move to the Arsenal

Schwartzer’s 37, and has been a solid Premier League keeper for most of his career without ever playing for a big club. He’s used to playing for struggling clubs, which means that he’s required to make many saves every match, and is constantly involved in the action. He’s never had a situation where he’s a spectator for 80 minutes out of every match, but is required to make two or three match-winning saves (usually as a result of our defence’s suicidal impulses). I think there’s a substantial difference in the two roles, and I think it’ll take some adjustment.

Is Schwartzer flexible enough to handle the change?

I like Schwartzer because it means he’ll be the first Aussie signing for the Arsenal. We need some Aussie spirit at the Arsenal. Aussie footy players tend to be complete jerks on the field (playing what the Hawks once termed "unsociable football”), and complete tossers off the field. That seems to be the way a lot of successful footballers approach the game (e.g. Cristano Ronaldo, John Terry), so in the long-run, it might be more beneficial that fielding a team of nice boys like Denilson and Walcott.

But for what it’s worth, I’d like to see us make a big, big signing. You can’t go wrong with an expensive, quality goalkeeper. It’s not an area where you can over-pay. The reason the best keepers in the world are priceless is that the mediocre ones have their flaws exposed every week. And I’m sick of seeing Almunia’s flaws exposed.

I realise I’m getting a bit obsessed with the goalkeeping situation, but it’s an area of vital concern. It’s scary to think that we’re a couple days away from the first game of the season, and we STILL haven’t managed to sign a keeper. It’s insane.

Meanwhile, our Theo wants to make the step up:

Walcott’s got a great deal of talent, but he doesn’t have a great feel for football. He’s the kind of guy who needs 100+ games and a lot of time doing drills before he knows it becomes instinctive. Let’s hope he’s spent his pre-season learning how to cross, whether to cross or to cut inside, when to make runs and where to make runs.

I think this will be a better season for Walcott. He’s had a season to get used to the intricacies of playing in a 4-3-3. And in the long-term, I think playing as an outside forward in a 4-3-3 will suit him better than as a winger in a 4-4-2. Walcott plays best high up the pitch, using his pace to get behind his marker. I love the kid to bits, so I hope he’ll make a breakthrough this year. It’ll be heart-breaking if he didn’t make the grade and we had to sell him.

So on the 255th last day of my 20s, I had a day off work and decided to do my tax. Never realised how difficult tax can be. Three hours into it, and my head was spinning, my brain was fried and my stomach was churning. And I’ve still only touched the surface. Still have to do deductions, which should be more fun than calculating taxable income.

It’s going to be a painful few days.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Five new signings from the youth team

We’ve promoted Emmanuel Frimpong, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Henri Lansbury, HÃ¥vard Nordtveit and Craig Eastmond to the first-team squad. It’s significant because the plan was to send Nordtveit away on loan if we managed to sign another central defender... and we haven’t. It’s also significant because we’ve got a couple of defensive midfielders (Frimpong and Eastmond) who’ll understudy Song. And we’ve got JET and Lansbury to bulk up the numbers and make our thin squad look fat and juicy.

It means that we’re probably not going to sign any more outfield players this transfer season. It means we’re going to go into the Premier League season with Vermaelen, Djourou and Koscielny in defence, Song in the holding midfield role, and fuck-all back-up other than a handful of kids who may or may not be good enough to play for the Arsenal. I’m not sure how this makes you feel, but it makes me a bit disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m also a bit excited to see how those guys are going to get along in the first team. Promoting five players to the first team is like FIVE new signings. But it’ll be like going on safari, watching a mother gazelle give birth to its baby, watching the baby gazelle stumble around on shaky legs in complete awe at the wonders of nature... and then watching as it gets mauled by a pack of vicious hyenas. The Premier League is full of vicious, brutal hyenas, and no matter how good a face you put on it, it’s not nice being “educated” by players like Joey Barton.

So buy us a bruiser, Wenger. Buy us someone who can protect our nascent baby gazelle from a proper English education. Buy us someone who can do the job and stop relying on kids to protect your arse.

In other news, we may be about to offload Almunia and get Schwartzer in a circuitous transfer deal that involves us, Fulham, Aston Villa and Brad Friedel. I can appreciate a good bargain, but this is getting ridiculous. We should seriously consider stumping up: the £18m for Lloris; the £23m for Reina; or the £8m for Given. I like Schwartzer - he’s Australian, after all - but he was never as good as Bosnich in his prime. Beggars can’t be choosers, and if it came down to Almunia or Schwartzer, I’d chose Schwartzer, but come on Arsene.... let’s spend a bit to get a bit of quality.

So on the 256th last day of my 20s, I went to work and mooched around, finished early and went home early. I figured if Wenger’s not going to try, why the hell should I?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Even Blackpool’s bought more players than us

Blackpool has signed four new players - Craig Cathcart, Ludovic Sylvestre, Elliot Grandin and Malaury Martin. I haven’t heard of any of these players, but before this season, I hadn’t heard of Blackpool either, so I guess they’re buying at their level. I’m saying this because that’s two more players than the Arsenal have signed this season.

Is it that hard to find players better than the ones we have at the moment?

We need a goalkeeper who is better than Almunia and Fabianski. Honestly, half the Premier League is better than those two. Yes, it may be hard to find a world-class keeper who can: command the area (in front of our suicidal defence); be assertive on set-pieces (which we haven’t trained for); have reflexes like a cat; and be cheap and willing to be paid peanuts. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Let’s lower the bar a little, shall we?

We need a defensive midfielder who can double up as a central defender. Or vice versa. We need SOMEONE to sit in front of the defence, break up opposition attacks, and cover for Vermaelen when he starts to wander upfield. We also need him to cover for one of the centre-backs when they get injured. He doesn’t have to be first-choice; we’ve already got Song, Vermaelen and Koscielney(?) for that. But we DO need a spare body who has had senior experience and who can be relied upon to do a job.

My point is that we don’t necessarily need world-class signings. We just need bodies who can do the job. If Blackpool, a newly-promoted club with no money, can buy four players just like that, it can’t be THAT hard to find a couple of players who can bulk out our squad.

Time to get a move on, Wenger.

And seriously, we really need a new keeper. Fabianski is getting delusions of grandeur. He’s said:

The longer that he thinks he’s the Arsenal No.1, the more disappointed he’ll be when we buy a real keeper. It’s not healthy. I know Fabianski’s a nice guy and Wenger doesn’t want to break his heart, but there’s no good way to let him down. Fabianski isn’t good enough to be Arsenal No.1 and there’s no point letting him think otherwise. Sometimes, you’ve got to be cruel to be kind.

So on the 257th last day of my 20s, I went to work, had a quiet day, and came home. Got a couple of gold credit cards (they’re gold!) in the mail, and a gold debit card (it’s gold!). They look shiny and new (and gold!). Going to cut up my other cards right now and start buying stuff off eBay.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hart or Given - Either/Or

"I haven't joined Manchester City to sit on the bench or whatever. I've gone there to play, it's an ambitious club and I'm an ambitious person, I haven't gone there to take it easy and put my feet up. If that's not the case, I suppose I'll sit down on Monday with the club and see where I can go after that."

- Shay Given, not prepared to play second-fiddle

Man City need Joe Hart to fufill their homegrown quota, so he’s got to stay. Given’s a good ‘keeper, so they’d rather he stay as well. Given’s probably a better keeper at the moment. But if push comes to shove, I can’t see how they would choose Given over Hart. Which means that Shay Given could be on his way out.

Given wants guaranteed game-time, but I’ve got news for him. If he wants to join a top, top club, he’s going to have to fight for his position. At Man Utd, he’ll have to displace van der Saar. At Chelsea, he’ll have to be better than Cech. At Liverpool, he’ll have to oust Reina. And at Arsenal, he’ll have to fight off, um.... Fabianski.

Let’s hope Given’s a fighter.

If I had the choice, I’d prefer Joe Hart over Given. He’s younger, he’s English, and he’s a bit of an unknown quality. It’ll be exciting to watch him in front of goal and not knowing if he’d be good enough to marshall our suicidal defence. Shay Given, on the other hand, has had years of experience at Newcastle United, and we know what we’re going to get. He’s not as exciting. Then again, he’s 34, has a few good years left in him, and by the time he’s about to wind up, Szczesny will be ready.

Either/or, I’m not fussed. I’m at the stage where I’m happy as long as they’ve got two hands, two feet and don’t answer to either Almunia or Fabianski. Just sign someone, Wenger.

So on the 258th last day of my 20s, I tried an Facebook app, “Who Hates Me?”. The GOMD was 5th on the list. My boss was 3rd on the list. Portentous? Maybe. Whatever the case, I’m not game enough to post it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fabianski would be a funny, just not ha-ha funny

"I am fighting for my place. I try to do my best in every single game and every single training session. I don’t know if I will play against Liverpool. Now, I go to international and return on Thursday but I am ready to play. I am not worried about the stories of Arsenal being interested in other keepers. Arsenal is a massive club and every single day players are linked.”

- Lukasz Fabianski, not worried

I'm worried about the stories of Arsenal being interested in other keepers. I worry because Arsenal tend to do business quietly, and every time a quality keeper is linked to us, it's one more potential keeper who probably won't sign for us. So far, we've been linked with Schwarzter, Stekelenberg, Reina and Given, and so far, none of them have signed with us.

There's a dearth of great keepers at the moment, and the best ones are tied up on long-term contracts at big, big clubs. When you consider that Akinfeev is owned by a club that can print its own money, Lloris was exposed at the World Cup, Hart is inexperienced, Neuer would rather go to Bayern Munich, Handanovic has been ruled out.... it's a bit difficult. Sure, there's a lot of keepers who would be an improvement on Almunia and Fabianski, but there's not a lot of keepers at the level which Arsenal aspire to be.

So it looks like we may very well end up with Fabianski as our keeper when we front up to Liverpool on the 15th. I think Fabianksi in goal would be funny, but it's not a good funny. It's an uncomfortable, awkward, cringe-inducing kind of funny. It's a drunk-uncles-dancing-at-a-wedding kind of funny. It's a Ricky Gervais kind of funny. It's a Chris Lilley kind of funny. And while Fabianski-in-front-of-goal would easily make it into the youTube All-Time, Desert-Island, Top 10 of Embarrassing Moments, it's not something I look forward to seeing.

So please Wenger, no more funny business. End the farce. Buy a keeper.

So on the 259th last day of my 20s, I went to work and couldn't be bothered. I'm working on auto-pilot at the moment. I need a holiday. I get these dizzy spells every now and then, and that can't be good.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I'm bored by Wenger's spin

"The fact we did not win the championship for five years means people say I am stubborn. If we had won in the last five years I would still be as flexible and open as before."

- Arsene Wenger, getting his cause and effect mixed up

Wenger believes that not winning the championship makes people say that he is too stubborn to change. He believes that if he had won the league, he'd be considered as flexible and open. While it's true that perceptions depend greatly on point-of-view, the one point that is fixed is that Wenger hasn't won a trophy in five years.

I think Wenger's getting confused about cause and effect. The cause is stubbornness (not buying a goalkeeper, no defensive training, too much faith on the wrong players). The effect is the lack of trophies in the past five years. It doesn't matter what would've happened if we'd won a trophy, because the stubbornness has meant that the trophy never eventuated.

This is the first in-depth Wenger interview I've read since the James Lawton one in 2008. When I read the 2008 one, I was very interested. I liked the vision that Wenger spun, and was impressed with the future Arsenal he described. But I couldn't finish reading this one in 2010. It's just the same stuff, the same spin, and nothing's really changed in the intervening time.

It's kind of depressing.

Don't get me wrong, I like the kids experiment. I like the excitement of seeing Frimpong and Wilshere in midfield, with JET, Gibbsy, Eastmond and Nordtveit in reserve. I'm fascinated to see how they'll cope with the pressures of Premier League football, and interested to see which ones will make it and which ones will fail. But I'm sick of Wenger saying the same things over and over, without even acknowledging the problems with his management.

So on the 260th last day of my 20s, I picked up a frying pan off the street. It's council tip day fairly soon, and all the neighbours are throwing out their junk. It's a Scanpan, and apparently pretty good value. Pretty happy about that. Turns out Wenger's right, and you can still get a bargain off the street.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Does a failed transfer bid count, if it failed?

"If you're happy in a dream, does that count?"

- Arundhati Roy, God of Small Things

Rumor has it that we made a £20m bid for Pepe Reina from Liverpool. I can’t see it happening. Firstly, because Liverpool are on the brink of being a solvent, sugar-daddy loving club again. Secondly, because there’s not much time left in the transfer season and there’s no way Liverpool will let go of ‘keeper like Reina this late in the window without a successor. And thirdly, does anyone really think Wenger will pay £20m for a player?

Still, you read that rumour and it soothes some of your anxieties. You start thinking that we’re still making progress, that Wenger hasn’t given up the hope that we can sign someone who’s better than Almunia or Fabianski. And you even dare to hope that we’ll sign someone good. You start to hope and dream about the new season, and you even start to get that buzz of excitement about the new season. And so when I read that story about our bid for Reina, that question from God of Small Things popped up in my mind.

So does a failed transfer bid count, if it failed? Because as Estha said, the truth is that only what counts, counts.

From a purely pragmatic point-of-view, it doesn’t count. You might be excited for a few minutes, but on the 15th August, we’re still going to take the field with Almunia or Fabianski. Being linked with a great keeper isn’t the same thing as buying a great keeper, and it’s not going to stop us conceding a weak goal in the 55th minute of the first opening match of the season.

From a morale point-of-view, it counts a bit. Oscar Wilde said that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. And he’s right - at least this transfer rumour shows that we’re trying. Yes, it may be a horribly cynical exercise to placate angry gooners, but even if it is a publicity stunt, it still shows that the Arsenal have heard our discontent and are trying to address our concerns.

From a pure entertainment point-of-view, though, it’s outrageously funny. Reina was the MC in Barca-shirt-gate, so the idea that we’d be linked with him a month later is comic gold. I’m just waiting for the day when Reina gets pinned down in the street and has an Arsenal shirt pulled over the top of him. I’m sure it’ll be on youTube one of these days....

So on the 361st last day of my 20s, I felt the after-effects of the 362nd last day of my 20s. On my 362nd last day, I hung out with a group of people for way too long, purely because the GOMD was amongst them. It’s getting fairly upsetting to be near her, but not being with her, so I purposely tried to avoid to her. But all night, I felt like a fly on a string - I kept desperately trying to leave, but couldn’t stop hovering around her. About 1:30am, she came over and talked to me, and because of that, I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night.

And I missed my daily blogging for the first time in 100 days.

On the 361st last day of my 20s, I struggled at work due to lack of sleep, bought some paint for the new house (we’re freshening up the white walls with a new coast of white paint), and then slept most of the day. Been a bit of a blur.

And I’m wondering about the GOMD, about how these emotions are all in my head and are not reciprocated, about how I can hang around her for 5 hours and then be completely buzzed because she talked to me for a few minutes towards the end... and then this song comes into my head. And yeah, I’m an animal trapped in her hot car, I’m a moth trying to share her light, and I’m completely, utterly, head over heels fucked up.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

An Interesting Experiment

"Yes it has been good playing alongside Jack. I have been playing alongside Jack since we were little but he has managed to get into the first team before me. But we understand each other's game well because we have been playing together for a number of years, so it has been nothing different [in pre-season] to be honest."

- Emmanuel Frimpong, about his pre-season midfield partnership with Jack Wilshere

I’m torn between wanting to call Frimpong either “Frimmers” or “the Pong”. It’s difficult because both nicknames serve different purposes - “Frimmers” is a term of affection and would suit a knock-about type of bloke (like Ray Parlour), whereas “the Pong” invokes a sense of reverence suited to a colossal general-type of player (like Patrick Vieira). It’s hard to make that choice now because we don’t really know what type of player Frimpong will be. I think I’ll slide into calling him either “Frimmers” or “the Pong” as the season progresses and we get to see his character on the pitch.

Frimpong made a really good comment. The reason he looked so natural playing with Wilshere in the Emirates Cup is that they’ve grown up together. Frimpong came to the club at eleven, and Wilshere came when he was nine. They know each other’s game back-to-front. They know how they think and how fast they think. They know where to make runs, when to bomb forward, and when to track back and cover. They know each other so well that when they’re paired up together in front of 60,000 people and playing against the likes of AC Milan and Celtic, they play like they’re still just dominating a youth league game at Underhill.

And to think, that this is only ONE potential partnership from the Academy players. We’ve still got Eastmond, JET, Gibbs , Nordtveit and Szczesny to fit into the first team squad. That’s six players who’ve grown up together, played with each other, learnt from one another... and who all play in the Arsenal way. I realise we have an incredibly thin squad - unless we make several major signings very, very soon, we’re not going be able to compete for the league - but this influx of the first generation of the Academy kids is very exciting.

It brings to mind Wenger’s comment from a few seasons ago:

Over the past five years, I’ve become more and more disillusioned by Wengerism. I’ve seen an amazing first team squad stripped to the bones and not adequately restored to its full functioning glory. I’ve seen a stubborn refusal to take defence seriously. I’ve seen poor injury management to our players. Worst of all, I’ve seen a manager who keeps going into every new season with a hand tied behind his back, just because he’s unwilling to compromise on his vision of how professional club football should be managed.

But then, I think about the Emirates Cup, and I look at the quality of the youngsters who are coming through, and I can’t help but be sucked in by Wenger’s dream again. It is an incredible vision to recruit a bunch of talented 10 year olds into the Academy, train them in the ways of Wengerball, clear out the senior team as the kids are progressing, and then introduce the Academy kids into the squad as 18 year olds and watch them grow, fight, and learn together in the Premier League, just as they’ve done all their lives in the youth sides. It IS an interesting experiment, and if it works... it’ll make the Invincibles look like Blackburn Rovers.

So on the 363rd last day of my 20s, I went to work and applied for a gold credit card. It’s gold! It’s linked to frequent flyer points! It’s gold! I’m not really sure I want another credit card, but it’s free with the bank account and... it’s gold! However you think about it, bling can be very seductive. Even the thought of a £599 Frank-Lampard engraved iPod can be tempting if it’s gold-plated...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No one wants to sell to the Arsenal

"Per remains 100 percent committed to Werder. I have already said this several times. Nothing has changed. Per and his advisers have so far not commented due to a request from us.”

Why don’t any clubs want to sell their players to the Arsenal? So far, we’ve been rebuffed by Fulham for Schwartzer, Werder Bremen for Mertesacker, Fiorentina for Frey, and um... I’m not sure which other players we’ve shown an interest in, but I sure that if we asked about anyone, we’d get a firm “no” from the club.

I’m left thinking that the Barcelona way of transfer negotiations is more effective. Firstly, leak our “interest” to the tabloids. Secondly, get the player to *wink* his interest in playing in the Premier League. Thirdly, complain loudly that clubs shouldn’t hold players against their will. Fourthly, get the player’s agent/wife/brother/parent/grandparent/neighbour to say how the player is a life-long supporter of the Arsenal. And finally, if all else fails, whinge about the tabloid attention getting in the way of a transfer.

I disapprove of the Barcelona way of transfer dealing, but maybe Gazidis should take notes. In his year and a half at the Arsenal, he’s only signed Arshavin, Vermaelen, Wellington, Chamakh and Koscielney. Admittedly, fighting Dennis Lachter over Arshavin was a punishing debut, but the rest of the transfers seemed straightforward. Gazidis hasn’t had to get his hands dirty. He hasn’t had to knee the selling club in the proverbial groin. And while it’s admirable to play nicely, maybe it’s time he learnt to negotiate Catalan-style.

That said, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Arsenal cope with so many kids in the first-team squad. It’ll be “fun” to watch Jacks, Gibbsy, JET, Shezza and the ‘Pong struggle and grow and eventually dominate the Premier League. Sure, we’re going to get the shit beaten out of us for most of the season, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

So on the 364th last day of my 20s, I nearly cracked the shits. I teetered on the edge a couple of times, but held my nerve. It tends to happen around August, usually on a cold rainy day, usually on a Wednesday. I have three more Wednesdays to go in August, and I’m sure each one will be a trial. Think it’s a combination of SADS, lack of exercise, over-work, the GOMD. To paraphrase Herman Melville, maybe it’s time for me to go out to sea....

Call me Ishmael.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Arsenal are a child-friendly club

Well, if we don’t buy anyone else this transfer season, at least we’ll be able to play Frimpong and Wilshere and still look like we’re a genuine football team. Those two boys have impressed in the Emirates Cup, and will probably feature this season when the injuries start to mount. And while I’d rather we went out and bought a genuine, experienced holding midfielder, it’ll be exciting to watch another shiny young Arsenal player get unwrapped at the Emirates.

In a way, it’s nice that the Arsenal are such a child-friendly club.

We’ve got a few more weeks until the start of the season, and I’d really like us to sign a goalkeeper, at least. I realise Szczesny is the bee’s knees, but I’ve serious reservations about throwing him straight into the first-team, and I’ve even greater doubts about using Fabianski or Almunia for extended periods of time (i.e more than 15 minutes). They say if you’re good enough, you’re old enough, but surely it’s not healthy to have to use that line on half the Arsenal first team squad...

In other news, this morning I saw ad on One HD saying that they’re going to show Liverpool and Arsenal matches, “hot off the satellite”. And on an advanced TV programming guide, it shows a “special event” at 10:00pm on Tuesday, 17th August - Liverpool vs Arsenal. Some people have said it’s most likely a rehash of old FA Cup matches, but if that’s the case, why say it’s “hot off the satellite”? Can we dare to dream the impossible dream, that Premier League matches will be shown free-to-air once more?

So on the 265th last day of my 20s... I realised that it’s 100 days since I turned 29. I’ve kind of coasted to a stand-still in the time since. 100 days ago, I had dreams and goals and a vision for my 30s. Now, all I can seem to think about is the GOMD and how it’s increasingly unlikely that I’ll ever, ever be with her. Lately, in the last few days, I’ve come to realise that I’ve stagnated again. I need a break, a gap, a juncture from this unseemly pressure. I need another holiday.

Monday, August 2, 2010

We need a new goalkeeper. Seriously.

"I don't need to convince anybody – I just do my job. I have a couple more years on my contract and that's it, I'm an Arsenal player."

- Manuel Almunia, not convincing anybody

It’s good that Almunia doesn’t feel the need to convince anybody, because he ain’t convinced nobody with his performances. Almunia concedes goals in crucial games. Almunia can’t command his penalty area. Almunia can pull off a couple of blinders in a game, but over the course of a season, he’s going to cost you more points than he’ll save.

We need a new ‘keeper.

I hope we get somebody. The transfer season’s rapidly drawing to a close, and if we don’t sign a ‘keeper, I’m going to be depressed. We’re still linked with Schwartzer, and while I’m stoked that we could be signing an Aussie, it’s still a bit depressing when Schwartzer’s main quality seems to be that he’s NOT Almunia.

Another ‘keeper that isn’t Almunia is Fabianski. I hope we sign someone else because Fabianski isn’t the answer, either. Btu if it came down to a choice between Almunia and Fabianski, I’d go for Fabianski. At least Fabianski’s funny, and his presence would highlight the fact that we desperately, desperately need a new ‘keeper.

So on the 266th last day of my 20s, I went to work and had a long chat with the GOMD’s sister. She keeps telling me to give it up, to stop with the heartache, to let it go and accept that it’s an impossibility. She tells me to find a girl who loves me for me, and to stop twisting myself into knots thinking about this one, unattainable girl.

So I asked her to tell me the GOMD’s worst flaw. She thought for a very long while, and all she could come up with was that the GOMD was passive - she’d never initiate; she needs her space; she can seem disinterested to the point of neglect. And the only thing I could think of was that that’s like me, and that I’d understand her moods perfectly because I feel them myself.

So in the ten months I’ve known her, the GOMD has shown herself to be pretty, intelligent, nice, sweet, wholesome, kind, funny, naughty, sincere... I’ve been racking my brains for a while now, trying to think of bad things about her, and I can’t think of anything. And the worst thing that her sister - the person who knows her best - can come up with is a passivity that I completely understand and share.

She’s the GOMD for a reason, obviously.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

We need to ask the right questions

"We have to ask ourselves the right questions, do we want to be a good team or to win trophies? To win trophies, we have to be the best and that is what we are trying to do now.”

- Gael Clichy, asking questions

It’s an interesting way of thinking about it. Do we want to be a good team, or do we want to win trophies? If it’s the former, we haven’t been a very good team for a very long time now. We haven’t had the heart, the determination, the tactical nous or a physical presence to be a good team. If it’s the latter, I’m not sure we’ve have “winning trophies” as our major goal for a long time, either. We have the money to spend on signings, but we’d rather reinvest on extending our existing players’ contracts. We’ve been concentrating on giving the current crop sufficient experience to handle a Premier League challenge.

So for the past few seasons, the answer to both questions is a resounding “no”.

There are a few more pertinent questions I think we should ask. Where the f$%# is the backup central defender / defensive midfielder that we lack? Where the h#@$ is the reliable goalkeeper that we’ve been missing for four years? Why the c#$% haven’t we gone all out to buy those two players earlier in the transfer season, to give them time to settle in the squad? Why don’t we sign a f$%ing defensive coach to drill our team in defensive tactics? Can’t we f$%$ing learn from the mistakes of the past five years?

I’ve been waiting for five years for Arsene Wenger to address those questions. They haven’t been addressed so far, and unless they are, I can’t see us turning into a good team, nor us mounting a legitimate title challenge. If we don’t address these questions, we’re just going around in circles.

Clichy’s right - we need to start asking the right questions.

So on the 267th last day of my 20s, I went to my grand-uncle’s 100th birthday and spent most of it wishing I was still having lunch with the GOMD (and other people). She’s gorgeous and lovely, and being in her company is like a sweet narcotic which leaves you wanting more. I was weighing up whether it would’ve been worth the hassle if I blew off the birthday and spent another hour or so with her. I’m still wondering if I made the right decision.

Spent a lot of my grand-uncle’s 100th walking around my baby nephew. He’s at an age where he crawls quite quickly, and has an interest in the underside of chairs and tables and people’s feet. Cute little thing.