The Incomprehensibles.

August 14, 2013

So, here we are, three days before the opening game of the Premier League season and we have yet to strengthen the team in any meaningful kind of way. I don’t count the free transfer of Sanogo as he is clearly a player for the future, not the here and now. Well, that’s what I had assumed when we signed him, but given the fact that we have done no business since then, he could well end up getting a fair few games this season. Given his dodgy injury record and a potential hamstring problem already, he is clearly not a player we can currently count on to be a reliable back-up. Far from ideal, but that’s where we currently find ourselves.

The fact that we could have shifted 30 players out by the end of the transfer window makes this whole situation even more incomprehensible and indefensible. At the start of the summer we were told that business would be done, certainly before the start of the season, by Gazidis. Clearly he wanted to strengthen the team as the club now has the means to pull off some big deals. By big deal, I don’t necessarily mean the £40m+ kind of deal that we’ve been pissing our entire summer away on Suarez. A Luiz Gustavo deal for £15m-16m would be a big deal for us, not so much on the financial front but on the footballing front as a proper defensive midfielder is exactly what this team has been crying out for, probably since Gilberto left if we’re being honest.

Back in June Gazidis said:

“I’m not going to talk about individual players today…what I’ll say is that it has been quite a slow start and I think that’s because there was such a managerial musical chairs going on… But I think it’s important that whatever happens in the summer that it is only relevant when we start playing in August if the team is better and is performing better.”

At the time he said this, we were all pretty pumped by his comments and began to get carried away with the absurdly fanciful notions of getting Cesc back, myself included. Though, looking back, this should have been the sign that we had all jumped the Arsenal transfer shark, on a unicorn. We clearly had set our sights absurdly high due to the fact that we actually had a shedload of cash available. Things have gone steadily downhill from that euphoric high atop Turd Mountain. There were times when we all tried to polish Turd Mountain with fanciful ideas of signing Higuain (who we never even made an official bid for) but, as we have now discovered, a polished turd is still a turd. A great big steaming one at that. The fact is that the squad is weaker than it was when we ended the season.

I have no doubt that Gazidis meant what he said, however I fully believe that he has been hung out to dry by Wenger and Kroenke Tonk Stan (KTS), an owner that is all too happy to sit by and say/do nothing as long as things are looking rosy on the financial front. Wenger has appeared to dither from one supposed target to the next with his own idea of said player’s value being held in some kind of infallible light. It is as insane as it is infuriating that we find ourselves in this situation on the Wednesday before the season starts. Wenger’s stubbornness to budge from his own personal player valuation figure coupled with his dithering over whether or not to sign said player is, on one hand, admirable but when you have cash available and a squad badly in need of strengthening it is incomprehensible. To have an owner that won’t push hard for strengthening is also incomprehensible. Wenger and KTS are The Incomprehensibles.

The club needs an owner and board that are willing to push the manager more and make him more accountable for this total catastrofuck of a summer. Gazidis should invite Wenger in for further contract talks, only for Wenger to walk into the office and find Ivan rolling up and smoking said contract because, at the moment, the manager is far from deserving a new deal. The board’s collective cajones have gone walkabout.

mr balls

Okay, rant over. For now.

It’s not all doom and gloom as we are now down to just having Bendtner and Park left to shift and we will have successfully gotten all of the deadwood of the books, thus freeing up upwards of £400,000 per week on our wage bill. That’s £20m+ per year extra that the club has to play with. Add that to the increased revenue from commercial deals and we are sitting pretty financially.

So, credit where it’s due for clearing the majority of the players we moaned about for the last two or three seasons off the books. I do fear that injury prone Abou Diaby will be the unlucky recipient of our deadwood ire next season.

But, you can’t score goals with a pile of cash. Having said that, a great big pile of cash stacked in the middle of the box would still be more mobile than Emile Heskey. There are a little over two weeks left until the transfer window closes and the clock is ticking. There is still time left to do some deals but I fear that we are hurtling toward deadline day disappointment. If that is the case, then we are likely to see the Arsenal fan equivalent of Game of Throne’s ‘Red Wedding’ on Twitter on September 2nd. (Decided I had to use that line before Mr. Mouse, @arse2mouse, stole it from me.)

I’m usually pretty optimistic about all things Arsenal and Wenger, but this summer has left me disillusioned and close to breaking point. However, all is not lost yet and I’m clinging on to the vain hope that Gustavo’s announcement tomorrow is that he has decided to join Arsenal because they are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen. I saw reports of Barcelona possibly joining the chase, but if Gustavo’s motivation for moving is more playing time then Arsenal would be his no-brainer destination. I guess that just leaves the big question, will Arsenal convert ‘an interest’ into an actual bid, or will this be a sequel to the Higuain saga?

Right, I’m off out to buy a few cans of craft beer and hit the beach. Checking out Japanese women in bikinis while having a few cans of beer is a surprisingly good antidote to summer transfer window blues.

I’ll be back with another post in a day or two, assuming I don’t get incinerated at the beach like I did this time last year. You can follow me on Twitter at @colm_smyth – I promise that I’m not always this moany, but everyone has a breaking point.


Arsene Has a Cunning Plan (We Just Don’t Know What it is Yet)

August 13, 2013


The season starts on Saturday…it starts on Saturday!!!!! How amazing is that? Great… really, err, yeah, brill…ah, who am I kidding? Things are just ludicrous at the moment. My glass has been half empty, then full to the brim, then as I get a slap of reality to the face the glass breaks and all its contents (the last remaining water on Earth) seeps into the sand of the sandiest of deserts. And whose fault is it all? It’s Arsene Wen…I jest. It’s basically my fault for having such an investment in something I can do next to nothing about, apart from scream (sometimes for joy) and moan. But I’m in. There’s no escaping now. Only thing left to do is wait and be optimistic. Maybe weep a little.


Looking at our dead-as-a-doornail transfer activity, one would assume that at any moment Arsene is ready to hatch a master plan so cunning you could dress it up as a lady and sell it to John Terry. But maybe we are all missing the point…all of us – the crowd. Looked at positively, we have ridden ourselves of just about everyone who was considered to be useless. Looking at the list, we can’t deny that it’s been a good summer in that respect. So, that’s positive number one. Secondly, we haven’t lost anyone (significant) – imagine sitting with Arsene as he’s spelling out the reasons you shouldn’t jump off the ledge quite just yet. I see Arsene a bit like Walter White (Heisenberg) from Breaking Bad. If you don’t know the character (get watching), his basic aim in life is to get the people around him to understand that his actions are for the greater good, and especially for the people he cares about the most.


“Now, I get that, Arsene, but please, FFS, sign Luis Suarez right now or I’ll jump, goddamit!” (And I’m in the ‘please don’t sign that wanker’ camp. But I’m desperate).

Gazidis, the man of riddles, has been at it too. When you hear something like: “We can do some things which would excite you. We can think about all kinds of things. We could do that [buy a £20million player], we could do more than that” it really is enough to drive even the most patient of us to despair.


This is the current state of affairs for long-suffering Gooners. However, there may (please sense the irony) be hope. We have a great squad with many players coming through that we would have considered average a season or two ago. With a good non-injury run under our belts (haha, I know), we could put in a solid start to the season, especially with the run of games we are facing.

We have Jack, Theo, Ramsey, Kos, Santi, and the rest, looking like they really can make all the bad stuff go away. That’s what they’re there for, right? To make us happier. I genuinely believe that they want to do so, too. If we could just sneak in a talismanic madman or some unheard of footballing genius just to make our nerves a little less jangly, wouldn’t that be just great? OK, so it’s not going to happen. Wenger’s never going to do something so obvious. But maybe therein lies the answer. Maybe he knows that the team are primed and ready for anything. Maybe they can hold the fort until the end of the transfer window, and just at the final minute he’ll bring in that extra body we need. Yep, that’s Arsene. That has to be the plan. It’d be masochistic if it was anything different (Why go into the season weaker than the last?). If this is the case, my hat will be taken off, screwed to the floor, never to be adorned again – the man would be a bonafide genius in my eyes.


So, in conclusion, maybe we should trust again in the genius that is Arsene Wenger. He has done it before and can do it again. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that all these players have blossomed at the same time and the team is primed and ready to fight on all fronts. If we could do it, the romance would be spectacular. And as Walter White said in a recent episode, “If you don’t know who I am then maybe your best course of action would be to tread lightly.” Substitute “know who I am” with “understand me” and “tread lightly” with “trust me”. Perhaps it’s the last course of action Arsenal fans have left.

Post Tour Fan Party.

July 28, 2013

Morning folks. As you know Friday marked the official end of the Asian tour as the squad flew directly back to London right after the game, arriving home in the small hours of Saturday morning. But, for us Gooners in Japan the tour came to its conclusion yesterday evening with a double header all-you-can-drink drunkstravaganza in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.

The level of planning for the event was really impressive, as was the turnout. It just goes to show that those who say that overseas Arsenal fans are somehow less of a fan, due to their geographic location, are talking out of their arse.

photo 3

You could argue that the level of dedication needed to be an overseas fan is higher as games that are a lunchtime kick-off in England will start eight or nine hours later in Japan, 3pm games will kick-off at 11pm or midnight, 4pm games at midnight or 1am, 5:30pm games at 1:30am or 2:30am and finally the midweek 8pm games will start at 4am or 5am. I’d love to see how many of those that moan about overseas fans would consistently watch games which start at those times, especially when working the next day.

photo 1photo 2 (1)

In attendance at the unofficial fan party was fan favourite, Maria Petri, who gave the crowd what they wanted – two songs. It’s really impressive that she made the trip to Japan, basically by herself. She’s a really nice woman and, considering she is now 74, you have to admire her dedication to all things Arsenal.

Maria Petri – Ikebukuro fan party song 1. July 27, 2013.
Maria Petri – Ikebukuro fan party song 2. July 27, 2013.

It has been a great few days to be a Gooner in the Tokyo area and an experience which many will remember for a long time to come. Here’s hoping that the club returns to these shores again next year as, while the tour can be regarded as a success, there is still plenty of room for brand and presence building in Japan. For purely selfish reasons, I’d love to see the team just do a tour of Japan next year and play friendlies in Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama and Saitama. That would minimise long-haul flights and would allow the team to dedicate more time to proper training. Though I’m sure our Gooner friends in America will be hoping that the team begins trying to make an impression Stateside. However, I feel that there is a much greater scope for commercial improvement in Japan than America as football and baseball are the two biggest sports here.

Okay, that’ll have to do for today. As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @colm_smyth.

Urawa Red Diamonds vs Arsenal – Match Report

July 28, 2013


Arsenal completed their Asia tour by lifting the Saitama City Cup with a victory over Urawa Red Diamonds at the Saitama Stadium in Urawa, Japan. The game was probably the most challenging of the tour and it would have given Arsene Wenger plenty to think about when deciding what state his squad is going to be in for the coming Premiership season.

Urawa brought plenty to this tight game and that was reflected by the 2-1 scoreline. Both teams gave a good account of themselves in the first half. The first meaningful shot came from the hosts in the 7th minute when Urawa midfielder Umesaki shot just wide after a lucky deflection off Jack Wilshere. Arsenal’s first clear chance came in the 8th minute. Decent buildup play from Miquel, Arteta, and Jack resulted in a low shot from Theo which came off the post. Urawa should’ve made it 1-0 in the 9th minute when the ball was hammered in low from the right, only to see their star man, Marcio Richardes, bundle it over. No doubt it was a massive let off for the Gunners.

In the 11th, Gnabry failed to capitalize on a mistake from a Urawa defender when he was clean through. He contribution was once again very good, though. Urawa were targeting Ignasi Miquel and one of several attacks on the right led to a shot just over by Ugajin. Arsenal had a great chance in the 26th minute and were starting to look a real danger. An attack, starting from Theo and then an Oxlade-Chamberlain dummy, led to a chance for Giroud on the right. However, instead of choosing the easier option of sliding it across to Gnabry, he chose to shoot. It went woefully over, much to the Frenchman’s frustration. This was followed by a lob on the run, again from Giroud, after a great pass from Arteta.

Urawa Red Diamonds v Arsenal

In the 34th minute, Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the bar after some uncertainly from the Urawa keeper, trying to palm away Mertsacker’s knock-on from a corner. Urawa threatened in the 43rd minute with a decent shot from Ugajin, again after pressure down the right. Fabianski pulled off a decent save which had a touch of the Hollywood’s about it, but Urawa were proving they were up for the fight.

The second half saw some changes with Ramsey, Jenkinson, Miyaichi, Podolski, and Rosicky coming on. The changes had an immediate impact. Arsenal went 1-0 up in the 46th courtesy of a Podolski volley. A deft trap backheel from Rosicky found Oxlade-Chamberlain, which was then received by the energetic Aaron Ramsey, who then found Theo with some space in the box. A little flick from Theo to Poldi was enough for the German to put the Gunners ahead.


Rosicky was a real menace with his driving runs. Ryo was trying his best to conjure something up, and he made a few runs at the Urawa right back. Unfortunately, despite his efforts, he was more Gerv than the Ronald side of the “-inhos”. Theo broke through in the 52nd minute, and he really should’ve done better with the one-on-one with the keeper.

Then came Urawa’s equalizer. Arsenal played zonal on a Urawa corner from the right. A lucky deflection dropped to Abe and he lofted it high to Fabianski’s right. There followed some Urawa pressure – Miquel caught out of position on the right saw two Urawa players beat the offside trap, leaving only Fabianski to come to the rescue. Arsenal looked a little shellshocked, and could well have given away a penalty when Jenkinson looked to have handballed in the box – Japanese commentator hilariously screaming: “hando!!” All protestations were waved away, however, especially from the Urawa boss going apeshit on the touchline.

It looked like Arsenal had lost a bit of command in the midfield, with Jack and Arteta being replaced at half time. Urawa were enjoying their best spell of pressure leading up to and after the goal, a Koscielny interception and a shot over just about keeping the scores level.

Chuba Akpom Arsenal Urawa

Arsenal needed to respond. The momentum returned when Oxlade-Chamberlain burst forward with a powerful run in the 66th minute, skipping challenges on the way, and finished it off with a low right foot shot hitting the post. Ox was replaced by the graceful wunderkind Zelalem in the 68th minute and the powerful Akpom replaced Theo in the 74th, both looking ever so slightly Brazilian in the stunning new yellow and blue away kit.

Then came Arsenal’s winner. A speculative ball in the 82nd minute found its way to a Urawa defender’s head, who tried to give it back to their unsuspecting keeper, resulting in it being palmed directly into the path of young Akpom. If there ever was a case of, “Here you are, sir. Would you like anything for dessert?” this was it. The youngster slid it in to the empty net, prompting the guy sitting next to me to sing “We’ve got Akpom. We’ve got Akpom. Who needs Suarez, when we’ve got Akpom?”


The last few minutes passed without much of a threat to either goal. Ramsey had a shot teed up by Rosicky and Sagna made a good interception on Richardes, which led to a run and shot from Ryo.

Wenger said at the end:

It was a very interesting game with a lot of commitment. And overall I think Urawa Reds played very well. We missed many chances but it was a good preparation for us.

So, mission accomplished for Arsenal – leaving Asia with a 100% record. Some good performances from young and old(er) alike. Hopefully the reception Arsenal got during this tour will persuade them to come back again. It was wonderful for the fans in Japan to get a glimpse of the team. Next stop the Emirates Cup. Come on you Gunners!

Arsenal line-up: Fabianski; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Miquel; Arteta, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Giroud, Gnabry.

SUBS: Szczesny, Martinez, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Rosicky, Ramsay, Olsson, Aneke, Miyaichi, Eisfeld, Zelalem, Podolski, Akpom.

Asian Arsenalisation.

July 26, 2013

Here is the first post by new site contributor @TheRisingGun. Enjoy.


With games in Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia, Arsenal’s global branding strategy couldn’t be any more obvious – world domination! Ok, not so much but it is certainly no coincidence that the Club are making positive inroads into this market, one which has possibly some of the most fervent and obsessed fans around. Preaching to the converted from afar works to a point but a lot of clubs are now actively pursuing the riches of the Asian market, knowing full well what rewards there are from capturing the imagination of young fans, as well as the importance of sealing sponsorship deals with locals brands.

The most successful EPL clubs have had a decent share of the market for a while in East and Southeast Asia, but when you spot middle-aged Japanese men sporting Man City shirts it’s hard to ignore that the Risk-like battle strategy for Asia’s football-related economic territory is clearly well underway.

Clubs visiting Asian countries for pre-season friendlies:

Arsenal (Indonesia; Vietnam; Japan)

Chelsea(Thailand; Malaysia; Indonesia)

Liverpool (Thailand; Indonesia)

City (China)

United (Japan; Bangkok; Hong Kong)

S’land (China)

Spuds (China)

In Japan, where baseball dominates and football comes a close second just above sumo and golf, there is a growing sense that one day “The Beautiful Game” may eventually take over as the most popular form of sporting entertainment. It seems football is pretty much consuming everything in its path, Borg style. So it’s not surprising that so many more people are turning to it, with top teams chasing the big bucks in emerging markets pretty much everywhere.


The momentum of Arsenal’s global brand, which sits 6th in revenue generated behind Bayern, Man Utd, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Chelsea, shows no signs of slowing, and I for one as a Gooner living in Japan am relishing the idea of being able to see my team in the flesh, rather just the usual affair of silent fist-pumping celebrations at 1am, watching the game in a house with paper thin walls, unable to express excitement at a last ditch Kieran Gibbs tackle.

Not only are Arsenal making economic inroads and gaining broad coverage in Japan on a large scale, they are also tapping into the soccer school market too. This year for the first time, Arsenal will be bringing their brand of footballing expertise via a summer training camp, where young Japanese hopefuls will get to chance to be coached “the Arsenal way”. Obviously this doesn’t come cheap, with a five day course costing around £700 (this includes English lessons), but there’s no doubt that the training will be top class, and I am hoping this will be a regular feature over here for years to come (will give me enough time to save up for when my boy is old enough to join!).

Arsenal defeated Nagoya Grampus (Arsene’s old club) 3-1 on July 22nd, before facing Urawa Reds – “Japan’s Man Utd” today, July 26th. Hopefully Arsenal will make Asia, and especially Japan, a regular feature of their pre-season tour. Probably not the best preparation, having to travel half way around the world for a kickabout, but you get the sense that the Club clearly recognizes the potential of this financial goldmine. It’s whoever get a stronghold first. Come on you Gunners!


Twitter:  @colm_smyth  &  @TheRisingGun

A new beginning. Again.

July 24, 2013

Not sure where to start really. It’s been ages since the last post went up on this site, about two years. A lot has happened since that post. We got rid of a Dutchman whose little boy inside him turned out to be a little cunt. We have offloaded the majority of our deadwood this summer and off the top of my head I make it that there is just Park, Chamakh and Bendtner left that really need to be shifted off the books so that we can put their wages to better use. There’s probably around £150,000 per week to be saved there which, incidentally, would pay the salary of a certain bitey Uruguayan.


It would be fair to say that our pursuit of Suarez has divided opinion, between those very willing to accept him baggage and all and those, myself included, that can see that he would be a great signing in a footballing sense but that his baggage is quite a big concern. I don’t want to get on my high horse about it as we have had players in the past that have been no angels. There was Adams and his drink driving, Merson with his trifecta of addictions and there was Vieira spitting at Ruddock. There is probably some healthy debate to be had over the whole should we, shouldn’t we, sign Suarez. I’m not sure there is a clearly definable right or wrong position to take on it because at the end of the day it comes down to personal feeling and opinion. I know that if we sign him, I won’t get his name on a shirt but I will continue to support the team and I will celebrate his goals because, at the end of the day, he’d be helping The Arsenal.


Right, that’s enough on that for now. I don’t want to go too far down the Suarez rabbit hole – is that an innuendo? Hope not. (It probably is)


As I sit here cobbling this together we are a tad over 24hrs away from the team and fans Q&A event in Urawa. Actually, I’m calling it a Q&A but I am not really sure what it is. It might just be a meet and greet. The only thing I know for sure is that I am going to be attending it and also the open training session that will follow later in the evening. I can’t wait. I also have an extra pass for both events and will give details on it at the end of this post. So, have a look and if you are in Japan, have a go.


I will be attending the event with the site’s new contributor @TheRisingGun. We’ll both be making a dash from work in north eastern Tokyo to Urawa for the event. Ecstatic. Really can’t wait. Living in Japan, life is spent watching games at unsociable hours so to have the team on our doorstep is amazing.


2013 has been a good year to be a Gooner in Japan. We had Freddie Ljungberg here a month or so ago and now we have the team here for two friendlies against Nagoya Grampus and Urawa Reds. Sadly, work commitments prevented me from attending the game in Nagoya. I’ll be making up for that with three days of Arsenal this week, starting tomorrow with the Q&A and open training followed by the game against Urawa on Friday evening and finishing up with a fan arranged drinking session in The Hub, Ikebukuro, from 2pm this coming Saturday. If you are in Tokyo and have no plans, come along and join in the Arsenal related festivities. Warning: the will be drunkenness.


@TheRisingGun will have a post up tomorrow or Friday talking about Arsenal’s push into Asia, so please check it out and give him a follow on Twitter. He’s a top bloke.


Competition time.

I have been promised an extra pass for tomorrow’s open training session and team/fans Q&A. So, if you are currently in Japan and can get to Urawa station by 3:30pm tomorrow afternoon (event starts at 4:30pm) this is what you have to do. Simply answer the question and state why you think you should get the pass instead of someone else. Send your answer and reason for deserving the pass to: thenorthbankblog (at) gmail (dot) com.

Question: Who am I standing next to in this picture?

photo 2

(Yes, a blatant shoehorning of my having met Freddie into the post.)

That’ll do for today as I’m still feeling my way back into this whole writing thing again.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can find me: @colm_smyth

Smoke and mirrors.

July 13, 2011

That’s the only way I can really take Wenger’s comments at his press conference in Malaysia with any kind of seriousness. I just can’t see a man that is so hell bent on being fiscally responsible allowing Nasri’s contract to run down. I may have imagined this, but just a few months ago, didn’t he say that the club can’t allow another Flamini style situation to arise again? Well, the end result of telling Nasri to stay will most likely end up in exactly that kind of situation.


Heading into a major international tournament in 2012, Nasri will have the perfect chance to showcase his talents, as a free agent, and sign for someone for big money once the tournament is over. That’s assuming that he doesn’t sign a new contract with us in the meantime, which is highly unlikely at this stage you would have to think, or sign a pre-contract agreement with another club in January. It’s also a bit of a calculated gamble by the player himself, in that he is running the risk of picking up a serious injury which could very well leave him up the proverbial creek without a contract.


Don’t get me wrong, I like Nasri and would have liked him to have already signed a new contract. He’s a good player but he hasn’t delivered on anything close to a consistent basis since he joined the club. You get the feeling that he saw the posturing of Rooney mid-season in order to get a better contract and thought he could use the same tactic, safe in the knowledge that Wenger wouldn’t come out and put him down in anything even remotely close to the same manner as Ferguson did to Rooney. If it comes down to a choice between cashing in on him now and holding on to him for another year only to see him leave for free, then I think that it is the manager’s duty to sell him this summer.


I may be wrong, but I feel that his comments may also put him at odds with the board. The fact that he says that any club that purports itself to be one of the elite shouldn’t sell two of its best players in one summer, which is true. However, this means that should Cesc say that he wants to go home this summer and is sold then the board will have a dilemma of whether or not to cash in on a player that also wants out, or backing the manager and foregoing a potential £25m that could be better invested in signing a replacement for Nasri. For me, there is a difference between selling big players purely for the money, and selling two of your best players because they are no longer fully committed to the cause, as may be the case with Cesc and Nasri. Anyway, I’ve already said way more than I had planned to on this topic.


The club announced earlier in the week that Gervinho has signed for the club subject to some kind of ‘regulatory process’ which I have never heard of before so can only assume that it is related to the size of pound his rather impressive, and shiny,  forehead. I suppose there is the risk that its sheen could blind pilots and take down flights that pass overhead? Fingers crossed he is a good player for the club. He will more than likely share the right flank with Theo, while the latter will probably get a bit more playing time up front this season.


In other news, both Bendtner and Almunia look like they are closing in on moves away from the club, possibly to Dortmund and Atletico Madrid respectively, if some reports are to be believed, though apparently Bendtner has a number of clubs sniffing around him. What chance some sucker will come along and ‘snap up’ Denilson, too? *I’m looking at you, Steve Bruce.*


The club’s pre-season tour in underway and the opening game is against a Malaysian XI tonight in Kuala Lumpur at 20:45 local time. For a change, this pre-season will kick off at a nice convenient time for me and will be at 13:45 back in the UK and Ireland. It will be nice to see Vermaelen get some more playing time under his belt as he looks to finally put the season-long injury hell of last season behind him.


This summer is one where Gooners are having to put all of their patience to the test as we watch and wait for new players to be signed. So far, Twitter has been relatively calm, for the most part. Of course, there are still  a lot of extremely rude, crude, batshit people out there, but it hasn’t been as bad as I had been expecting. Though if more signings don’t come, I am expecting a complete meltdown by some people on Twitter as they indulge in what Iain Macintosh, @iainmacintosh, might label ‘twatfoolery.’ It’s because of these wacko people that they wonderful ‘block’ option is needed and often exercised.


Anyway, the first of our pre-season games is now under two hours away from kick-off and, despite all of the frustrations with our squad and general lack of strengthening so far, I can’t wait for the team to be back in action again.


Hope that post didn’t come across as being negative. It’s been a while since my last post!


Enjoy the game.

Our path has been laid out. January – May.

June 18, 2011

If you managed to make it through the August-December look at the season’s fixtures, here is part two. Enjoy. (If that’s the right word to use.)


January has the potential to be a very busy month for the club, should the team to make it to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup and win the FA Cup third round tie they will have to play eight games in thirty days. The month starts with an away trip to Fulham on the 2nd. So, following the away trip to Villa on December 21st, the team will be playing in London until at least the FA Cup 3rd round tie on the weekend of the 7th & 8th. Should we make it to the Carling Cup semis, the first leg will be played on the 11th. The Premier League will then resume with an away trip to Swansea on the 14th ahead of the visit of ManU to the Emirates on the 21st. With the two cup games and Swansea trip coming before this game, it is a chance to rest some of the more senior players to ensure they are 100% for the ManU game. The Carling Cup semi-final second leg is schedule for the 25th with the FA Cup 4th round on the weekend of the 28th & 29th. The final game of the month sees us travel to Bolton on the 31st.

League prediction: WWDW (10pts)


February sees us take on Blackburn at home on the 4th. We then have a week to rest before travelling to Sunderland on the 11th. The 5th round of the FA Cup will take place on the weekend of the 18th & 19th. Spurs visit the Emirates on the 25th, though that game will be moved should the team reach the Carling Cup final, which is scheduled to be played on the 26th. Will the team be able to right the wrongs of last season and bring home the Carling Cup as its first piece of silverware? Time will tell. One thing seems certain, if they do reach the final their opponent is unlikely to be as favourable as Birmingham should have been last season, which may be no bad thing as it would help avoid complacency.

League prediction: WDW (7pts)


This is when the men really start to be separated from the boys and the run-in begins in earnest. The team faces a trip to Anfield on the 3rd followed by the visit of Newcastle to the Emirates on the 10th. There are no easy games at this point of the season and the team will be hoping to be in good form and injury free as each game becomes more crucial than the last. An away trip to Everton is scheduled for the 17th but this is subject to change should either team reach the quarter finals of the FA Cup. There is then a week of rest ahead of a home game against Aston Villa on the 24th and an away game against QPR on the 31st.

League prediction: LWDWW (10pts)


The first league game of the month comes on the 7th with a home game against Man City and is followed by an away trip to Wolves on the 9th. The boss will need to think carefully about which players he rotates for these two games as clearly he won’t be able to play the same starting eleven in such a short space of time. On the 14th, Wigan are set to visit the Emirates, however this game is subject to change should either team reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup. A week later, on the 21st, Chelsea visit the Emirates in what will hopefully be a pivotal game in the title race. The final game of the month comes a week later, on the 28th, with an away game against Stoke.

League prediction: DWWDD (9pts)


Our final home game of the season will be on May 5th, against Norwich. However, this is subject to change should either team reach the FA Cup final. You would have to look at that as a guaranteed three points at home. Our final game of the league season is on Sunday 13th, when we will travel to play WBA. If the team is level on points, or ahead, with two games to go you would have to fancy our chances of lifting the title with Norwich and WBA as our final two games.

League prediction: WW (6pts)

The second half of the season will see us playing nine home games and 10 away games.

Final league points tally prediction: 82 points. P38 W24 D10 L4.

That final points tally may seem overly optimistic as it would be a 14pt improvement over last season and involve just four defeats, four less than last season. But, if you can’t be optimistic ahead of a new season then you may as well just stop following football. It’s also based on the assumption that we will have strengthened the squad and sufficiently addressed the defensive frailties that plagued us last season.

That’ll have to do for my outline of the season’s fixtures as they currently stand. Of course, some of these may change depending on results in the various cup competitions.


Remember, you can follow me on Twitter:

Take it easy.

Our path has been laid out. August – December.

June 18, 2011

Yesterday saw the announcement of the fixture list for the 2011/2012 season and it hasn’t given us an easy opening month by any stretch of the imagination. I will take a look at the fixtures month by month, as the Premier League gets uppity if you print a list-style fixture list and would have their goons send me a message ordering it to be taken down.



August sees us kick off the season with an away trip to Newcastle on the 13th. Not the easiest of opening day games. This is then followed by the first leg of our Champions League qualifier in midweek. On Saturday 20th, we have a home game against Liverpool. The following midweek sees us play the Champions League qualifier 2nd leg followed by an away trip to ManU on the 27th.

That, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a tough run of games and the team will have to really hit the ground running if they are to avoid suffering a string of morale crushing defeats in the opening month of the season. Perhaps it will prompt the manager to finish his transfer business early so that that the squad is settled and the new players have had a chance to integrate before the season starts, rather than waiting until August 31st in order to try and save a few pounds in the transfer market, as has been his modus operandi in the last few years.

League prediction: DWL (4pts)


September will offer the chance to get some decent points on the board with a home game to Swansea on the 10th, away to Blackburn on the 17th and home to Bolton on the 24th. All of those games are very winnable with the Bolton game likely to be the toughest of those fixtures. But, if last season taught us anything, it’s that this team is most often at its poorest against the  so-called lesser teams, so it will be a good early indicator of whether or not they have learned anything from their previous plethora of mistakes.  The Blackburn and Bolton games sandwich the 3rd round Carling Cup tie on the 21st.

There’s no point mentioning the potential Champions League group stage dates as we haven’t qualified for that yet and I don’t want to tempt fate.

League prediction: WWW (9pts)


October looks like it could be a tricky month and it kicks off on the 1st with an away trip to Spurs. This is followed by a two week break which must be for a depressingly dull international break. Normal service is resumed on the 15th with a home game against Sunderland which, given the players they have offloaded this year, we really ought to be winning. Stoke visit the Emirates on the 22nd in what will be a good aerial test for whatever form our revamped defence will take. Will we be able to deal with Delap’s throws? The Carling Cup 4th round, should we still be in it, is on the 26th. The final game of the month sees us travel to Stamford Bridge on the 29th. That game will be a good test of the team’s mettle. If the team can get good results in the games against Spurs and Stoke we could be heading into that game with a good level of confidence, increasing our chances of getting a good result, as this team relies heavily on being confident in order to perform. However, I have a feeling that October won’t be too kind to us this year.

League prediction: DWDL (5pts)


Unusually, November looks set to offer another chance for the team to get some points on the board and in a month that generally treats us very badly both in terms of results and injuries, we just might be able to have a decent November, for a change.

The month opens with a home game to WBA on the 5th. This is a game that we really ought to be winning. This is followed by an away trip to Norwich on the 19th and then a home game against Fulham on the 26th. All three of those games are games that we really ought to be winning if we are to have any kind of serious title aspirations. By mid-November, any kind of buzz felt by Norwich following their promotion should have dissipated and the harsh realities of a Premier League season will have set in. The month ends with a possible Carling Cup quarter final tie on the 30th.

League prediction: WWW (9pts)


December will provide more of a test for the team. The month starts with an away trip to Wigan on the 3rd. On the face of it, this should be a very winnable game, but we all remember being 2-0 up there a year or two ago only to blow the game and lose 3-2. Everton visit the Emirates on the 10th, followed by away trips to Man City on the 17th and Aston Villa on the 21st. That’s a run of three tricky games as we head into the Christmas period. On the 26th we have a home game against Wolves and on the 29th we are home to QPR. I will be hoping to get myself to the QPR game while I am home in Ireland for Christmas. While it won’t be an easy month, it could have been a lot worse as we only have to face one team that is set to challenge for a top four position. Apart from Man City, those other teams will probably finish lower than 8th.

League prediction: WWLDWW (13pts)


The first half of the season will see us playing ten home games and nine away games. Hopefully our home form will be better than it was last season. It will have to be if we want to pick up some silverware.


Okay, that’ll do for part one of my look at the fixtures for the coming season. Part two will be up about an hour after this one, should you be arsed reading it having read this. I will update this post accordingly should the team successfully navigate its way through the Champions League qualifier in August.


As always, you can find me on Twitter: Also, thanks to all who have given me an #FF on Twitter. I never expected to reach the number one spot in Japan, let alone spend seven weeks there. Thanks very much!

Take it easy.

Thankfully, the season is over.

May 25, 2011

Greetings from a warm and sunny Yokohama. The weather is now well on its way towards the horrid heat and humidity of summer, but right now is hovering around the mid-20s.


Thankfully, the season has finally come to an end, put out of it’s misery like a sack of malnutritioned kittens chucked over the side of a bridge. What should have been a title run-in turned into an absolutely atrocious run of results and inept performances from a group of players that didn’t (and don’t) appear to have the fight, the guts, the ability, the professionalism and the much vaunted (but clearly nonexistent) mental strength to maintain a competitive edge right until the final game.


If this season was like the movie Pulp Fiction, I would be advocating that Gazidis, Kroenke or someone get some blow torches and get medieval on some of our players. It just hasn’t been good enough. Sporadic good results against the likes of Barcelona merely papered over the cracks, no, gaping crevices that are the problems with this squad. It has been a cuntastically bad end to the season. I have never been so consistently frustrated and angered by an Arsenal squad as I have this season. Anyone who has read this blog over the past two years will know that I have always been a firm supporter of Wenger. I’m not an apologist for him, I’m a supporter of him. I recognise and greatly respect everything that he has done for this club. His contribution has been immense.


However, my patience is almost at an end and my support for him is now largely dependent on what kind of business he does in the transfer market, and changes he makes to the coaching set-up, this summer. Rumour is that this summer could see an emphasis placed on recruiting young players, but I think that if we sign a raft of young players in the summer then we are right back at square one and the old ‘we are young and lack experience’ excuse will be trotted out again next season. In fact, the re-emergence of that excuse will be like a new signing to the manager’s repertoire of excuses. The manager said judge him at the end of the season but I will wait until the end of the summer’s transfer window. His latest line being something along the lines of ‘It’s not like we were in a relegation battle.’ Well, the collapse that we have managed to somehow pull off must be pretty close to relegation form. We went from being in a great position to actually win the league to finishing 4th (FOURTH!!) 12pts adrift of ManUre.


I know that we were just 3pts off finishing 2nd, but that isn’t the point. The league was there for the taking this season and our squad choked. The Carling Cup was there for the taking and guess what? We blew it by not taking the opposition seriously enough. We thought that we just had to turn up and the trophy would be ours.


There was a firestorm on Sunday after Cesc tweeted a picture while at the Spanish GP. I didn’t see said tweet or picture myself, but I don’t really see why it has been turned into such a huge, cataclysmic event. Yes, as captain he really ought to have been at the final game of the season supporting his teammates. However, he is currently injured and injured players are not required to attend away games. The tweet by the player may have been ill-judged, but it is not the end of the world and didn’t warrant the player receiving a torrent of abuse or people generally going batshit about it on Twitter.


I think that the levels of abuse we are seeing on Twitter are a combination of people’s dissatisfaction with how the team is playing and the overall lack of investment & player effort, coupled with people’s misguided belief that the anonymity of the internet allows you to say whatever you like, to whoever you like, without any kind of repercussions. If I worked in the human resources department of a company I would make sure to check Facebook and Twitter before hiring someone, just to see if they have left a trail of batshit. Sending abuse is one of the lowest forms of ‘intelligent’ communicative interaction that you can get. It’s also, by and large, the most pointless. If your opening gambit is abuse then it instantly closes the door on any kind of intelligent and meaningful debate.


Anyway, yesterday it was revealed that the club has signed 19yr old Carl Jenkinson from Charlton after a compensation package of around £1m was agreed between the two clubs. I don’t know much about the player’s quality, to be honest. All I know is that he is a right-back that can also play in the middle, if needed. He is English-born, but plays his international football for Finland as his mother is Finnish. As a squad player he will surely be a better back-up for Sagna than Eboue is. Welcome to the club, Carl.


John Cross is reporting in today’s Mirror that a move for Karim Benzema could be on the cards. If so, he would be a great replacement to get for the soon to be departing Bendtner. In the article, Wenger is quoted as saying:

“Viewed from the outside, it doesn’t seem impossible today. He’s a player that I like. I think he’s intelligent in his movement, I think he is capable of combining well and making a difference, and of doing individual moves as well. So, for me, he’s a player who’s at the top level in the world.”

Cost-wise, it would be a move that goes against the manager’s previous transfer dealings, but at 23 the player is the right age for a Wenger signing. He also has plenty of experience and would bring more to the table than Bendtner ever did. However, for now, I will file this particular rumour under ‘pipe dream.’


Details of the club’s pre-season tour of Asia have been confirmed and will see the club travel first to Malaysia where they will play a Malaysia XI at the Bukit Jalil Stadiu, in Kuala Lumpur, on July 13th and then on to China where they will play Chinese Super League side Hangzhou Greentown, in Hangzhou, on July 16.


Finally, the club are allowing Barcelona to train at Colney ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final against ManUre. Hopefully the staff will give the place a good going over afterwards in order to root out all of Xavi’s love letters to Cesc, pleading with him to join Barca in the summer.


Right, I think that will do for today. My venting is done, hopefully things can get back to being more positive from here on. The boss has said that this will be his busiest summer in the transfer market for quite some time, let’s hope that the signing of some proven quality will be part of what keeps him busy.

Take it easy.