Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I was the first one to call him “Frimmers”

"If we have to have something like national identity (nationalism) to help define ourselves, I would suggest its much more fluid than Frimmers is giving it credit.”

- Tim, from 7amkickoff

It’s with a faint swell of pride that I noticed Tim referring to Emmanuel Frimpong as “Frimmers”.

I first started calling him “Frimmers” about two years ago on gunnerbong. Back then, it was in context of finding nicknames for our (then) academy players. For the other players, I was pretty happy with Jackie-O, Benny Afobe, Chuckie, Iggy Miquel, Le Coq, (the sadly departed) WEJET and Gibbsy. But with Frimpong, I was torn between the conventional “Frimmers” or the more pungent “Pong”. Eventually, I decided on “Frimmers”.

I started calling him “Frimmers” every chance I could, which was difficult considering he hadn’t played a senior game for us yet, and was sitting out a year for an injury. People started taking it up this year, ever since Frimmers’ impressive debut and feisty off-field persona. Now it’s the nickname of choice for Frimpong.

I’m not sure how much credit I can take for this nickname. After all, it’s the obvious choice, and I’m sure Frimpong’s been hearing it since primary school. I remember reading once how common it is for identical patents to be lodged, and how it’s mainly just coincidence.... after all, are only so many ways you can vary an automated cat-skinning device before you start to repeat yourself.

Still, at least in the online world, I was ahead of the curve. For a glorious 6 months (?) I was giving an obscure English academy player a laddish nickname before anyone else in the gooner bloggersphere did. I was a trendsetter. And I was right.

Problem is, what now?

I shan’t rest on my laurels. Time to find another Arsenal academy lad and foist a nickname onto him. But a cursory look at this year’s reserves reveals slim pickings. Anyone fancy calling Nicholas Yennaris “Nicky Yaris”?

I don’t either.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Do we really need these new sigings?

There’s been a lot of speculation lately about transfer activity. Carl “Fucking” Jenkinson signed from Charlton. Gervinho, Hazard, Benzema, Downing, Cahill, Samba and Oxlade-Chamberlain have all been linked to us. Going the other way, it seems like most of our first team squad is up for grabs.

In all this transfer speculation, however, it pays to think about why we crashed last season. It wasn’t necessarily a matter of lack of quality. We have a team that can beat Barcelona. Our first eleven (when fit) is comparable with any other team in England. A midfield of Wilshere, Song, Nasri, Arshavin and Fabregas amongst the best in the league, and van Persie’s form in the second half of the season was as good as Ronaldo’s or Messi’s form.

So it’s not the quality that’s the problem. It’s the application.

I’m not sure what bringing in a couple of monsters like Samba and Cahill will do to our defence. We’re still not going to drill the defence, and we’re still not going to practicing set-pieces. Ergo, we’re still going to concede sloppy goals and we’re still going to be shaky at 4-0 up with 20 minutes to go.

We could do with another centre-forward, since van Persie’s mostly injured and Chamakh’s form has petered out. I think a player like Benzema would be a great addition to the team, but it’ll be a struggle to see how we’d fit both him and van Persie in the same team when they’re both fit. Maybe the best option is to find another semi-permenant invalid to share van Persie’s physio table. Roque Santa Cruz, anyone?

But honestly, I’d rather see a change in our backroom than any radical changes in the squad. We really need to get the defensive side sorted out. I’d love it, juts love it, if one day I could turn off the computer when we’re 1-0 up in the 80th minute. I can’t do that now, because we all know that we’re going to concede in those situations. Hell, we’re not even safe when we’re 1-0 in injury-time.

And yeah, I know we need athletic, mobile defenders with good technique because we play a high-line, with fluid interchanging positions, and we need good distribution from the centre-backs because they’re often the only ones with time on the ball to start an attacking move.... but surely the primary aim of the defence is to not concede easy goals? Koscielny was magnificent against Barcelona when he harried their players all across the park, but we also conceded a LOT of goals because we were too exposed at the back, because of mis-understanding between the players, because of bad organisation.

I’m not saying no to bring in Cahill and Samba and whoever else is on the radar... I’m just saying that if we don’t change our approach to defending as well, it’s pretty pointless.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm glad we didn't buy in January

In a way, aren't you glad Arsene Wenger didn't buy anyone in the January transfer window?

When I go over the Arsenal first team in my head, it's packed with players who've grown with the club. We have Chezza in goal, in his breakthrough season after coming to Arsenal as a 16 year old. We have Djourou in defence, cementing his place in the first team. We have a settled midfield troika of Song, Wilshere and Cesc... and hasn't it been a delight to see how well Wilshere's adjusted to the Premiership? We have Nasri making the step up to super-star status, Walcott finally delivering on his potential, and Robin van Persie (hopefully) injury-free for the rest of the season.

There's a quiet satisfaction in seeing all these players develop. They've all got their foibles, and none of them are perfect, but at least they're our boys. One of the great joys of watching the Arsenal is that we've seen them come into the first team as kids, we've suffered with them as they've learned, we've seen them (or at least some of them) grow up and become good players. Don't get me wrong, they've got a long way to go yet, but we can still look at them with a certain sort of pride. They're our boys, after all.

There's two ways of building a side, and I know I'd feel a lot cooler towards a side that's been cobbled together with mega-buck transfers and pragmatism.

I'm thinking about the tie against Barcelona, and the whole world thinks we're going to get thumped. I don't know about that. They're missing Puyol, they've just had their first draw in 16 league matches, and they're tired. I don't think they're going to come out and press us like they did last year. I think we're stronger than we were last season, with Chezza in goal, Wilshere in midfield, and Djourou and Koscielny in defence.

I don't think we'll win over two legs, but I fancy us to make a game out of it.

But even if I'm wrong and we get flogged, I wouldn't mind. Even if our young players are exposed as naive, it'll be okay. The strange thing is that I'd rather see our boys play the mighty Barcelona and get flogged, than see a bunch of ringers help us grind out a respectable narrow loss or even a win. It just seems more meaningful.

I don't know how this change in heart happened, but it happened. I'm more excited about Djourou in the heart of the Arsenal defence than Gary Cahill. I'd rather see van Persie in front of goal than Dzeko. And (God help me), I'd like to see Chezza get his chance to prove himself, rather than see Diego Lopez or Shay Given in front of goal.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"Mad Dog” Cesc wants revenge on Moyes

- David Moyes, baiting angry bear that is Cesc Fabregas’ fury

Okay, that’s a tasteless, baseless, sensationalist heading designed to attract readers. It’s a blatant lie without a shred of evidence to back it up. I could get sued for libel. But then I’m probably fairly safe. It’s not far off what some of the stories on the web are like.

Because if the papers are right, Cesc Fabregas is a spitting, snarling, puffy-parka wearing Catalan who waves imaginary red cards at refs and verbally judo-kicks the opposition in the tunnel at half-time. He’s clearly a threat to the Premier League’s reputation, a bad influence on the minds of impressionable English younglings and a hair’s breath away from taking his boots off at half time in order to stab the opposition bench with his sharpened boot studs.

These days, it seems like Cesc Fabregas is more monster than man.

My question is that, considering the reprehensible conduct of young Cesc these days, why is David Moyes trying to antagonise him? Doesn’t he know that Cesc “the Animal” Fabregas is a red-eyed, spiteful spitfire of fury, and would turn on Moyes and all he holds dear? Isn’t he afraid that Cesc will hide in the bushes of his front yard, waiting for a chance to spit into his eyes? Or that he’ll walk up to Moyes and tell him in a disdainful manner that Barcelona don’t play with a Timmy Cahill in the hole?

He’s a bit of a hero, is David Moyes. He’s broken the tunnel-room omerta and told it as it is. Moyes is taking a stand, and not being intimidated by the “what happens in the tunnel, stays in the tunnel” bullshit that Wenger and Mad Dog Fabregas are so eager to inforce. Moyes has got to know what happens to whistle-blowers, and yet, he’s still sticking to his guns.

Surely, there’s enough circumstantial evidence to arrest Fabregas, try him, and throw him out of England. There’s that spat with Mark Hughes a few years.... after which Cesc went up to Hughes and apologised. Then there’s that spitting episode with Hull City’s assistant manager... where no charges could be laid and where no evidence could be found other than that photo which showed Cesc clearly wearing a puffy-parka. Then there’s that Twitter comment by the Hudderfield player saying Cesc wouldn’t exchanged shirts with his teammates... which was later retracted with an apology.

I mean, the list is endless, innit?

Personally, I like trivia and gossip about footballers. It’s shallow, and tacky, and a gross invasion of privacy. It’s schadenfreude mixed with glamour and gussied up like Footballers’ Wives. However, I object to gossip beat-ups. There are plenty of reprehensible, shocking, disgusting, foul, vicious, violent, amoral footballing activities to gossip about, without having to exaggerate minor footballing misdemeanours.

Yes, Cesc seems a bit spiky and frustrated when things aren’t going his way, and he’s probably a bad loser. He’s probably the kind of person who rips the controller out of the console when he loses in FIFA. But in a world where Andy Carroll beats people up, Gerrard knocks out a DJ, Terry sleeps with his mate’s ex, Barton puts out a cigarette in a teammate’s eye, Bowyer and Dyer fight on the pitch in the middle of a game, Rooney fucks prostitutes while his wife is pregnant.... being a sore loser about a blatantly wrong off-side decision isn’t the worse thing in the world, is it?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

(I finally saw) Arsenal 1-0 West Ham

At the beginning of the season, I was excited because one of the free-to-air channels was promising to broadcast live Arsenal matches. It turned out it was a Thursday afternoon replay of the previous weekend's Premier League match. Due to the vagaries of work and commuting, I never really got into the habit of switching on at 4:30pm every Thursday to watch the Arsenal play.

Long story short, I managed to catch the last twenty minutes of the Arsenal vs West Ham match this afternoon. And it's quite nice watching the Arsenal on a big screen. In Australia, coverage of the Arsenal can be sketchy. For most matches, I've a choice of either a sterile sports lounge at the local pokies, a stilted internet stream, or sleeping in and catching the highlights on youTube a few days later. And for most matches, I choose to sleep in.

I didn't think we played that badly in those last 20 minutes. I agree with most gooners that: Song's getting ahead of himself, and that he shouldn't indulge in passes that he doesn't have the talent to pull off; Arshavin's a bit lazy, but has a certain something that the majority of our squad doesn't; Theo is a lovely boy who's pretty close to being a good player; Nasri and Fabregas complement each other in the centre of the park; and that a midfield combo of Nasri, Fabregas and Wilshere would be exceptional in about three years' time.

It was one of those games we tend to win when we're on form: West Ham park the bus; Arsenal creative plenty of chances but lack the chutzpah to capitalise; West Ham get tired towards the end of the match; Arsenal sneak a late, late goal through weight in numbers. When we're on a winning streak and we have belief, we tend to play to the whistle and we can sneak late, game-breaking goals. When we're on a poor run, we fade out a bit, and we don't get those goals that convert draws into wins.

It's been like that for a few years now. Liking the proverbial band of travelling supporters, we only sing when we're winning.

I remember thinking it back in the Flamin-Cesc-Hleb days. We had a team then that was on the cusp of a title, but it was a team run on the fumes of momentum. When we thought we were good, Flamini's legs would be pumping like a little gallic Energiser bunny, Cesc would be stringing passes, Hleb would be not shooting, and Adebayor would be scoring the sublime. It looked like we actually could win the league. However, when Eduardo's leg was shattered, and we drew at Birmingham, everything crumbled. We lost confidence, we lost momentum, we lost our way, and we lost the title.

The depressing thing is that we haven't learnt anything in the intervening years.

At present, we have a side which could theoretically challenge for the league. In terms of talent, we're comparable with Chelsea and Man Utd. In terms of experience, we've got a clutch of players with 4-5 years of senior football and who should be hitting their straps now. Okay, we won't because we're tactically naive and defensively stupid, but man-for-man, we're up there with the top two clubs.

But what about in terms of heart? Determination? Stubbornness? A league win sometimes requires 10 stubborn men to run hard into the 90th minute, refusing to concede the inevitability of a 0-0 scoreline. A league title would require 11 stupidly stubborn men to be prepared to do it for 38 matches in a year. I can see Chelsea doing it, and I can see Man Utd doing it, but I can't see the Arsenal doing it. When we've got momentum, I can see us scraping for a match. When we're in the doldrums, I can't.

It'll be interesting to see how we front up against Newcastle on Sunday. After losing to Shaktar, our momentum's been deflated somewhat. Champions League top spot is back in contention. It's the kind of scenario which lends itself to a shock 1-2 loss against a newly-promoted side. I hope the Arsenal prove me wrong, and put in a great performance. I'd love it, just love it if they put on a complete performance.

I might even be bothered to watch the match on Thursday afternoon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jay-Z wants to invest in the Arsenal

I'm not a businessman,
I'm a Business, Man
Let me handle my business, damn

- Jay-Z, a potential investor in Arsenal FC

What does it say about me that I get excited about the idea of Jay-Z becoming an investor in Arsenal FC and having a seat on the board? Am I so besotted by celebrity culture? Are my thoughts so superficial that I think Jay-Z’s genius as a rapper and his talent as a successful Business will automatically translate to the Byzantine world of football politics?

I hope not, but I’m not sure.

I don’t get excited about the prospect of having a fat Uzbek oligarch with alleged criminal links on the board. I don’t get excited about having a skinny American with pretensions of a global sporting empire on the board. I don’t get excited about Danny Fsizman, Peter-Hill Wood, Sir Chips Cheswick or anyone else on the board. I did get excited about foxy Nina Bracewell-Smith on the board, but she’s been kicked off. However, I am genuinely excited by the idea of Jay-Z at the Arsenal.

Here’s what Jay-Z said about it:

Actually, I think Jay-Z would fit well with the Arsenal board, if he ever got on it. It’s a bit cynical of me, but I think that at his heart, Jay-Z’s a businessman. He buys and sells. He likes to make a profit. And in the Arsenal, he’s come across probably the only football club in the world which makes money and which has the ability to expand. It’s a good business opportunity.

And the moment, the Arsenal board are only interested in coasting along and making a profit. It’s been paralysed for the past five years with in-fighting. The old members are just marking time and waiting for the market to pick up again before they can dump their shares. Usmanov and Kroenke don’t have the funds to buy the Arsenal outright, but don’t want to give up their 30%. So we’ve got a board that’s content with the status quo, paying down the loan and earning a tidy profit every year.

It’s a good match-up.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I didn’t see us beating Bolton 4-1

"From the two games against Blackburn and Bolton, two years ago we would not have taken six points.”

- Arsene Wenger, pointing out the improvement in the Arsenal

I'm pleased to say that I was wrong. In the end, we beat Bolton quite comfortably 4-1, with goals to Koscielny, Chamakh, Song and Vela. It wasn’t as comfortable as that scoreline suggests with the last two goals being scored in the last twelve minutes, but still, it’s a good result and one that I’m very pleased with.

Since as I slept through it, I’m not going to comment about it.

However, I am going to comment about Wenger’s aforementioned quote. I actually attended Blackburn away and Bolton away during the 08-09 season. We won both games 4-1 and 3-0, or something similar. I remember we were great going forward, but we were terrible going back. In Blackburn away especially, they played right through our midfield and sliced us open. It was a case of the Arsenal being great at the things that Wenger is passionate about, but terrible at the things he dislikes.

So, have things really changed? We’re still good going forward. We’re probably a lot more effective going forward now that we’ve converted to a 4-3-3. But we’re still unsteady in defence. I remember watching the Blackburn match from a couple of weeks ago, and I was genuinely fearful whenever the opposition had the ball. I don’t trust the defence, I don’t trust Song when he’s roving upfield, and I definitely don’t trust Almunia. There are just too many liabilities for me to ever feel comfortable with this team. Without some sort of defensive tactical discipline, I always think we’re one slip-up away from conceding.

Okay, we showed a bit more resilience. Song and co. are 2 years’ more experienced, and that shows up in their play. They don’t crumple in games “up North” when things go bad. They score more late goals. They try harder when the mood suits them. All these things are a natural consequence of having played 60+ more league games.

But is that enough?

I’d feel more confident in the team if we got ourselves a goalkeeper. And if we could nail Song down in front of the defence. And if I knew we could trust Koscielny and Squillaci with the centre-back positions for the rest of the season. And especially if we could stop conceding weak goals from corners, set-pieces and fast breaks down the flanks.

I’m probably being a bit harsh. We’ve got 10 points from 12, and we’re second on the league. We’ve played two of our bogie teams and got 3 points from each. We’ve played Liverpool away and got a point from that. So we’re not too bad. We could definitely be in a much worse position.

So on the 225th last day of my 20s, I had deep, serious thoughts about buying an iPhone 4. I have an embarrassingly old phone which serves my needs quite well, and which is virtually indestructible. I don't really use it, other than for SMS and the occasional call.

And yet, I was playing Veggie Samurai on a friend's iPhone this afternoon, and I realise I really want a phone which would enable me to dice numerous digital vegetables as fast as manically possible. I want a phone which would enable me to access youTube videos on the go, watch highlights from Premier League matches, check Facebook and email every five seconds. I want something sleek and black and coated in shiny, cool glass.

I realise it's just irrational, but I don't seem to get over Apple-related tech-lust. The last two times I had it, I succumbed to a MacBook and an iMac respectively. There's something so seductive about Apple products. You know that they're expensive, that Steve Jobs is probably evil, and there are cheaper, more effective equivalents out there, but still… there's nothing on the market that's as cool as an Apple product.