Now We Can See How Much Damage Van Persie, Cesc and Nasri Did

December 2, 2013

I hope all those who’ve made a career out of knocking the Mighty Arsenal are taking a good look at the Premier League Table.

We’re as high as Nigella and as happy as Wayne Rooney in a bingo hall.

02

Not that I’m gloating… oh no… there’s a long way to go yet, it’s a marathon not a snickers etc etc.

But at the moment I think it’s fair to say that the squad is exceeding what most of us expected for this year.

The optimists among us hoped for a steady build on the defensive tightness and greater togetherness that steered us to fourth place in the second half of last season.

When we signed Mesut Ozil, maybe we dared to hope for a bit more.

But to be comfortably top of the table as we enter December? And to be nine points ahead of ManUre? And 10 ahead of the Tinies? I doubt any of us (apart from Terry Mancini Hair Transplant) would have wagered much on us doing so well.

Which raises the question of WHY?

Why have we shown not just incremental improvement on last season, but a genuine step change in confidence, quality and – most important of all – results?

There are many individual factors we can point to: the emergence of the Welsh Messi as the best player in the Premeirship; the exceptional form of our Pole In Goal; the precision of Ozil’s assist-making; the superb organization of our back four…

But I think Arsene Wenger gave us the real answer last week when he pointed out that this year, unlike the two previous years, we have not taken the Good Ship Arsenal on a new footballing voyage with a big hole below the waterline.

Le Boss said the clear difference this time round was that we did not lose a star player on the eve of the new campaign.

It meant we started out with the same group of players who had done so well from January to May – and threw a genuine superstar into the mix for good measure.

Contrast that with the two previous years.

The summer of 2012 was spent with Brave Sir Robin trying to pretend he was undecided about leaving but finally walking out on the club that paid his wages through so many interminable injury periods. The little boy inside him turned out to be an ungrateful little twunt.

Twelve months earlier we lost Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona (a move, admittedly, that came as a surprise to no-one); but then the unlikeable little Frenchman Samir Na$ri decided he wanted to line his wallet and started touting himself round  clubs with deep pockets, ending up at Petrodollar City.

Both those disrupted summers led directly to disjointed and disappointing starts to the new season. While other teams went off at a sprint, we set off on those season-long races with an open parachute strapped to our back.

We were forced to try and bed in new signings who, in most cases, were completely new to the Premier League; we had to work out new formations to suit the new personnel; we had to turn players from strangers into team mates and heaven only knows what psychological damage was done to the rest of the squad by the fact that our best players had made it clear they wanted out.

Somehow, miraculously, Arsene managed to maintain our membership of the Top Four club by the end of both seasons – but it was certainly no thanks to the Dear Departed.

And looking at how we’re doing now it makes me really angry about those players who left us in the lurch – yes, even Cesc (although BSR and Na$ri were more selfish, disloyal and narcissistic).

Van Persie and Nasri could have made their intentions clear to the club at the end of their last seasons with us. Their leavings would still have been a loss but at least the fans would not have been led a merry dance all summer long and the club and squad could have started rebuilding sooner.

I’m not suggesting we would have had glorious seasons if they had not left but – like Arsene – I feel we would have done a LOT better. We might have fallen short of winning the league, but we might well have been in the mix for longer instead of having to play catch-up with the skinny cock brigade.

The Arsenal revival we’re witnessing this year might have happened 12 months earlier. It’s the very success we’re enjoying now that highlights just what those players who left really cost us.

It’s naïve to expect players to show loyalty and I’m sure many fans take the view that if they want to go somewhere else for more money or a better chance of glory, who can blame them?

I can’t share that laissez faire view. I remain a dinosaur. I expect the adulation and support I give to the players to mean something, even in an age when the youth squad are driving Porsches and earning more in a month than most people do in a year.

And so Van Persie, Nasri, Fabregas: je t’accuse! YOU caused us to have disastrous starts to the past two seasons; YOU gave ammunition to the silly Wenger Out campaigners; YOU stopped us being in a position to fight for the big prizes; YOU hurt us. And WE won’t forget.

Although Cesc can come back if he wants :)

RockyLives


How Much Is Cesc Worth?

July 22, 2013

I’m not asking what Cesc’s value is in the transfer market.

Rather, what is Cesc worth to Arsenal right now – and how much would we be prepared to pay for him?

We all know the fee we got for him from Barcelona (£25m) was ludicrously low. Cesc had openly stated that Catalonia was the only destination he would contemplate, so there was no chance of getting a bidding war going.

But with Manchester United apparently confirming that they want to sign our erstwhile hero this summer, some uncomfortable questions have been raised.

Not least, could any of us bear the sight of Cesc linking up with Brave Sir Robin for one of our rivals in the Premier League next season?

One of the much-reported aspects of the deal we made in selling Cesc to Barca was that we would have “first refusal” to buy him back should Barca want to sell him.

Arsene Wenger more or less confirmed this the other day during our Far East tour, telling reporters: “Fabregas has decided to stay one more year at Barcelona. Unless he has changed his mind. I don’t know. But that’s what I have been told. We have the clause in his contract so we would be on alert but at the moment that’s not something we are after.”

Although he didn’t give any more detail on “the clause in his contract” it seemed to be a tacit admission that we do have “first refusal.”

But what does that actually mean?

Does it mean that we have the right to buy back Cesc at a pre-agreed fee?

Or that we have the right to match any other club’s bid for him?

Or that we have the right to be informed of another club’s bid and start our own negotiations with the club and player if we want to compete?

The more you think about it, the less useful our “first refusal” seems. If it simply gives us the option to match another club’s bid then we probably have little chance of bringing back Cesc if the likes of ManUre, the Northern or Southern Oilers or even PSG are in the race.

But let’s suppose Manchester United offer a transfer amount with which we CAN compete (for example,  £25m-£30m), but also offer the player personal terms which are way beyond anything we pay any of our players.

One report I read yesterday said the Mancs were offering to double Cesc’s wages if he moved to Old Toilet.

Cesc talks very fondly of Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. But when it comes to believing in player loyalty our fingers have been burnt more often than a blind baker’s and we would be rash to assume he could not be lured to one of our rivals by piles of filthy lucre.

For us to hijack the move, we would presumably need to match whatever personal terms United are offering.

Which brings me to my original question: IF Cesc does leave Barcelona this summer (and let’s remember that he has so far said he does not want to leave)  how much should/would Arsenal be prepared to pay to bring him back to The Home Of Football?

Would we match a transfer fee of £40m? Would we match wages of £200k per week? £250k per week?

If we did, do we risk having a queue of other players at the manager’s door demanding pay rises? Does it create disharmony in the dressing room?

On the other hand, maybe it’s worth paying £200k per week to make sure Manchester United do NOT have Cesc linking up with the Dutchman.

Maybe we don’t need  Cesc at all.

I am conflicted about all of this. I would like Cesc back in our squad; I would hate to see him in a Manc shirt; but if we’re going to spend  £30-odd million on a player this year I would rather we got a world class striker.

What do you think?

How much is Cesc worth to us?

RockyLives


Vote For Arsenal’s Greatest Midfielders Of The Modern Era

July 5, 2013

This must be the most difficult vote, three from the modern era of midfielders is nigh on impossible, whether its the legend of Rocky the strength and skill of Patrick, the sublimity of Pires or the goals of Ljungberg. To choose three from those four is difficult enough and then we add Parlour, Silva and Davis into the mix for good measure and not forgetting probably the best player to grace the Emirates Cesc Fabregas. Any three or four of those will make a decent midfield.

We did consider extending the vote to 4 players for this section but soon realised that in reality most of us would want 7 votes to make sure we voted for all of our favourites.

Look at this list of players and remember how lucky we have been as Arsenal fans, very few fans of rival clubs can boast anything near the quality we had in this era.

Note from ed……..

Apologies for the superfluous extra ‘s’ in Gilberto Silva


Arsenal’s Greatest Midfielders Day 6

July 4, 2013

Continuing our Summer series of articles in search of Arsenal’s greatest ever team, this week we continue our quest for the greatest midfielders to include in our team.  Don’t forget to take the opportunity to choose your personal favourite midfielder by voting in the poll at the end of the week.

17. Robert Pires: 2000-2006.

Robert appeared in 284 matches over a 6 year period.

article-1287109-01C84CBA0000044D-155_468x286Born in Reims France, he is a graduate of the FC Metz youth academy, making his senior debut in 1993 against Lyon. During his six seasons there, he scored 43 goals in 162 matches, and won the Coupe de la Ligue, prompting a £5 million move to Olympique de Marseille in 1998, where he stayed for two year years.

Robert was signed by Arsenal for £6 million in 2000, after stiff competition from Real Madrid and Juventus. Initially his form was indifferent, and he was criticised for his comments that the English game was too physical. By 2001–02, he had fully got to grips with the English game and had one of his best seasons scoring many excellent goals. He led the Premier League assist charts and was voted both FWA Footballer of the Year and Arsenal’s player of the season, as Arsenal won the league title. This was despite not playing the last two months of the season after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in a FA Cup match against Newcastle United. This also ruled him out of playing in the 2002 World Cup with France.

After a lengthy layoff, he made his comeback in November 2002 and was voted Barclaycard Player of the Month for February 2003 and capping off his season by scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final against Southampton. He went on to be a crucial part of Arsenal’s quest for the Premier League title in the 2003–04 season, which they achieved, remaining unbeaten and becoming the first English top flight club to do so in 115 years. Robert along with his Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry was a key player in that season, scoring a combined 57 goals in all competitions. In the 2004–05 season, he finished third in the Premiership goal scorers table and also picked up a second FA Cup winners’ medal after Arsenal beat Manchester United on penalties. His final game for Arsenal was in the UEFA Champions league final against Barcelona, in which he was substituted after goalkeeper Jens Lehman received an early red card.

In May 2006, he agreed to join Spanish side Villarreal. He joined on a free transfer, bringing to an end his six-year career as an Arsenal player. In 2009, he faced Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, Villarreal were defeated 4–1 on aggregate, but Robert received a warm return from the Arsenal supporters, who sang his name throughout both legs. He was told in May 2010 that his contract would not be extended and he would have to look for a new club during the summer.

He won 79 caps for his country and scored 14 goals. He won the Golden Ball (for most outstanding football) and Golden Shoe (for most goals scored) awards at the 2001 Confederations Cup in Korea/Japan.

18. Freddie Ljungberg: 1998-2007. 

Freddie appeared in 328 matches over a 9 year period.

ljungberg_display_imageHe was born in Vittsjö, Sweden. Between when he was 5–14 years old, Freddie was coached by Olle Eriksson. He credits Eriksson for having a profound effect on his career as well as Brazilian football player, Sócrates. Also in his youth, he enjoyed playing ice hockey and developed a talent for handball; but decided to concentrate his attentions on football. Freddie also did well in academic subjects as well as sports and at 18 he decided to attend university, but struggled to balance the hectic academic timetable with the physically demanding commitments of football. Eventually, he quit university to concentrate on his football career.

He made his senior debut for Halmstad in October 1994 in the Allsvenskan against AIK. In 1995, he played 31 games in which he scored his first goal as a professional player. that same year Halmstad won the Swedish Cup. During his time with Halmstad, he made 139 appearances and scored 16 goals and he also won both the Swedish Cup and League title with the club. After two years with Halmstad, his star was on the rise with interest from Barcelona, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Parma and Arsenal.

Freddie was signed by Arsenal in 1998 for £3 million, Arsenal scouts watched him for over a year and Arsenal’s manager, Arsène Wenger, took the unusual step of authorising the signing after watching him play for Sweden in their victory against England on television, without seeing him play live. Freddie scored on his debut on 20 September after coming on as a substitute against Manchester United. He endeared himself to Arsenal supporters by having a bright red stripe in his hair. (A popular chant spawned from this to the tune of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: “We love you Freddie, because you’ve got red hair, we love you Freddie because you’re everywhere, we love you Freddie, you’re Arsenal through and through” Later when he shaved his head this was updated to “We love you Freddie, because you’ve got no hair”).

Freddie became the first player to score a goal at an FA Cup final outside England, when Arsenal lost against Liverpool in 2001 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. A year later, against Chelsea, he became the first player to score in consecutive FA Cup Finals. He also scored a penalty in the shootout in Arsenal’s 2005 FA Cup Final victory over Manchester United. In 2008, he placed 11th in Arsenal.com’s Gunners’ Greatest 50 Players.

After nine years at Arsenal, Freddie joined West Ham United on a four-year contract, later agreeing to terminate his contract only one year into the four-year deal.

On 28 October 2008, MLS team, Seattle Sounders officially announced they had signed Freddie as their Designated Player for the 2009 season. The terms of his contract saw Ljungberg earn $10 million over two seasons with the Sounders. Much like the contract of David Beckham and as is the norm for professional sports stars in the US, Freddie’s contract allowed him to retain all of his private endorsement money.  In July 2009, Freddie was selected for starting MLS’ All-Stars; selection for the All-Star team is based upon votes from players, coaches, general managers, members of the media and an online fan voting system. Ljungberg received the most votes among fans, a testament to his popularity in the MLS. He was also appointed captain of the 2009 MLS All-Star Team in their game versus Everton.

He was traded to Major League Soccer club Chicago Fire on 30 July 2010, after 15 league appearances, Freddie announced that he would be leaving Chicago at the end of the 2010 MLS season.

He has represented his country at Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004, the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008, and in total he has represented Sweden on 75 occasions.

On 24 August 2012, Ljungberg announced his retirement from football.

19. Gilberto Silva: 2002-2008.

Gilberto appeared in 244 games over a 6 year period.

Manchester+United+v+Arsenal+Premier+League+5LK__Q7P34HlBorn in Lagao da Prata, Brazil, he was raised in a poor family and as a child he balanced playing football with various labour jobs. He began his football career in 1997 with América Mineiro, where good form earned him a move to Atlético Mineiro in 2000. He became a star player for Atlético, playing for three years in the Brazilian Campeonato Brasileiro Série A. He came to particular prominence when he helped the Brazilian national team win the 2002 FIFA World Cup, playing in all seven of Brazil’s matches.

Arsenal signed Gilberto in August 2002 for a fee of £4.5 million. Upon signing Gilberto, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said, “What I like was the fact that he kept things simple. He can play all across the midfield but the holding role just in front of the defence is what he does best”. After two substitute appearances, he finally broke into the starting eleven on 27 August. He set a new record for the fastest goal scored in the UEFA Champions League, scoring after 20.07 seconds against PSV on 25 September 2002.

Even though he suffered a lapse in form towards the end of the season, he won an FA Cup winner’s medal, playing in the final at the Millennium Stadium as Arsenal beat Southampton 1–0.

The next season he was an important member of the squad that won Premier League title whilst going the entire season unbeaten. He played in 32 of Arsenal’s 38 unbeaten games during the season. In October 2005, Gilberto made his first appearance for Arsenal as captain, against Sparta Prague. Although Gilberto had a period of bad form during the winter months of the season, his form returned and on 17 May 2006 he played for Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League Final against FC Barcelona, which Arsenal lost 2–1. On 19 August 2006 he scored Arsenal’s first competitive goal at the newly built Emirates Stadium and was made vice-captain of Arsenal in 2006.

Gilberto was called “the invisible wall” his play often went unnoticed as he positioned himself between the two centre backs and the rest of midfield, breaking up opposition attacks before they could gather momentum. He played this role as part of the defensive unit for both club and country.  Both Arsenal and Brazil are both attack minded teams, and he created cover for attacking wing-backs and other midfielders who had a poor record of dropping back to help the defence.

According to ProZone (a data analysis system used by football managers) figures cited by The Sunday Times in January 2007, Gilberto was one of the few midfielders in England to attain “the elite Champions League level” of performance.

He made his international debut against Chile on 7 October, coming on as a substitute. On 7 November, in total he played in 93 games for Brazil.

20. Cesc Fabregas: 2003-2011.

Cesc appeared in 303 matches over an 8 year period.

Cesc was born in Arenys de Mar, Barcelona, he had supported FC Barcelona since childhood and went to his first match when he was nine months old with his grandfather. He began his club football career with CE Mataró, before being signed for Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy aged 10 in 1997. His initial training was as a defensive midfielder playing alongside notable names such as Gerard Piqué and Lionel Messi. He was a prolific scorer, sometimes scoring more than 30 goals in a season for the club’s youth teams.

Cesc+Fabregas+Arsenal+v+Barcelona+UEFA+Champions+ogSuLT1RuEKlSensing that he would have limited opportunities at Barcelona, he joined Arsenal in their Academy, when he was just 16 years old, signing on 11 September 2003. He made his debut for Arsenal not long after, on 23 October 2003, in a League Cup tie at home to Rotherham United. In doing so he became Arsenal’s youngest ever first team player, aged 16 years and 177 days. He then became the youngest goal scorer in Arsenal’s history in a later round of the League Cup, scoring in a 5–1 victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers. He signed his first professional contract with Arsenal in September 2004. He concluded that first season by gaining his first honours with Arsenal when he was in the starting eleven that defeated Manchester United on penalties in the 2005 FA Cup Final.

After the departure of Patrick Vieira, to Juventus, Cesc was given the number 4 shirt and featured regularly in the Arsenal central midfield alongside Gilberto Silva. He made 49 appearances in all competitions during the 2005–06 season.  He also played in the Champions League Final against his former club Barcelona, Arsenal were defeated 2–1. His increased exposure drew transfer speculation during the summer; Real Madrid expressed a desire to sign him despite his long-term contract with Arsenal.  On 24 November 2008, he was named as the Arsenal club captain. However he was ruled out for four months after sustaining a knee injury against Liverpool.

In August 2011, he signed for Barcelona, ending one of the most protracted transfer sagas in recent times. Statistics show that in the 5 years prior to his departure from Arsenal he created 466 goal-scoring chances, made 75 assists and scored 30 goals.

His international national career began when he represented the Under-17 side at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland. As a result of his club performances, he was called up to the senior squad in 2006. He has played in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 2008, 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012, helping Spain to become eventual winners in the three most recent tournaments.

Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile


Cesc: “Only Arsenal For Me”

May 27, 2013

We are used to reading rubbish in the silly season, but one story this summer really takes the biscuit.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to guffaw over my cornflakes when I read the “Fabregas to Manchester United” stories that are doing the rounds.

At this time of year most transfer-related stories smell of fabrication and are written purely to fill column inches or garner online hits. But even in such company, the Cesc-to-Manchester-United fantasy really does stink the place out.

Before I explain why, let’s just remind ourselves of this quote from Cesc himself, shortly after he departed for Barcelona: “Apart from Arsenal and Barcelona, I don’t see myself playing anywhere else. I will definitely be going back (to Arsenal) whenever I have time to watch games and to see the guys… and if there is one place to go back to (to play), it is Arsenal for sure.”

Cesc was abundantly clear then that he would only return to the Premier League if it was to play for Arsenal.

Of course you might say (and with some justification): “Why should we believe the words of footballers? They are always quick to spout loyalty to a club then equally quick to demonstrate loyalty only to their wallet.”

It was about 18 months ago when Cesc gave the interview from which I have quoted and yes, it’s possible he could have changed his mind since then.

But – unlike Brave Sir Robin and the Fat French Benchwarmer – he is not a player known to be driven by greed (he even took a pay cut to join Barcelona).

However, there are other good reasons why Cesc to ManUre will never happen:

Firstly, why would a world class player join a club that is quite clearly at the high point of its “arc of success” and is about to start slipping down the far side?

United have been good enough to run away with the English Premier League this year, but no-one believes they are a great team. Meanwhile, in Europe, they have fallen even further behind the Continent’s powerhouses than they were when humiliated by Barcelona in the CL final in 2011.

Most perceptive observers believe that United over-achieved in the season just past and were helped by mismanagement and upheaval at Manchester City and Chelsea.

Secondly, one of the reasons for a top player joining United has long been the draw of old Mr Scarlet Proboscis himself: Sir Alexander Chapman Ferguson (you didn’t know his parents gave him a middle name honouring a great Arsenal manager, did you?).

But Cyrano de Fergerac is no fool. He will always have wanted to bow out a champion and not a loser.

Having won the title this year, he undoubtedly surveyed the medium term prospects for his club and his playing staff and did not like what he saw.

He knows that, with their current squad, United will face a real struggle to hold on to their title next year and he also knows that without spending a hundred million pounds or more (which United cannot afford) they have no chance of competing with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Quite sensibly, he celebrated the title win and exited stage left.

So now any superstar thinking of joining the red half of Manchester has to consider the fact that they will be playing not for the most decorated and successful EPL manager of the last half century. Instead they will be lining up under some bloke from The Simpsons.

The idea of Cesc Fabregas agreeing to play under David Moyes is simply laughable.

Thirdly, if Cesc does want to return to the EPL and if, for some reason, he reneges on his assurance that he would return only to Arsenal, his destination is far more likely to be Manchester City than Manchester United.

The Northern Oilers are likely to be entering the new season under the stewardship of the highly respected Manuel Pellegrini – a much more attractive proposition for international stars than David Moyes. And, of course, for City money is not an issue.

Finally, it was widely reported that we have first option on Cesc if he wants to leave Barca. Do you really think we would not snap him up again given the chance?

So, having (I hope) properly put to bed all the nonsense about Cesc-to-United, there is one Huddlestone in the Room that needs addressing: would we – the supporters – want Cesc to return to The Home of Football and step out again in the colours of the mighty Arsenal?

I have seen comments in Arsenal Arsenal recently with differing views on the subject.

For me it’s a no-brainer. Cesc Fabreagas is one of the greatest footballers ever to have played for us. If we can get him back he can only improve us. And his return at a time when we are leaving the period of austerity (during which, let’s remember, he was instrumental in helping keep us even vaguely competitive while the club spent NOTHING on net transfers) and about to enter a new era of competitiveness could be the spark that really pushes us to domestic and European glory.

Do you agree?

RockyLives


Arsenal’s Worst Injury News Ever

October 15, 2012

Following Theo Walcott’s worrying injury against San Marino (who knew you could bruise a lung?) this seems like a good time to ask what has been the most damaging injury we have ever suffered.

I don’t mean damaging to the player (because surely Ramsey and Eduardo would jointly walk away with that one… well, hop away at any rate).

I mean damaging to Arsenal’s fortunes at the time.

Yes I know it’s a downbeat subject, but I’m feeling downbeat during this ridiculous two-week interlull*.

I know we’re supposed to be all “Cry God for Harry, England and Saint George” when Ingurland are on international duty, but I really couldn’t give a Gareth Bale’s uncle.

And so to the injuries which, given our abysmal history in recent years, should be a topic close to the hearts of most of us.

Fabregas Fractured

In the 2009-10 season Cesc Fabregas is proving to be an inspirational player. As the final day of March arrives, we are entertaining his DNA buddies from Barcelona in the Champions League quarter final (first leg); we are also sitting just four points behind Manchester United in the EPL, with six games to go. The Barca game finishes a 2-2 draw, with Captain Fabregas grabbing a memorable equalizer.

Unfortunately it emerges afterwards that even as he hit that goal to send the Emirates into ecstasy, he was suffering a leg fracture. Cesc misses the rest of the season and, without him, our form slumps. We lose the second leg in Barcelona and in the EPL we win only two of our remaining six matches to finish the season in third place, 11 points behind United.

If Fabregas had stayed fit, might we have ousted Barca and pushed on to CL and league glory? The answer to the first question is almost certainly “no” and to the second… “maybe.”

Van Persie (1)

Same season, 2009-10, and Robin van Persie is in fine form. He is named Player of the Month for October after a string of goals and assists. On November 14th he turns out for Holland in a “friendly’ against Italy.

A nasty tackle by the Italian defender Chiellini leaves him with an injured ankle and, supposedly, a six week lay-off. Clearly not wanting to become another of the “Disappeared Ones” in the Arsenal treatment centre, Robin pops over to Europe for some treatment with horse placenta and – Bingo! – six weeks out becomes five months.

Would a fit Robin have potentially sent us into the final run-in several points AHEAD of United rather than behind them? With the form he was in – very possibly.

Eduardo Horror Tackle

We probably all remember that day at Birmingham a bit too well. Arsenal are top of the league, the team are looking strong and, surely, glory awaits. Then, within minutes of the kick off, a lumbering Brummie oaf – Martin Taylor – dives in on our in-form Crozillian striker Eduardo and snaps his ankle in two.

The team are traumatised; captain William Gallas sits in the centre circle crying at the end of the game and, subsequently, our form drops quicker then a Towie girl’s knickers on a night out in Basildon.

Could we have won the league in 2008 but for Eduardo’s break? Most definitely YES.

Snap! Ramsey Horror Tackle

It is unbelievable when our boys have to experience an almost identical assault on another of their team mates, Aaron Ramsey, two years (almost to the day) later. In this case the offender is the Orc’s Orc, Ryan Shawcross, and the venue is the Britannia Ground where those classy Stoke fans boo young Aaron as he’s stretchered off to hospital.

In fairness, the team’s reaction was stronger this time round but we still had a disappointing finish to the 2009-10 season.

Did Aaron’s injury make a crucial difference? Given his youth and inexperience, probably not – but with the subsequent loss of Fabregas a month later it certainly didn’t help our midfield options.

Van Persie (2)

Come to think about it, this whole Post could have been about Brave Sir Robin, but I’ll keep it to two. In 2007-08, following the departure of Thierry Henry, it’s BSR’s turn to step into the limelight. He starts just as we would have hoped, with seven goals in 10 games. Then – yes, you’ve guessed – he goes off on international duty and comes back crocked. His involvement for the rest of the season is sporadic, to say the least.

Notwithstanding the trauma following the Eduardo injury, Robin’s full time presence in 2007-08 might well have given us the edge to find our way to silverware.

Ashley Cole

Football’s most charming man misses most of the 2005-06 season through injury, before following the smell of Maureen’s filthy lucre over to West London. We finish third that year, just ahead of the Spuds.

Flamini does a good job filling in in an unfamiliar position, but we undoubtedly lose something with not having Cole’s defensive solidity and attacking threat.

Could we have won silverware with him? A long shot, but it’s a possibility.

Those are the most telling ones from recent memory. There must have been devastating injuries from previous eras but I can’t seem to recall them.

Players just didn’t seem to get injured so much in the pre-Premier League age. Or maybe they did, but they were just pumped full of cortisone and sent out to get on with it: “Bruised lung? You’re havin’ a larf. Here, hold still while I give you this jab… that’s it – now get out there and kick someone.”

For what it’s worth, I believe the Eduardo injury was the most damaging of the ones I have listed.

The team was cooking on gas and I – and many Gooners – really felt the title was there for the taking.

The collapse in the team’s morale after the injury was disappointing (whatever happened to “let’s win it for Stumpy”?) but I do feel that we might have celebrated a 14th league title if it hadn’t happened.

What do you think?

And what injury blows have I missed off?

RockyLives

* © Arseblog


#once a gooner always a gooner?

September 22, 2012

I often come across this hashtag on twitter about former Arsenal players. Usually it’s in reply to Cesc or Henry saying something complimentary about Arsenal. Personally I think Cesc should be #oncebarcaalwaysbarca but that’s just me. I’ve always wondered how Arsenal fans make up their minds about which former players deserve our support/love and which deserve our contempt and the ones we could say neutral. Here is a list. Make your own minds up

Dennis Bergkamp

Real name God. Finished his career at Arsenal after signing several 1 year rolling contracts. The most gifted Arsenal player in my limited experience.

My Verdict Always a gooner

Ian Wright

Ian was top scorer for the Arsenal until Thierry took his crown. Since he retired he likes to wind gooners up on talksh*te and says he’s a Millwall fan but I think his heart is in the right place.

My verdict Always a gooner

Tony Adams

“Mr Arsenal” Spent his entire career at Arsenal. Famously said “Remember the name on the front of the shirt and they’ll remember the name on the back”

My verdict Always a gooner

Patrick Vieira

He came from Senegal to play for Arsenal. He was a great player for us but I feel he’s tainted himself working (and tapping up our players) for the northern oilers.

My Verdict Traitor

Cesc Fabregas

Cesc came to us from the Barca academy when he was 16. It was inevitable that he would go back someday. I think his timing was all wrong. Whatever talent he naturally has, Wenger made him the player he is today (and he’s sitting on their bench)

My verdict Traitor

Ashley Hole

He was the best left back in a generation. Was offered 60K PW by Dein but the board objected and would only give him 55K famously making him swerve his car (if only) and go for a secret meeting with Maureen. Still can’t stop talking about us. I get the feeling he’s a bit bitter despite the trophies.

My verdict Traitor

Thierry Henry

Our all-time top scorer and Monarch. Like Cesc, he went to Barca but unlike the Spaniard he’d helped us to win trophies. He got the CL he wanted and dedicated it to Arsenal. Came back last winter and scored the winners against Sunderland and Leeds.

My verdict Always a gooner.

Robin van Persie

He was with us for 7 years, Spent a lot of time injured, had one season without injury and f***ed off. He grew up as an arsenal fan but the “little boy inside him” was screaming Manchester United.

My verdict Scum

There are plenty more but you get the idea:

Eduardo Always a gooner

Eboue Always a gooner

Freddie Always a gooner

Nasri traitor

Gilberto

Flamini

Lansbury

George Graham

Dixon

Seaman

What do you think?

Written by goonermichael


Will Arsene save his prodigy Cesc?

September 9, 2012

   

Poor Cesc: torn between the love for his adopted family in London and his birth family in Catalonia, he decided last summer to return to his original home, only to find himself not fitting in properly there anymore.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd and you could not find a finer, more strongly joined-at-the-hips couple than the phenomenal central midfielders of Iniesta and Xavi. As fully expected, Cesc has lost out, at least for the moment.

Cesc has suffered a season of being compromised to somehow fit into the Barca team, and although he has shown a fantastic ability to adapt and continue his successful career – 15 goals and 20 assists in 52 games is very impressive indeed – this season, under the new manager Vilanova, it has all become too much, or should I say too little for him; finding himself more regularly on the bench than on the pitch, and seldom being played in his most natural, and favoured position. During a recent interview it became clear that all is not well with Fabregas, as it would take some doing for the normally diplomatic and always professional ex-captain to speak out like that.

I wonder how he really feels now; whether he has any regrets regarding his decision last year to leave his beloved Arsenal – let there be no doubt that he really loves Arsenal and respects Arsene as no other in the world of football – for his homeland; the place where he grew up, and learned most of his football.

I was sad to see him go, but never angry with him. Having left my home country to live in England in my twenties, I know exactly how it feels when you start feeling homesick. Moving at a very tender age to another country, away from your family and friends and everything you know, is especially not to be pooh-poohed at. Without any doubt, he will have felt homesick and lonely on many occasions during his teenage and early-twenty years in London, and at one point the longing to return home can simply no longer be ignored. Only those of you who have lived abroad for a long period will really know what I am talking about.

The call from Barcelona’s manager and boyhood hero, Guardiola, and their players – many of them his friends – was simply too sweet for him to ignore anymore. The flesh is weak but the blood is even weaker, and Cesc was born with Catalonian blood, one of the most patriotic areas in the world. Arsene could not hold him anymore and had to let his prodigy go.

At the time of his imminent departure, I humbly dedicated a post to him urging him to stay at Arsenal for a few more years; saying that now was not the right time to leave Arsenal. His job at Arsenal had not been completed and at Barcelona they did not really need him, at least for the time being. For me, it was all a matter of timing. Inevitably, he would return one day to Barcelona but he should only do so if and when they really needed him.

They didn’t and still don’t need him, and the new manager is, understandably, less willing to somehow fit Cesc in. Cesc is getting restless and might find himself now snookered on the bench of the Nou Camp. The faith of many an Ex-Gunner it seems…

In an interview last season, he said how he always tries to watch all games Arsenal play, and will only miss a game if and when Barcelona and Arsenal play simultaneously. So he will have noticed how his friend and fellow Spaniard – the more mature and seemingly fully adapted to living in England – Arteta has been faring at Arsenal: how he did not fill his spot per se, but nevertheless has fully won over the hearts of the fans with his disciplined and effective displays as one of the deeper laying midfielders.

He must have been wondering how it would be to play alongside the hard working and enthusiastic Basque, and seeing brave sir robin having the season of his life must also have had some impact on him. He will have seen the gap he left behind and was not filled properly last year, and how he could have been really needed, really wanted, and really loved back in London. A love he can only dream of at the Nou Camp.

This feeling of possibly missing out on something will only have become stronger when another fellow countryman and national team colleague, Cazorla, joined Arsenal a month ago. Santi has won over the fans and critics in no time, and has finally filled the gap that Cesc left gaping open for a year.

Besides that, Diaby is showing signs of finally finding and maintaining full fitness and since his departure Arsene has re-invested the income from player-sales in experienced, 25+ year old, quality players – something Cesc had been asking Arsenal for during the last years at our club.

Poor Cesc: he is being torn to pieces between two sets of Spaniards.

On the one hand, Xavi and Iniesta are too good and keeping him out of the first choice team at Barcelona, and on the other hand, both Arteta and Cazorla are inadvertently rubbing in what he is missing out on. Some will say, it is just what he deserves, but I feel truly sorry for him for this cruel twist of fate.

Yes, he did not behave impeccably towards the last few months of his Arsenal career: he might have put his physical (and possibly his mental) health before the needs of the club, and he should not have attended the Spanish GP, but for feck sake, didn’t he give his all for us from the moment he was positioned next to PV4, many years away from becoming a fully grown man?

Our current, new team is one in which Cesc, without any doubt, would love to play, and I would not be surprised if he does not feel at least some regret for leaving us last season.

I would love it if he would return to Arsenal, and rather sooner than later, but it would require more than a small miracle. It would be fantastic if we could field all three Spaniards in our midfield and Cesc and Santi could alternate between the deeper laying and more advanced midfield positions.

But it would mean that the likes of Diaby, Ramsey, Coquelin and JW would be on the bench a lot, or even have to be moved on, and I cannot see Wenger wanting that. Besides, Cesc would be expensive to buy as Barcelona would undoubtedly be hoping to get back most of the money they paid us.

However, of all the players Wenger has developed over the years, Cesc was very special to him; perhaps the most special of all. Cesc was the on-field embodiment of how Arsene wants to play football, his fulcrum, his conductor. There was no doubt how much Arsene regretted having to let Cesc leave for Barca last summer and what a hole he left in his team subsequently. Let there be also no doubt how much Arsene fought for his captain to stay at his adopted home.

And if there is one player I expect Wenger will do everything for, it is for his forlorn son. And that’s why it is still possible we will see Cesc back in the shirt that made him big, at the club where he is loved the most and he fits in to like a glove, and where there is a manager who would once again allow him to conduct the sweetest tunes of football.

Total Arsenal.


Will Arsène ever be able to complete his vision?

September 6, 2012

“Alas”, said the mouse, “the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.” “You only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up.

A Little Fable, by Franz Kafka.

This ‘little fable’ by Kafka has been a favourite of mine ever since I read it for the first time, back in the late eighties. I was introduced to Kafka by the father of one of my housemates during my student years. He was a semi-famous Dutch writer and knew from his son that I was very interested in literature. He handed me a copy of Kafka’s Der Prozess (The Trial) with the words: ‘This will get your brain working’.

I was working as a cleaner in a factory that produced plastic bottles for shampoo etc during the summer holidays, and when I complained to my manager that I had feck all to do, he took me aside and said he knew there was not enough work but they did not want to lose the hours on the contract, and that I should simply try to look busy. For the next few days, I ended up locking myself in the cleaning cupboard reading Kafka’s masterpiece. Anybody who has read The Trial will know that it is a surreal and creepy story, and I could not have wished for a better place to read it than in a dingy cleaning cupboard of a soul-destroying factory in the middle of a colourless industrial estate.

After The Trial, I read more work by Kafka and ‘A little Fable’ always remained at the forefront of my brain. Although Kafka apparently wrote it as just a bit of fun, I feel it is a brilliant anecdote for the cyclical, trial-and-error nature of our lives.

It somehow makes me think about the predicament Arsène Wenger has had to face over the last seven years, and is likely to continue to face for the foreseeable future. The decision to build a new stadium and the unfortunate, simultaneous arrival of the Southern and Northern Oilers, have forced Arsene to ‘change his direction’ a number of times in order to remain competitive and somehow stay firm towards his vision of football for our, and his, beloved Arsenal.

On a number of occasions over the last few years, Arsene had to face the cat that ate him up and spat him out again, telling him every time to change his direction in order to avoid it happening again.

Arsène knew he was entering the final part of his management career and, a visionary as he is, will have foreseen the above mentioned developments and their likely impact on the club and therefore on him, and yet he decided to stay loyal to us – despite strong rumours of a number of overtures by clubs with far superior financial means than Arsenal. For that, I will always remain thankful to him.

Due to a lack of financial means, he invested heavily in bringing through young players. In the meantime, he let go a significant number of experienced (and expensive) players – either by choice or somewhat forced upon him by the club in order to make the books balance. Initially, the departures did not appear to hurt us too much. Vieira was, for example, replaced relatively well by Fabregas, and the departures of Toure and Adebayor to Citeh did not leave large holes for us either.

But Arsène did not have much budget available for quality/experienced player additions, which forced him to field relatively young sides that lacked experience over the last few years.

He built a team around Fabregas and on a number of occasions we came close to winning something. Maybe with a bit more luck, Arsène and Fabregas would have succeeded but it was clear something was missing: experience, strength in depth, cohesion, the right (fighting) spirit; you name it.

Just when Arsène started to get on top of things with his team led by Fabregas, and an improved budget appeared to be made available to him so he could once again add some experienced players, Cesc, Clichy and Nasri all had to be sold, for various reasons. And although he was able to buy a number of experienced new players, it became clear he had to start again and go through another transitional year.

However, after a difficult start, the team started to gel better and better and brave sir robin had the season of his life. We finished third and there is a feeling that with the signing of Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla we could confidently make the final push toward the top-prizes.

But once again our star-players are sold: Song, brave sir robin, and almost Theo – either in order to make the books balance, or to avoid having disgruntled players in our squad whilst losing out on their potential sales value.

Just imagine, we would have been able to keep hold of brave sir robin and Song and added Cazorla and Podolski this summer. We would once again have spent a lot less than the Chavs (1/3) and both manc clubs (1/2) and yet have a team that can compete against anybody.

It just looks like every time Arsène is about to put the final shape of his Russian dolls around his team building work, somebody comes and takes one of the smaller, internal dolls away, forcing him to start again.

As a result, we are in strong danger of being in perpetual transition; of never being able to pick all the fruits of Arsène’s vision and unbelievable hard work.

Early signs, regarding the latest team Arsene has been able to put together are looking promising, though. The new additions have hit the ground running, especially Cazorla and Podolski, and Giroud had a positive impact in the first few games as well. A number of young players are coming through quickly and have claimed, or are competing hard, for first team places. On top of that, the arrival of Steve Bould appears to have given us a better structure and discipline to our defence: an absolute necessity if we are ever to win something again.

The excellent win against Pool offers us real hope of what this team might be capable of. But there remains a feeling of unease for us all.

What will happen when the next summer TW opens again: will we be subject to more transfer shenanigans; will our best players once again leave us? And will Arsène be forced to start building again?

The good news is that Arsène seems to be allowed now to spend the money that comes in from player sales again. Since the summer of 2011, there has been a clear shift by Arsene towards buying experienced, quality players who have either remained below the radar of the oil-sharks or are not deemed good-enough for them. Arsène’s nose for a good player is second to none, whether it is a young talent or an experienced player with additional potential, who would fit perfectly within our team.

It looks like Arsène is now able to foresee future loss of players and subsequently put in effective contingency plans. Our investment in young players is starting to really deliver with the likes of Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Jenkinson, Diaby, Theo, the Ox and Coquelin all becoming better and better. And there is more to come with the likes of Yenaris, Frimpong, Miquel, Myachi, Eisfeld and Aneke knocking hard on the first squad door.

Add to that, Arsène’s ability to find, and attract, experienced super players like Arteta, Cazorla, Mertesacker, Podolski, Giroud and Koscielny – except for the latter, all bought in the last 12-14 months – and maybe we will become increasingly immune to the annually recurring threat of our best two or three players being bought away from us.

The super overinflated salaries paid by the Oilers, in the UK and abroad, will remain a threat to us which is likely to lead players forcing a move on us again in the future. We cannot compete with them, and neither should we try to.

And I don’t think winning something is going to make much of a difference either. Just look at Dortmund: they keep losing players despite winning a number of trophies in recent years, and having a fantastic stadium and fan base.

But, maybe Arsène has finally found a way to stay away from the claws of the cat. She might scratch us painfully again – just, for one second, imagine TV and Diaby or Szczesny being sold next summer – but Arsene seems to have found a way to heel us quicker now, and to make us stronger every season, against all odds.

It looks like Arsène is finally able to put his vision into practice and hopefully, helped a bit as well by FFP and a quickly improving financial position of the club; we will finally reach the very top again.

We are very lucky that Arsène stayed loyal to our club and let’s hope he’ll stay a lot longer with us to fully complete his vision for Arsenal.

Keep the faith fellow Gooners!

Total Arsenal.


The Arsenal Laundry Service Cancelled.

September 5, 2012

That win was too good to just let go after a couple of days; we have been waiting all summer long for that feeling so this post is unashamedly designed to prolong the crowing.

Yes indeed and why you may ask has the Arsenal laundry service has been cancelled? Because of all the clean sheets, of course.

Before we went into that game against pool it was talked about as a real test for Arsenal as Liverpool had shown their fighting form the previous week only failing to beat the mighty man city because of a silly back pass.

One week later and we completely humiliate them — are we credited with realistic statements like this new Arsenal look like they can seriously challenge for the title? No, we get wishy, washy nonsense about how poor Liverpool are and how Brendon Rogers hasn’t had anywhere near the amount of time that Wenger has to put his team together.

I said this in my match report after the Cologne game and I am going to stick with it: the EPL will be between Arsenal and City this season and yes that does mean finishing ahead of manu and Chelsea.

Arsenal didn’t just beat Liverpool in third gear they beat them in second, there is just so much more to come from this team it is frightening.

And talking of frightening, have you ever seen a player quite so two footed as Cazorla? I don’t think I have, his ability is quite amazing and what’s also important is that he looks really happy to be at THOF.

By contrast, have you noticed that we finally have closure on Cesc? He is no longer talked about, he is hardly mentioned now, the reason I would suggest is simple; he has finally been replaced.

The same will happen with BSR, we will continue talking about him until Giroud takes over, this will become apparent in two ways: The Frenchmen will start scoring goals and the away fans will start bellowing out the song “Who needs Van Persie when we had Giroud.” It’s going to happen; it’s just a question of time.

I watched Barcelona-Valencia on Sunday to see how Alex was getting on. I was fascinated to see if he made the same kind of school boy errors for them as he did for us. The answer was no; they had obviously told him to keep his passing simple and always find your man, pretty basic really but effective nevertheless. I thought this transfer really showed Wenger’s tough side, no room for sentiment there: we have had an offer from Barcelona to buy you, collect yours stuff.

Why didn’t Theo also leave this window? Because no offers for him came in would be my guess. Something is not right there, Arsenal have never let a player run down his contact, apart from Flamini but who predicted he would have the last season he did, anyway Walcott is different his value is obvious so I still see him going in the January window to avoid the complete loss in sale value.

Did I mention that we beat Liverpool two nil at Anfield before? Well we did and it was a great feeling then and it is a great feeling now.

Onwards and upwards my fellow Arsenal loving friends.

Written by LB


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 423 other followers