Arsenal Draw – but what conclusions?

July 31, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

Back at the Home of Football to the traditional start of footballing season entertainment known as the Emirates Cup.

This is normally a fun filled affair where we take on a couple of fair to middling teams put some skilful moves together introduce a few youngsters and send the punters home happy.

I disregarded TotalArsenals advice yesterday and watched on ESPN with the volume up, like a scab I couldn’t stop picking, and before long the inanity of Champion’s and Burley’s mutterings were winding me up more than they should for a game with nothing riding on it.

Apparently Van Persie doesn’t like attacking the near post. Cue Robin stage centre attacking the goal and getting on the end of a lovely counter which started with a Wilshere pass to Gervinho who drove forward and provided a great cross for Robin to do what he does best. 1-0 Arsenal and alls well with the world again.

We started the match rather disjointed and seemed to be a little leggy.

There were occasional glimpses of why Jenkinson and Gervinho have been brought in, however Nasri went a long way to justify not giving a pay rise with an anonymous performance in the advanced midfield role.

There should have been a penalty in the first five minutes when Wilshere was clearly fouled but Atkinson did what English refs do and assumed Jack must of been summer holidaying with Tom Daley and waved away the appeals. Oh well I guess it’s the refs preseason too.

Boca were professional, they set about disrupting our rhythm by fouling wherever they could as is the prescribed tactic against us. Jack was most often on the receiving end.

The high line played by our defence with no pressure on the ball led to a couple of opportunities for Boca but we reached half time unscathed.

The second half brought a number of changes, Robin, Jack, Fabianski, Gervinho and Kozzer making way for Chamakh, Ramsey, Vela, Squillacci and Mannone.

Within a minute of the restart Vela had jinked his way past a couple and the ball rolled to Ramsey who struck a good drive into the net, 2-0 cue feelings of happy days to come. I liked this goal because again it proved to me that faced with a likely impact Ramsey is not suffering the same mental frailty that understandably reduced Eduardo’s goalscoring knack.

After that the Arsenal performance slowly petered out, a lack of balance to the side, Chamakh drifting on to the left wing when he should be occupying the 18 yard box.

Frimpong started getting overrun in midfield and leaving our defence exposed. I thought he had a reasonable game but he seemed to lose energy in the second half, although he wasn’t exactly helped by teammates. The defensive midfield role at Arsenal really is a thankless task.

And then the familiar site of Squilacci behaving randomly for a Centre Back  he had already steam rollered Jenkinson in a fashion not seen since he headbutted Kozzer last season and then got caught in possession Boca didn’t need inviting twice and duly got a goal back.

Not long after and it was Djourous turn to gift one, first to the ball but under pressure he inexplicably missed the ball with his sliding clearance and the eager Boca player chasing him picked up the ball and equalised.

From then on Champion and Burley had a field day as they set about telling us all how regular an occurrence this all is at the Arsenal. Some of the support appears to agree having had a quick look on Twitter. As always the wins in our other preseason games have been forgotten and everyone wants to concentrate on this draw and the way it happened.

Okay so what did we learn?

  1. Jenkinson and Gervinho are good acquisitions.
  2. We really do need one more Centre Back to complete the squad. Maybe we will get to see him today if its Bartley.
  3.  Mannone is third choice.
  4. Robin and Jack are looking to continue where they left off as is Kozzer.
  5. Traore may be the answer at left back I thought he had a reasonable game.
  6. Nasri can’t play the advanced midfield role, or can’t play it like Cesc, his propensity to want to dribble rather than pass is one of the things that slows our progress up the pitch.
  7. Our new defending set piece approach is zonal marking, a system employed by Adams, Keown et al. For this to work we need at least four players over 6ft (five players best in my opinion) to patrol the key areas. I think it can work I would just like to see us take it a yard further out for a starting position.

Hopefully we will get more of an idea in the first half against Red Bulls as to what our likely starting lineup against Newcastle in two weeks will be. I doubt Nasri, Frimpong, Traore or Jenkinson will feature having played 90 minutes yesterday.

I’d also like to see Bartley and Afobe get a run out to give us all a positive vibe about the squad this coming season.
Enjoy the game AA’ers who are making the pilgrimage have a Peroni for me.


Ooh, how to be a happy Gooner this season

July 30, 2011

They say that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’, and after a small eternity of not seeing the mighty Arse play, I cannot wait for the new season to start. Simply seeing our players on a green pitch again during recent friendly games, made me realise how much I’ve really missed our team over the last few months.

I am full of optimism about the forthcoming season, and feel that this could be our year. Just watching Jenkinson, Gibbs, Vermaelen and Koscielny running around with such energy and eagerness in recent friendlies, made my mouth water. The triangle of Song, Rambo and Jack seems to have transformed over the summer into a confident, multi-skilled and graceful midfield war-machine, and then there is also the delight of proper, fast and effective wing/attacking-play by the likes of Ryo, Theo, Arshavin and Gervinho. Most of our established stars, for various reasons, have been taking it easy during pre-season. It is going to be a long season, so I do not mind at all. Take it easy boys and focus on what really matters this season: carrying the team through the difficult patches that we will undoubtedly have to face again.

The one thing I am wary about though, is the way the ‘outside world’ will be trying their hardest to spoil our enjoyment of the new season.

TV football commentators, especially those of Sky, are the biggest culprits. I cannot stand to have to hear again and again and again the oh so familiar and regurgitated platitudes such as: ‘Arsenal have not won a major trophy for six years and counting’, or that ‘Arsenal’s beautiful football is pointless if it does not deliver titles and cups’, or that we ‘do not do ugly goals but always want to pass ‘it’ into the goal’, or that we ‘Southern Sissies’ cannot take it if we are being roughed up by the teams ‘Up North’ etc, etc. Does this sound familiar to you?

Then there are the newspaper articles and fan blogs. For a while the Newspapers will look for ways to build us up, only to drop us again at the earliest convenience. The smallest thing that goes wrong and all the above mentioned platitudes will be in our faces again. The fan blogs will also be full of the articles based on ‘I told you so – nothing has changed’ rhetoric, as soon as we lose or even draw a game. On top of all of that, we will have to put up with fans from other, recently ‘more successful’ teams at work, in the pub, within our families and from our friends.

I know I am not the only one who gets affected by all this negativity, and that’s why I have formulated eight tips to build up the necessary immunity, in order to enjoy the new season as best as possible

Tip 1: Manage your own expectations: our team has the potential to win one or more cups this season, but there are no guarantees. The higher the expectations the harder we could fall. I rather have high aspirations but more realistic expectations.

Tip 2:  Keep believing in Wengerball – success is so near and lady luck might be on our side this year.

Tip 3: Don’t jump to conclusions if and when we lose a game: last season once again showed us that our campaign had many twist and turns and that the outcome of an individual game, either positive (beating Citeh away and the Chavs at home) or negative (drawing at Wigan and at Newcastle), does not predict the way we will finish.

Tip 4: Try not to think too much ahead and only focus on the next game coming.

Tip 5: Be very selective about which papers and blogs you read, and footie TV programmes you watch: choose those that take a fair/balanced approach and avoid those that are scripted to be negative about Arsenal whenever possible (vast majority at the moment). Arsenal Arsenal is the best place to be, most of the times.

Tip 6:  Turn off the sound of your TV-set when watching our team: I found this very helpful last season, especially during the second half when the commentators get tired and start reading of their sheet of ‘cheap and easy platitudes’.

Tip 7:  Tape the good games, and watch them again and again when you are feeling low.

Tip 8:  Keep telling yourself and subsequently your colleagues, friends and members of the family that there is nothing better than to be a Gooner: six years without success is nothing compared to our fantastic, trophy-full history; we are a model of financial sustainability to all clubs in the UK/Europe/World, and play a brand of football that everyone wants to watch. We might not always get to our destinations, but our journeys are eventful and laced with excitement and splendour. This video could not summarise any better on what it is to be Gooner:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDzQCg-Liqw

 

Wishing you all a fantastic football season, and hopefully some silverware at the end,

TotalArsenal.


Arsenal’s ‘F’ Plan Diet – eat up and stop pushing your greens around your plate

July 29, 2011

Written by Camberwell Gooner

Resumption of hostilities is just around the corner. Like the starving dog stumbling through the streets on his last legs in search of a morsel, we’re starting to catch whiffs of steak wafting from a nearby kitchen, giving us renewed hope that we will actually make it to the new season before the municipal authorities bundle us in a van and drop us off at the city pound. Or something.

In a mere two and a half weeks, genuine, real, tangible football will be with us again and no longer will my Saturday nights be aimless, no longer will I look forward to the weekend with only a vague sense of what I’ll be doing and no longer will I have nothing to listen to when I’m washing up. Yes indeed, life will have purpose again.

And this also means that, for the next nine months, none of us will have to put up with any of the following: pre-season posturing between fans egged on by the slimy little life forms known as journalists (depressingly familiar announcement: Arsenal are doomed to 5th again while Pool, Manure, Citeh and Chelsea will take the top four spots), industrial amounts of tripe in the media about new transfers, waiting for Wenger to actually sign someone. (Insert pre-season irritant of choice here.)

The problem is, all of the above are so many insect bites on the arse of every fan. They itch like bastards and you know that scratching them will only make them worse but each scratch brings delicious, momentary relief. Then back comes the itch, the desire to find any little scrap of info about a new signing.

And wouldn’t it be just fantastically, arse-kickingly, John-Terry-stampingly, Stoke-beatingly awesome to log on and find Wenger has signed who we need and that we’re ready to challenge seriously for the title while stamping on John Terry and beating Stoke (in the face, repeatedly)? It really would, but you and I know about as much about what’s going on behind the scenes at the Ems as I do about Wenger’s favourite boxers.

*tries not imagine Wenger in boxers, fails, shudders*

Sadly, the same goes for our final league position come next May – we’re all in the dark, and that includes the know-all gobshites from other clubs and our friends the cow-manure-spouting hacks. We can all agree more signings are needed if we really want to challenge, but (a) they don’t guarantee us a trophy and (b) will the sky really fall in if we only get one more and lose one or both of the Annual Super Arsenal Summer Selloff Boys (aka ASASSB 1 & 2)?

If any part of (b) happens, I will not be a happy bunny. I’ll probably even be put off my breakfast egg (one of my Favourite Things). But what I won’t do is go around with a face longer than Southend Pier and start chucking my toys out of my pram (nanny would only make me pick them up again).

Whatever happens, I just want to enjoy my football without fixating on trophies and the Champions League and the top-four mini-league and all this other stuff which is icing on the cake of course, but do you only eat the icing? I know dessert can be the best part of the meal but before you get your paws on the sticky toffee pudding you’ve got to get through the leek and potato soup and your meat and two veg. So you might as well enjoy your starter and main because in football there’s no guarantee of dessert.


Wenger Has Made Two Signings That Will Transform Arsenal’s Season

July 28, 2011

While we all wait eagerly to see who else will be added to Arsenal’s squad this summer, it’s worth pointing out that the two most important signings have already been made.

Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere were signed to long term contracts in June and November last year respectively.

Given the near certainty that we will start the new season without either or both of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, it is tempting to feel downhearted.

Losing Cesc, in particular, would be a body blow because he is rightly regarded as one of the top players in the world. For the statisticians among you, I believe he was named as the most effective player in Europe last year.

But even were he to go I just cannot join the ranks of the breast-beaters and hair-wringers, precisely because we have Jack and Aaron waiting in the wings.

Jack has already demonstrated – in just one season of first team football – that he is one of the best players in the EPL.

I was challenged in comments recently to outline what Jack currently contributes to the team (as opposed to what he might contribute in the future).

The more I thought about it, the more obvious it was that his contribution is phenomenal: short passing, medium passing, long passing, defence-splitting through balls, vision, ability to pick out attackers’ runs, non-stop effort, tackling, tenacity, courage, leading by example…

Frightening when you think that he is not the finished article yet. But he is already good enough for the England manager to build the national team around him and he was one of the stand-out players across the whole of the EPL last year.

Aaron’s development, as we all know, was delayed by the thuggishness of Ryan Shawcross, but he made a welcome return to the first team towards the end of the last campaign.

Before his horrific injury he was showing a Gerrard-esque ability to dictate play, pass the ball and make surging runs into the box. He also has a knack for finding the back of the net (something Wilshere has yet to acquire).

Again, he is an outstanding talent who will prove to be one of the best midfielders of his generation.

That Arsenal should be lucky enough to have two such prodigies available to us is a cause for huge optimism. I fully expect them to form a midfield partnership that will be unsurpassed in the English league for years to come.

Incidentally, I rate both of them as already having more talent that Samir Nasri. I love Nasri’s dribbling ability and his finishing, but whenever he has played in the so-called Cesc role he has looked lost and the team has struggled. He does not have the vision or passing range of either Wilshere or Ramsey.

If Cesc stays for one more year I will be delighted. But if not, it will be time for the next generation to step up.

Get ready for the Jack and Aaron show. It’s going to be something really, really special.

RockyLives


Tapping-up is bad, Right?

July 27, 2011

Written by 26may1989

The rules say that a club wanting to acquire a player must get the consent of the player’s current club before beginning a discussion of any sort with the player:

“Any Club which by itself, by any of its Officials, by any of its Players, by its Agent, by any other Person on its behalf or by any other means whatsoever makes an approach either directly or indirectly to a Contract Player except as permitted by either Rule K.1.2 or Rule K.2 shall be in breach of these Rules …” (Rule K.3 of the Rules of the Premier League).

Couldn’t be clearer (and it’s backed up by FIFA regulations and regulations governing agents): any approach, direct or indirect, is verboten.

But despite the clarity of the rules, Arsène Wenger said this week that: “it is a rule that has to be reviewed. It’s not really respected.” And you can understand where Wenger’s coming from when, with delicious timing, the very next day Patrice Evra showed he felt no compunction in openly demonstrated that the rules mean nothing to him:

“Of course I’ve talked a lot with [Nasri] in the holiday and also when we met up for friendly games with France at the end of the season. I told him how great it is to play for United and how important it would be for him to become of the biggest players in the world. … I just told him how good it would be for him coming here. He will have a nice welcome, and I can help as well because I’m French. …. I would definitely tell him to come to United. Definitely. I made that little joke saying that he’s a prince now but if he wants to be the king then he has to join United. But that’s the reality, and I’ve told him that. I said, ‘If you want to win trophies you have to come here.’ …. I just told him the truth.”

Could there be a more obvious breach of the rules?

We feel righteously bitter about yet another no-mark blatantly unsettling one of our best players, a feeling that is made more acute by the feeling of fragility and vulnerability at Arsenal this summer. But here’s a thought: perhaps the prohibition on tapping-up should be scrapped.

It is often said that a law that is routinely broken is a bad law. And it is clear that football’s rules against tapping-up are broken every day of the week. Gary Lineker wrote a good article back in 2006 (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/2346447/Tapping-up-isnt-illegal-so-why-have-this-stupid-rule.html), explaining how frequent tapping-up is, and how in some ways it is not only inevitable, but necessary. After all, there is an air of unreality in the idea that the would-be buying club approaches a player’s current club, and both then embark on a full-blown negotiation process, without any idea whether the player would join the new club. Similarly, a club that wants to sell may be reluctant to dilute its bargaining position by openly stating at the outset that it’s looking to offload a player.

But regardless of the rights and wrongs of the rules (and believe me, I get as wound up as anyone when I see the latest comments from Xavi, Puyol, Rossell, Ferguson, Mancini or Evra), if the rules are ignored more often than they are observed, what’s the point? And, while Arsenal may well be relative angels in this area, I’m sure our club breaches the rules too: does anyone seriously think Chamakh didn’t know he had an Arsenal contract in the bag before he began to wind down his contract at Bordeaux? And how would he have known? Because someone told him Wenger wanted him. Or more accurately, told his agent.

So, rather than perpetuate this torture of waiting for the rules to be enforced every time the vultures circle, let’s be more honest and scrap the rules against tapping-up, and just allow conversations to flow in a more grown-up manner. That way, we can just get on with hating Evra for being an odious little nerk.


A Few Thoughts From London

July 26, 2011

Not a very exciting title and certainly not one that is going to shoot the lights out of the hit stats but after questioning myself about it I thought why not, do I really want to attract people who’s blog name is “Wenger The Liar” and the like, not really was the answer. No, far happier am I to address the solid regulars of this fine site.

We have got off to a good preseason don’t you think? Two great goals from Gervinho who really does have that last piece to the attacking jigsaw about him. This man is going to allow Wenger to take no nonsense from Arshavin or Walcott, if either one of those is not performing then bang, off and on with Gerv. I say it this way around because I still think that Wenger will start with Arshavin, RvP and Walcott up front against Newcastle but I don’t anticipate that it will be too long before the goal scoring prowess of The Gerv finds it way into the first team on a regular basis.

If I had to guess as to the player who will ultimately lose out, then for me it will be Walcott. Those who read my comments know that I have a bee in my bonnet about Theo and in that same vein of bias I predict that this time next year he will be a Liverpool player.

Dalglish is on a one man mission to Britify that team in the belief that it is the El Dorado, the magic formula that manu have been using in recent past to win the league as many times as they have. Liverpool have paid some outrageous prices for average English players and I for one do not think that it will work for them. But the man who cannot be understood has too much credit in the red half of Liverpool to be kicked out too quickly and that is why I predict that after another shabby forth coming season the Scousers will make us an offer we cannot refuse – think Pennant.

I do have an alternate theory as to why Liverpool are in such a hurry to Britify that team and that is because Britain is the only football that Dalglish understands (He got lucky with Suarez). By contrast Wenger obviously knows the British players but has almost exclusive fishing rights in France and French speaking Africa. It’s like having our very own pool of talent to pick from, how brilliant is that and amazingly to me there are some who moan – oh no, please, anyone but another French speaking African. Just watch those two goals by Gervinho again and thank your lucky stars we did not buy Stewart Downing.

Walcott highlights the flaw in the youth policy that Wenger has clearly adopted, which is not to complain about its adoption. I am a firm believer that there are only three types of available player out there: the youth player, the twelve million pound player and the thirty five million pound player. Very few thirty five million pound players become available, I’m talking Aguero here, and when they do they inevitably draw the attention of Man City and once that has happened what is the point of trying to financially compete? Aguero is such a good example as it is plain to see that no one has even tried to involve themselves in the potential purchase of what is one of the best attackers in the world. No, at the present time players like that are not for us. The result being that we either have to fish in the twelve million pound pond and hope the likes of Gervinho turns into the next Drogba or try and develop the next Messi through our youth system.

This is all well and good but it is flawed, in order for the club to continue to attract the best youth players out there the fathers of super talented fifteen year olds must believe that if they succumb to Arsenal’s charms then their precious son will get the fairest crack of the whip possible and the flaw, I finally got there, is that players like Walcott are overplayed long before they are genuinely ready, the result is that we lose precious EPL points. I blame the loss of more than one league title on Wenger’s obsession with playing Walcott. Do you remember the crowd’s reaction when Walcott used to get off the bench to warm up: screams of Theo, Theo rang out throughout the ground; for goodness sake he is a puppy with a beach ball now he was even worse then.

Certain young players become too important not to play; their inclusion becomes more important than winning the league. Wilshere is another example of a player who has to be played, I complained last season that he was not strong enough to shield the defence on his own and offered next to no goal threat. My concern about him has been tempered by the realisation that the amount of games he played probably had as much to do with Diaby and Cesc’s injuries than Wenger’s impossible position of having to play him. Can you imagine him being on the bench for the first game of the season? No you can’t and yet if Cesc stays, a player who is light years more talented, then he really should be playing instead of Wilshere, well if we want to win the league he should be.

Which brings me to the title I really wanted to use Cesc, Stay, Please Stay, we are so close to having a team that just rips the EPL to pieces and with the arrival of Gervinho I think we have it. Did you see Nasri on the weekend, talented man but if there was a choice between keeping him and Cesc, hellooooooooo or should I say au revoir. We have one world class player, head and shoulders above all others and if we let him go we are back to hoping that Nasri can become the playmaker and that Wilshere will start scoring goals. They both will at one stage but I believe to win the league you have to have these two things up and running from the outset of the season. I am such a Fabregas fan I would sooner sell Wilshere to Barcelona.

Moving on or running away: cries of, if we don’t buy another defender we will continue to be vulnerable to an aerial threat from set pieces ring out from the blogshere, all I have to say to this is — tosh. Vermaelen wasn’t playing last season so it is reasonable to assume that his experience will galvanise that area of the team; Koscielny coped extremely well with his forced baptism of fire to the EPL brought on by the captain of Belgium’s injury, he played far more games than was originally anticipated and did a good job in my opinion, I expect him to be even better this season.

The idea of Gibbs as the new left back is starting to grow on me; so many teams come to the Emirates and park the bus that in the past we have struggled to break them down far more than we should for a team of our quality. How many times have we seen the ball played along a line of Arsenal players backwards and forwards before going out to Sagna or Clichy to send in a poor cross that nine times out of ten results in the loss of possession — too many is my answer. Gibbs can operate skilfully in the opposition’s eighteen yard box and as a result I expect him to start scoring some important goals.

I really do think we are ahead of the curve it terms of having a more settled side than the likes of United, City, Chelsea and Liverpool a side that is ready to storm the EPL but our side is only settled if Fabregas remains — Stay Cesc, Please Stay

London


Forget the Beautiful Game

July 25, 2011

Written by dandan

Winning they say is everything, forget the beautiful game it counts for nothing if you don’t win something.

I was pondering this when watching a TV documentary on Murray Walker this week, a man whom I was lucky enough to meet as he, our respective wives and I cruised en-route to Australia. He was on board to give some lectures on his life in and out of motor sports.

Great as these lectures were, it was the conversation that took place when they asked to join our table for breakfast that impressed me most. What you see on TV is what you get with Murray: enthusiasm personified, an unbelievably knowledgeable raconteur of class who is also ready to listen.

At 87 he is 20 years older than I, yet made me feel that I was the old man, a class act I feel privileged to have met.

What has this to do with wining you ask? Not a lot except we spoke of Stirling Moss – a man so entrenched in British folk-lore that, even today, if stopped by the police for speeding you are likely to be asked, who do you think you are Stirling Moss?

Interesting is it not, when you realise that though he never won a world championship, he drove with such skill and bravado whilst winning 16 grand prix, but never the big one, that it didn’t matter. You don’t tend to get asked are you a Hawthorn, Surtees, Stewart, Hunt ,Mansell Or Hill : All great  british drivers and world champions in days gone by, No it is the brave , seemingly indestructible yet cavalier nearly man (he was second twice) whose name has entered the language of the nation.

Now our team is like that.  It wins games and hearts with style and panache, indeed  all but the biggest prize the Champions League, has been collected along the way, whilst setting domestic records over the Arsene Wenger years, including in the case of the invincibles, an  astonishing entire season undefeated. So much so, that the very word Wengerball has also now entered the language, as a description of all that is , stylish, skillful,  and entertaining, only the physicality of the English game precludes  us from the accolade of total football bestowed on Cruyff’s legendary Dutchmen, but it is the nearest to  the beautiful game this country has ever seen.

We may not have won a trophy for six years, but in years to come, even should we not win another one, unlikely as that may be, Wengerball will still be ingrained in our living language, like Stirling Moss, to be used to describe excellence in our sport. When only the dried ink in books of statistics will recall the extravagantly purchased successes of Chelsea and City.

Winning is of course great and to be strived for at all times, although the manner in which success is achieved  bring’s recognition, pride and respect and the traditions they engender live  far longer in the collective memory, of a football nation

A new season approaches, our team evolves,  let’s hope our style and skills continue to grow and our manager’s quiet revolution continues to spread, to the discomfort of the long ball bully boys, both financial and actual, we all know so well. As we add another trophy or two to our already well filled cabine.


Gervinho Has Arsenal Singing In The Rhine

July 24, 2011

Written by Jamie

Match Report: Cologne 1-2 Arsenal

So now that we have the far-east hand shaking junket out of the way, Arsenal fans could be justified in feeling that this is where the serious stuff begins. After all, Arsène Wenger said so himself.

No more games against Kuala Lumpur elevens or tepid match ups with the mighty Hangzhou Greentowns. Proper football is upon us. An English team against a German team. Football as we know it.

Of course while Arsenal began the Pre- Season proper in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region yesterday, El Capitan, Bendtner and co were still plotting moves away from London. So it is impossible to know exactly how we will line up next season but we got a pretty good idea.

One thing is for sure, Arsenal don’t seem likely to change formation. So it seems that 4-2-3-1 or as others like to call it 4-3-3 is here to stay. Frankly, I think that the only difference between the two is how effective the wingers are.

If the wingers are slow and lack movement it is a 4-2-3-1. If they are fast and quick in to space like the first half yesterday then it is a genuine mobile 4-3-3. This is when Arsenal play best.

All of which was evident when Wilshere chipped a perfectly weighted pass to Gervinho.

The new boy crept in on the defenders blind side to lift the ball over the on rushing keeper.

This seemed to dampen the crowd who had been in good voice pre-match.

A short while later Wilshere was again the architect. Pinging a pass wide to Walcott this time, who squared it cutely for Gervinho to sweep home a second from eight yards out.

The first goal to me was a Wiltord finish, the second a Pires, right place, right time finish. It was very impressive how he found space frequently in the first few minutes.

Based on very little, A you tube video, 29 minutes in a Arsenal shirt and half a dozen games when I didn’t really know who he was in the French League a couple of years back, I would say he looks to me like a Pires/Wiltord hybrid.

Arsenal had wobbled towards half time before Jenkinson capped a brilliant Arsenal performance by beating Szczesny with a lob Dennis Bergkamp would have been proud of.

Arsenal looked vulnerable with the normal high defensive line. The midfielders don’t get enough pressure on the ball in pre season. Frankly, I’m fine with that, I would rather they didn’t risk injuries.

I don’t worry about us defending in open play. Our record is very good on that front. At the risk of stating the obvious, we need a big centre back or an organiser at set pieces.

Arshavin had four attempts in the second half but again didn’t really hit the heights. His pace seems to have gone and he needs to play in the middle somewhere. Where he can use his close control, vision and shooting. He is too isolated on the wing.  He never hides though.

Sitting at home, I might be getting worried about Fabregas leaving but all I know is this, if I were sitting on the banks of the Rhine with some of the Gooners that made the trip, I wouldn’t be worrying about any of that. I would be ordering another round of the local Kölsch and trying to work the name Gervinho in to a song.

Life goes on.

First Half Team

Szczesny – Didn’t inspire confidence but did ok.

Koscielny – Strangely out of sorts. One of our best last season but lacked his competitive edge.

Vermaelen – Similar start to Koscielny but improved as the half went on.

Jenkinson – Was trying to cover Koscielny when conceding the own goal. Technique needs work. Could he be a better cover right back than Eboue?

Gibbs – Excellent, his best game yet in the warm up. Smooth and could have scored in the second half.

Song – Solid but no yet at full tilt.

Ramsey – Played well, some nice touches.

Wilshere – Best player, was involved in both goals. He looks very well after his summer of rest.

Walcott – Sharp and focused, made one, movement was good.

Gervinho – Eventful, 29 minutes, 2 goals, impressive movement and a knee knock. I like him even if he does have the least subtle parting since GDR made plans to stop defection in 1961.

Chamakh – Did he play?

Miyaichi – Must have been chuffed to get on, did have one run, with what is becoming his trademark step over. Hoping he gets a Visa, He might brighten up the Carling Cup come the winter.

Second Half Team

Mannone – Curiously solid.

Fabianski – Not much on but good to see him back.

Sagna – No thrills, no spills, just another 45 under his belt, coasted.

Henderson – Got his chance at left back but seems to have come to a sticky end after giving himself a nasty looking knee injury in the dying moments of the game.

Squillaci – Could look out of his depth in a puddle.

Djourou – Tried hard to cope with the lack of structure around him, he gives his lot.

Frimpong – High on industry and low on artistry which is no bad thing for the anchor man but still lacks consistency to his passing.

Rosicky – Played well, it is bizarre that there is a part of all of us that still thinks he might still have his finest hour ahead of him. We can all dream.

Nasri – He looked a bit disinterested other than his cuddle for Jenkinson at half time. I wouldn’t read too much in to it, just easing in the warm ups.

Vela – Introduction was about a noticeable as air

Arshavin – Tried but still looks under par.  Arsenal need to get the best out of him this season.

Van Persie – Couple of lovely touches, time has taught him to take pre season easy.

Afobe – Got on at 89 minutes, hopefully we might see more of him through the season.


Cesc Will Rue The Day He Left Arsenal

July 23, 2011

Not many players leave Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal and thrive.

Look at Alex Hleb.

The ‘new George Best’ sold his soul for a Mr Whippy with extra sprinkles and quickly went from Barcelona to the heady heights of Birmingham FC.

Now, still owned by Barca but not wanted by anyone, he floats in the footballing ether, dribbling in mazy circles to nowhere and declining clear shooting opportunities to his heart’s content.

Matthieu Flamini, after finally having a good season at Arsenal, showed all the loyalty of a two bob hooker and decamped for Milan. One of his main gripes was that he had been forced to play so many games at Arsenal as a left back.

No such problem with the Rossoneri. They played him at right back instead.

Thierry Henry won some gongs when he joined Barcelona, but he was literally a peripheral figure (pushed back out to the wings, from where Arsene had rescued him all those years earlier). A classy, brilliant player, but no-one can doubt that we got the best of him and sold him when his decline had started.

Now he’s some kind of showman in the Americas, wearing a Stetson and juggling footballs on the back of a rodeo bull while toting a Colt 45 or somesuch.

Patrick Vieira? Like Henry he was too good to vanish into obscurity. However, when he moved to Italy he had the bittersweet experience of winning numerous medals – but only as a bit part player. When he stumbled across the ATM that never stops churning out ten pound notes (otherwise known as Man City), who can blame him for retiring to its warm dressing rooms and well varnished benches?

Ljungberg, Pires, Adebayor, Reyes, Petit, Overmars… I could go on, but the point is: Arsene knows when it’s time to let a player go. In most cases it is when he has judged that their performances have crested the zenith. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad, just that they will never quite reach their peak again and will, in fact, decline.

Even those he has been forced to sell reluctantly, like Flamini and Anelka, have never subsequently had the central, starring roles they had at Arsenal.

So what about Cesc?

Have we seen the best of El Capitan? When he leaves us will it be for a few tortured years of bench-sitting at Barcelona, plagued by ever-worsening hamstrings and haunted by the curious longevity of the Xavi-Iniesta partnership, still winning the Primera Liga well into their thirities?

Will we Arsenal fans nod sagely to each other and repeat the mantra that players just never do as well when they leave us?

DON’T BE STUPID.

Cesc Fabregas is one of the best four or five players in the world. I would put Messi and Ronaldo ahead of him, but after that…? The man is a genius. Of course he is going to have a marvelous career at Barcelona. If he is not a regular first team starter by January London will eat his red-and-white socks*.

And yet, you say, your headline referred to him rueing the day he leaves Arsenal. If he goes on to win Spanish title after Copa del Ray after Champions League what will there be to regret? What tears will little Francesc possibly shed?

Let me tell you.

Cesc will rue the day he leaves because when this Arsenal team, whose talisman he has been for so long, finally starts to win the big prizes without him it will pierce his heart with the brilliant sharpness of one of his incredible passes through the Totteringham defence.

If Arsenal win the league this year – and I am one of those who believes it is a real possibility – then Cesc will be disconsolate. It will be a failure for him that will live with him throughout his career and his life.

He will have given eight years of his life to a project – and not just any project, but a glorious, ambitious, eyes-on-the-stars kind of project – and then walked away just before it reached its crowning glory. It would be as if Neil Armstrong got to the Moon’s orbit and said: “You know what, I’m fine, I’ll just stay here in Apollo 11 and look out the window…”

Never mind whether he has a championship medal in Spain, a Champions League title and has been chosen as Miss Catalunia 2013, there will be a hole in Cesc’s soul that will never be filled.

He will rejoice for his erstwhile teammates, but deep down he will know that he should have been with them. And for that, I will grieve with him.

RockyLives

*That’s OK isn’t it London?


Only One Arsène Wenger

July 22, 2011

Hey Arsène, how many big pots are we going to win this season?

 

Why we need to stick to the Wenger Revolution

(And why it is necessary to keep reminding us of this)

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.
Confucius

The beautiful game is seldom played beautifully. Many of us are football addicts and will watch any game however mediocre it promises/ turns out to be, and I am exactly the same. But, we all notice the difference when we watch a truly beautiful game: only then will we express ourselves in superlatives and will even the most prosaic fan become poetic, only then are our needs for the beautiful game fully satisfied and are we truly happy, and only then will a game become engraved in our memories – become immortal so to speak.

Looking a bit closer at how football clubs approach the game, one can see four distinct variants, depending both on the level of success and the aspiration to play football that is pleasing to the eye. These are:

  1. Strong focus on ‘result-football’, with an inherent low aspiration to play beautiful football, but also with low levels of success: mediocre, uninspiring football by far and large, played by the majority of clubs within UK/Europe.
  2. Strong aspiration to play beautiful football, but low levels of success: attractive, praiseworthy but naive football, played by a small number of clubs – West Brom under Tony Mowbray,  and last season’s Blackpool are some good recent examples.
  3. Highly successful football, but with low levels of aspiration for attractive, beautiful football:Chelsea under Mourinho, almost every successful Italian club (the exception being AC Milan in the early nineties), Inter under Mourinho, Manchester United in recent seasons, etc.
  4. Highly successful football that is also very attractive and beautiful to watch: Barcelona in recent years, Milan in the early nineties, Ajax in the seventies and mid-nineties, Arsenal in the late nineties and during the ‘Invincibles’ era.

Of course there are more variants, but out of these four extremes only the fourth one represents the sort of football that people speak about many decades later, the sort of football that becomes immortal.

 

Arsène Wenger is a dreamer, a Don Quixote, an idealist, and a genius. He somehow wants to win pots by playing beautiful, total football, with a team that is built from within the club, on the affordable but risky concept of combining the development of youth players with the purchase of rough diamonds, that can be made to shine within 1-3 seasons. On top of that, he wants our club to adhere to a self-sustaining financial model i.e. live within our means. I, like many other Gooners – but definitely not everyone – love Arsène Wenger for this highly principled, romantic and yet competitive approach to the game and our club. It is currently unique within the UK and in Europe.

I believe the world is crying out for leaders, in all sorts of professions and sports, who can combine competitiveness – and I will not have anybody say that Wenger is no longer ambitious – with a vision, and a set of principles and virtues. Wenger, more than any manager in Europe, has all of these qualities in abundance. He could have walked away from Arsenal many times, to clubs where he would be free to continue with his philosophy and principles on how the game should be played, and more importantly: where he would have been given an almost unlimited cheque book to sign whoever he wanted, in order to complete his quest for beautiful, highly successful football. I believe he decided to stay with Arsenal to both remain loyal to our fantastic club – during the challenging period of transformation for Highbury to Ashburton Grove – and achieve something truly remarkable, in the hardest way possible.

Arsène Wenger is not perfect, and neither are we, nor is any manager: c’est la vie. I do not believe in the tacky ‘Arsène Knows’ mantra. But, what Wenger is trying to achieve: winning pots through highly attractive football on a self-sustaining financial model is unbelievably important, for Arsenal as well as football in general. He does not get enough credit for this, not from the media and not from the fans.

During the Wenger years, we had more than a good taste of highly attractive, and yet successful, football. We have become accustomed to it, but in recent years we have been famished of success (but not beauty). Yet, this is the time to remain faithful, to breath-in and breath-out, to give Arsene a chance to push us to the next level. Demanding success, even when it has been relatively so long since we won anything, is not going to help. Arsene wants it more than anybody else, so why push him even more? It is counterproductive.

 

Even if some fans would rather want us to ditch our style/ aspiration to play beautiful football, in order to win something again, there is really no way back. The third variant is not an option for us. We do not have the funds now, and most likely not for the next decade to come, to compete with Chelsea, Manchester Cityand possibly also Manchester United and Liverpool. These clubs will always be better equipped in assembling teams that win cups the ‘calculated way’, without a strong aspiration to play the game beautifully. Neither should we want to have those sorts of insane funds, but that is a discussion for another time.

No, for us it is all or nothing, The Wenger revolution cannot be stopped: the rocket has left the earth’s atmosphere and it is our only chance for success. It will come, maybe this year, maybe in two or three years, and when it comes it will be so good, that not only we, but many generations after us, will still eulogise about it.

In the meantime, try to relax and enjoy the ride: there will be plenty of beautiful football again this season, thanks to the genius and aspirations of Arsène Wenger.

“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.”  Robert M. Pirsig.

TotalArsenal.


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