The night that pigs flew.

September 29, 2010

Last night saw us take on Partizan Belgrade in Serbia and the team ran out 3-1 winners after goals by Arshavin, Chamakh and Squillaci. There was also room for a penalty miss by Arshavin just before the hour mark and an unlikely rounding off of a good display by Fabianski with a fine penalty save in the 84th minute.  I’m not going to start saying that I think that Fabianski has now turned the corner, because one performance doesn’t mean that he is suddenly a world class keeper. Though credit where it’s due, by all accounts he played well and it could be great for his confidence if he has to face Chavski this coming weekend. Arshavin’s penalty was piss-poor, it must be said. When you hit the ball almost straight down the middle, it gives the keeper a great chance to save it, and save it he did.

 

The starting eleven was: Fabianski, Sagna, Djourou, Squillaci, Gibbs, Song, Denilson, Wilshere, Rosicky, Arshavin and Chamakh. Fabianski stepped in for the injured Almunia and it remains to be seen whether or not he will be fit for the Chavski game. To be honest it’s hard to know what to hope for. Should we pray for the return of Almunia? It just wouldn’t be right to hope for Fabianski to get injured and, anyway, there is no need to hope for such a thing to happen as it is one of those fated things when you are an Arsenal player. It’s a sure as a RvP breakdown within three months of regaining full fitness. As bizarre as this may sound, Fabianski may be the better option for the Chavski game as he would be in the best state, mentally, after his performance against Partizan.

 

Never thought I would hear myself saying I would pick Fabianski ahead of Almunia. There must be someone smoking a joint somewhere in my vicinity for me to even think such a thought. Could he get through two games in a row without making a mistake of James Milner’s head proportions? Hmmmm, somehow I doubt it, but we may be about to find out. It was interesting to hear Wenger say that finally Fabianski managed to show on the football field what he does in training every day. You do wonder whether a player that makes so many routine mistakes in games, both big and small, can ever truly overcome those confidence demons to truly make it as a top class keeper. If Fabianski does manage to do so, it would be an amazing turnaround and would endear him to the fans. I just don’t see him being able to pull it off, to be honest.

 

Due to the 03:45 kick-off last night, my having to get up for work at 05:50 and Fabianski playing in goal, I decided to stay in bed and not get up to watch the game. The last thing I wanted was to get up, be furious after seeing yet another goalkeeping mistake and then going to work both knackered and in a foul mood. So, I can’t really comment on the game as I have yet to arrive home after work and watch the highlights. I just managed to see the bite-size highlights on ATVO.

 

Hope this post was somewhat coherent as I wrote it in a haze of tiredness.

 

Take it easy.


What a load of ARSEnal.

September 26, 2010

Well,what can you say about yesterday’s game? I don’t think it is being too over the top to say that we were atrocious. Absolutely dismal. The team clearly thought that they just had to turn up, West Brom would roll over and we would have a nice afternoon in the sunshine, scoring with ease. West Brom had very different ideas. They out played us and thoroughly deserved their victory. The team can have no complaints whatsoever about the result.

 

The starting line-up was: Almunia, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy, Nasri, Song, Diaby, Eboue, Arshavin and Chamakh. The subs were: Fabianski, Djourou, Denilson, Rosicky, Wilshere, JET and Vela.

 

The only player that can walk away from that game with any kind of dignity is Nasri. He can’t be faulted for trying to drag us back into the game and he was the only player that ever really threatened to score, Arshavin’s twice hitting the post in the space of a few seconds in the first half aside.

 

Defensively we were an utter shambles. Our full backs were poor, Koscielny really ought to have closed Jara down before he ever got his shot off for West Brom’s second goal. That aside, Almunia dropped our customary goalkeeping clanger for that goal when he let the ball skitter in at his near post from Jara’s shot when he really should have saved it. It just isn’t good enough to have both our number one and two keepers regularly make such elementary mistakes. Each time they make a mistake, they cost us a goal.

 

I had already been annoyed with Almunia for giving away the penalty in the first half, but at least he made up for it by saving the subsequent spot kick. The first goal, in the 50th minute, came after Sagna let Thomas get past him much too easily and he crossed in for an easy finish by Odemwingie. The booking that Almunia picked up for the giving away the penalty was obviously playing on his mind when for the third goal he went to challenge for the ball, then decided to stop, which left him stuck in no-mans land as the ball was squared into the box for an easy finish from Thomas, leaving us three goals down at the Emirates. Three goals down. To West Brom. At home. Do I even need to say how woefully poor that is? If we play like that against Chavski next weekend, it’ll be a cricket score.

 

Lately, Song has been getting forward a lot more, which is all well and good if the team is defending as a unit. However, his job is to be our holding midfielder and he needs to first focus on that rather than getting forward trying to score goals. There can be no room for personal glory, he needs to do the job that he has been put in the team to do.

 

I suppose the only positive that I can take from that game is that it is over and that no fan got so angry that they actually had a heart attack and died. Some positive, eh? In fairness to Nasri, he took both of his goals well and he seems to be hitting the kind of form that we hoped he would when we signed him, long may it continue.

 

There are rumours going around that Almunia may have picked up an injury, presumably when giving away the penalty. You know what that means, our Flap-happy no2 will be manning the goal should Almunia be unavailable for the Champions League game in midweek. Good times… However, after seeing both Lukarse and Almunia make schoolboy errors in the space of two games, Wenger may just decide to give Szczesny a chance to prove himself. Though our young Pole may now be ruing his comments made in frustration during the week.

 

This has been quite a week for the club and its fans. First we blow a certain victory in the 5th minute of injury time at Sunderland, then we hammer Spuds, announce record profits and finish the week by doing our damnedest to make sure that Chavski, who has lost the day’s early game before we had even kicked off, remained four points ahead of us. It is a massive opportunity missed and now it gives ManUre the chance to capitalise today.

 

Sorry if this is a bit of a doom and gloom post today, but it is hard to be upbeat after watching that rubbish last night. Thankfully it was a 23:00 JST kick-off and not the later 01:30 kick-off, or else I would be doubly annoyed.

 

After the game, our players refused to talk to the press, according to @MattLawExpress on Twitter. The club tried to get some to talk to the journalists, but none would do it. That just isn’t on. If you are happy enough to take the plaudits, then you must also be man enough to stand up and answer questions when things haven’t gone to plan.

 

The manager, apparently, went mad at the players in the dressing room after the game. I should bloody well hope so, too. For the manager to say we weren’t at our usual level was a bit of an understatement. At least he did come out and say that many players made massive mistakes, defensively. After the game he said:

“Everything was difficult for us today: passing the ball, winning the ball back, one against one. Overall we got what we deserved. The positive is that we did fight until the last minute, but it is just not good enough at that level.

I believe today’s game was an exception. We have to respond well on Tuesday night. It’s the first really bad performance, and it’s unexplainable how flat the whole team looked for the whole game. It’s a mystery for me. I didn’t recognise my team today, and we have to sit down together to analyse what happened.”

One thing I want to say is, no matter how bad the team are playing, it is just not on to boo, or sarcastically cheer, your own players while the game is still going on. It’s fair enough if you want to boo them off the field at the end of the first half or the end of the game. But, to boo your own players while the game is still underway does not in any way benefit the team or the performance. If anything, it will put the booed player under extra pressure and just increase the chances that his performance will deteriorate even further. It’s a football game, not panto. I didn’t actually notice it myself while watching the game, but I saw a mention of it on Twitter by @DarrenArsenal1. Regardless of whether it did or didn’t happen during yesterday’s game, it just isn’t on.

 

Right, that’s that for today. I’ve just finished watching the ‘highlights’ from ATVO and now I’m going to go and count to ten, or maybe just go for a pint. Probably the latter.

 

Enjoy what’s left of your weekend.

 


Saturday round-up and West Brom preview.

September 25, 2010

Today sees us take on West Brom at the Emirates. Kick-off is at 15:00 GMT and coverage will begin on J-Sports Plus at 22:54 JST.

 

The manager revealed that both Diaby and Rosicky are doubts for the game and were set to undergo fitness tests yesterday. As of yet, I haven’t heard anything with regards to the results of said tests. Though I think that we can assume that Diaby won’t make the game as he has a history of taking time to recover from injury. Perhaps Rosicky will make the bench. Squillaci missed the Spuds game with a muscular problem and he may make the team today. Eboue is also struggling to be fit due to a knee problem. I would be fairly certain that Gibbs will not be involved in the match day squad as there is no point in taking any kind of risk with him. He will probably be back for the game against Chavski, even though the manager has said that he has a chance to be involved in the Champions League game in midweek.

 

That should see us line up with Almunia, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy, Song, Denilson, Arshavin, Vela and Chamakh. That’s assuming a worse case scenario in that only Squillaci shakes off the ‘small’ injury he had. I think that if we didn’t have so many players carrying small injuries, that Wilshere would certainly have been rested for this game, but I don’t think that we can afford to rest him considering that Cesc is definitely out and there may be a small question mark over Rosicky and Nasri. Though Nasri said after the Spuds game that he should be okay. Who the third man in central midfield will be will depend a lot on the outcome of the fitness tests, otherwise it will go to Wilshere, or one of JET, Eastmond or Lansbury or Nasri.

 

The team needs to re-focus quickly for this game as it is a game in which we must get all three points. We are already playing catch-up on Chavski and cannot allow them to get any further ahead before our against them next Sunday.

 

Yesterday, following the announcement to the club’s finances, there was the inevitable outcry as to why we don’t spend money and that Arsenal has gone from a football club to a business. However, I think that much of the criticism has been grossly unfair on both the manager and the club. Given the number of rich benefactors that have entered the game, had Arsenal stayed at Highbury they would now be dead in the water as they just wouldn’t be able to, or have any future chance to, compete financially. Therefore, the move to the Emirates was vital in order to secure the long-term future of the club, without the need for rich investors. In order to make this move work, the club had to put itself into a scary amount of debt and for this to work we had to embark on a youth development oriented approach to the future. Financial prudence had to be exercised.

 

This approach was accepted in the beginning by most, if not all, fans as we all knew that it was what was needed. However, over time, some quarters became more and more angry and disillusioned with the club and its seeming reluctance to spend. What sometimes has gotten lost in the argument is that in the beginning the money just wasn’t there to invest and then in the more recent years, although the money has been available the manager has not wanted to buy a player that would block the progress of the young players that he had spent the last four, five or six years developing. The manager himself said as much himself in Matt Law’s article in the Daily Express:

“We make a profit because we don’t spend – simple as that. What is unbelievable is that people reproach me for making a profit, but nobody says a word about those who lose money.

I manage in a safe way, but it looks like we are in a business where the quality is to lose money. You know I have the wrong reputation. I’m not scared to spend money, but the job of a manager is not to spend as much money as possible.

To get Chamakh for free – instead of getting credit I get accused for getting him for free. ‘Why did you not spend £20m for him?’ If I bought him two years ago for £20m, then it’s OK. But when you get him for free it’s, ‘Oh, Wenger didn’t spend money again’.”

 

The manager really must feel like he just can’t win. If he spends money and buys players he will either get stick from the fans for bankrupting the club or from the media for fielding a team of foreigners. Likewise, when he is financially prudent and tries to bring through young talent, he gets killed for turning the club into a business and being reluctant to spend. It seems that no matter what he does he will get castigated by someone, so I prefer he continues with the policy he has now.

 

In the same article, the manager went on to defend his youth oriented policy:

“I am reproached for not buying players but, for example, if I buy players Jack Wilshere doesn’t come through, so you cannot have everything. I have a development policy to educate the players and the most difficult thing is to stand up for the policy and play them.

I’ll give you one day the list of those players at the top level who have made careers with me. You will be absolutely astonished – nobody else in the world has made so many careers.

How do I know? First, make a list of the players who started their top-level careers at Arsenal. People like Djourou, Senderos, Clichy, Gibbs, Fabregas, Song, Ashley Cole. If you go all the way back through the names it is unbelievable the number of players who started at this club.

But I speak about me. When I go back to Monaco, the number of players that started with me – Petit and Thuram. When I arrived in England nearly all the Manchester United team had started there, but not recently.”

 

The Daily Mail somehow manage to get a big article today out of the fact that Wenger doesn’t generally share a drink with the opposing manager after a game. Quite why this is an actual story is beyond me. Why would ANYONE want to share a drink with the likes of Pulis or Allardyce? Now, I could envisage him sharing a drink with Ancelotti as he seems like a genuinely nice bloke. But, why would he want to share a post-game drink with two managers that have had nothing but bad things to say about him? Speaking on the matter Wenger told the official site:

“I’ve got nothing against it. When you play away from home you are in a hurry to catch the plane and you are playing three days later. Once I do my press, and my press can last quite a while, I have no time. Most of the time my assistant will go and have a drink.

 
I recognise that [can make me seem aloof] but there’s no bad feeling in that, I just feel after the game you stay on your own and you don’t want to disturb people. I’ve always had that philosophy, even in France. When I arrived here I didn’t know anyone. The managers all knew each other and played alongside each other but when you arrive from a foreign country you don’t know anyone.

I’m not shy, I didn’t even know this tradition existed before I came here. And it’s not that we have nothing in common – we love football and we both love to win. I’m always happy to meet people at the Emirates but away from home we want to get away as quickly as possible. After the game my mind is on the next game but sometimes other managers go quickly as well. When we are at home we always invite them in.”

 

That’s about all I have for today. I’m glad it’s Saturday and that Arsenal are live on TV again. No need to go chasing the stream today.

 

Have a good weekend. I’m off to debate (with myself) whether or not I should go out drinking in Tokyo/Yokohama tonight, or just have a chilled evening at home with cans of Kirin and shouting expletives at the TV.


Arsenal financial report – mo’ money, no problems.

September 24, 2010

Today saw the release of the club’s annual accounts and as expected it revealed a pre-tax profit £56m, compared with £45m in 2009. Revenue rose from £313.3m in 2009 to £379.9m and net debt was reduced to £135.6m from £297.7m in 2009. The profit figure is derived from property (£11m) and football (£45m). The huge reduction in overall debt is the most surprising of all of the results and it puts us in great stead for the coming years, especially when you consider that Barcelona jizzed a 125m-odd bank loan against the wall in the summer just to cover the wages and running costs of the club. An important point to remember is that the remainder of our debt is borrowed at a fixed rate, so it is a very manageable and predictable cost to the club.

 

It is good to hear that the property side of things is now 100% debt free and is now generating pure profit for the club. This profit is set to be wholly reinvested in the club, both in the infrastructure and commercial side of things and, most importantly, the team.

 

Speaking to the official site, Peter Hill-Wood had the following to say regarding the latest set of financial results:

“The most pleasing aspect of these results is that the returns generated in the property business during the year, particularly at Highbury Square, have allowed us to repay £130 million of bank loans and significantly reduce the Group’s overall net debt. We now have a debt free property business which is accumulating surplus cash as further unit sales are made at Highbury Square and which has three further property assets to realise over the next few years.”

 

There was a slight drop in match day revenue, which Gazidis put down to the vagaries of the way the fixture list fell. Gazidis also pointed out that our youth system isn’t cheap and in order to tie players to the club we have had to increase salaries and renew contracts, which will be reflected in next year’s financial results in the form of a rise in the wages figure. More detailed quotes from Gazidis can be found on the official site.

 

One somewhat unsurprising thing revealed was that the club is going to build  a new medical wing and rehabilitation centre at Colney. I believe it is going to be called the Robin Van Persie wing. Given the number of injuries we pick up, it is badly needed and hopefully we won’t have to send players abroad for treatment in the future.

 

One final point worth mentioning is that the club now has £127.6m of cash and bank balances in hand. Have a funny feeling Gazidis and Wenger will be hitting Stringfellow’s tonight with a sack for of notes. Well, that’s what I would do, which is why I just write about the club and don’t run it.

 

Fantastic results, I’m sure you’ll agree. The board and manager have had to endure severe flak over recent years with regard to a lack of transfer activity, yet they have always stayed true to their vision, skilfully guiding the club through a stormy financial climate to confirm the club’s position as the best run in the world.

 

Today is a milestone day in the history of the club.

 

The future is bright. The future is Arsenal.


Post press conference thoughts.

September 24, 2010

Yesterday’s press conference, held a day early due to today’s expected announcement of the club’s financial results, revealed that the player closest to returning from injury is Diaby. Also, there are doubts over the fitness of both Eboue and Rosicky, both of whom will have fitness tests today. Fingers crossed that at least one of them is available for tomorrow.

 

Wenger also told Szczesny that while he knows that he deserves to play some games, he is only twenty years old and that he must be more patient. There are three other keepers at the club and only one of them can play in any game. Let’s hope that the Pole’s comments during the week don’t cost him a potentially bright future at the club. If only it were Fabianski that made the outburst…

 

The manager spoke about how he is not afraid to speak out against what he terms ‘violent football’ and that regardless of whether or not he gets criticised by other managers doesn’t bother him because he is used to receiving criticism. It is an interesting point that he talks only about the tackling but other managers react by criticising Wenger as being a moaner. The only reason that someone would take Wenger’s comments personally is if they are feeling guilty about sending their teams out ‘to get stuck in’, which is all well and good as long as the players they send out to execute said instructions are intelligent and skilful enough to know where the line between committed and reckless is.

 

This is going to be a short post as I will write a longer one later today once the financial results have been announced and I have had a chance to give it a look over.

 

Stay tuned, a post on the financial results is in the works, should be up later today.


Injury updates and a look towards the weekend.

September 23, 2010

As exclusively revealed here yesterday, the scan on Gibbs showed only bruising. We can consider ourselves very fortunate that he will only be out for a relatively short period of time as he is a player that is very important for us this season as we need him to keep up the pressure on Clichy to perform week-in-week-out. Although the injury was feared to be the second metatarsal, which is different to the one he broke before, another metatarsal break would have been a major blow for the player and his development. So, bullet dodged.

 

Hopefully another ten days of rest will sort Vermaelen out and he can make it back for the Chavski game.

 

Enough of the bad news and on to some better news on the injury front. I can reveal that Diaby, Walcott and Van Persie have all started running again and so they are slowly making their way back towards being available for selection. However, as of yet, no date has been set for the return of any of the three players. I suspect Diaby will be the first of those to return, though given his injury history that may be a wildly optimistic prediction. One way or another, the above three players and Fabregas should all be pretty fresh for our traditional hell month, November. I haven’t heard anything on the Bendtner injury front.

 

Looking ahead to the weekend and we will be taking on West Brom at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon. Kick-off is at 15:00 GMT, which means coverage will begin at the much more convenient time of  22:54 JST. I am really looking forward to being able to watch the game at a more sociable hour. The game will be shown live on J-Sports Plus, while at the same time J-Sports 2 will be showing Liverpool vs Sunderland. The early game between Man Shitty and Chavski will be shown live on J-Sports 2 from 20:39. Looks like it will be a decent evening of football for me.

 

The team selection for the weekend should see Almunia, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci and Clichy play in defence. Midfield is likely to see Song, Denilson, Rosicky, Eboue, and Arshavin start with Chamakh again being the lone man up front. I think that Wilshere will be rested and Nasri may also be rested as there was a slight fitness worry over him at the end of the Spuds game.

 

The last thing we need is to take risks with the fitness of the players, so it would be prudent to exercise some caution with Nasri if there is any doubt at all over his fitness. Wilshere could also do with a little breather ahead of the Champions League and Chavski games next week. We should learn a little more about the possible weekend team selection over today and tomorrow as the manager’s weekly interview and press conference appear on ATVO.

 

Looking at the Carling Cup this could be our best chance for years to go on and win it. Liverpool, Chavski, Everton and Man Shitty are all out and it would be nice if we could get a favourable draw in the next round. We all know that for any of the big teams, the Carling Cup is the lowest priority, however, this team needs to win something in order to instill that belief and winning attitude. They need silverware, regardless of how low of a priority that competition may be. They need to experience winning a final. They need to know that they can do it. If that happens, it could be the catalyst to start an era of dominance for this team. I know that that last sentence is a bit Myles-esque in its hyperbole, but I really think that once the first trophy comes more will quickly follow. Much like going out drinking at the weekend and needing to use the bathroom, this team needs to break the seal. This is a sentiment echoed by Rosicky in the Daily Express.

 

I have a feeling that Wenger’s team selection against Spuds revealed that he may be coming around to the same way of thinking. Outside factors such as the easing of the club’s debt may also mean that there doesn’t need to be such an emphasis on blooding youngsters in this competition as we are not as reliant on that for continued success as has previously been the case. Or, it could just be that we have seen many of these players playing in the Carling Cup for a number of years now and it doesn’t feel like we are playing a weakened team in that competition anymore. These players are, for the most part, ready for inclusion in the first team squad and so the fruits of previous Carling Cup campaigns are paying off. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. All that I know is that I would love to see this club win a trophy this season and if that trophy is the Carling Cup, so be it. We have to start somewhere.

 

Speaking to the official site following the Tottenham game, Rosicky revealed his admiration for Jack Wilshere and he basically echoes the thoughts and sentiments that all fans have for our emerging star:

“He is great talent. For his age he has a great brain and he has a great future. When he has got the ball he is very calm, that’s something that sometimes younger guys don’t have – they panic a little bit or something.

With him you don’t see that though – he is very comfortable with the ball. That’s the first quality you are looking for and he has got that. Obviously we want Cesc in our line-up but all players who started showed that they are ready.”

 

Even though I am Irish, the fact that Wilshere is an emerging English talent does make him a bit more special. I suppose it also helps that the emergence of the likes of Wilshere, Gibbs, Lansbury, JET and Eastmond gives the media one less thing to denigrate Arsenal for. All of these players have big futures in the game, hopefully that future is at Arsenal. The days of the media harping on about Arsenal not fielding any English players, not that that should make a difference anyway as it is about quality not nationality, should be at an end.

imageThe future?

 

That’s a longer post than I had expected to write, so I’d best just stop here. But before I go, check out John Cross’s article on tackling. It’s a good read.

 

Take it easy.


Gibbs and Vermaelen – injury update

September 22, 2010

I have heard that the result of Gibbs’s scan is in and it is only bruising, apparently. No break. Let’s hope that the scan was properly analysed and that no ‘little surprises’ arise due to said bruising masking a crack in the bone. Good news though, I’m sure you’ll agree.

 

Tomas Vermaelen has had to pull out of training as he is still struggling with his achilles and so is a major doubt for the weekend. Better to leave him out of this weekend’s game and make sure he is ready for the Chelsea game. No point in taking any risks with him seeing as both Koscielny and Squillaci are doing well and Djourou is also an able replacement.

 

I’ll post more information if and when I get it.

 

* UPDATE 1: ESPN is reporting that Vela has been suspended by Mexico for six months due to partying while on international duty. At least that means no travelling to far flung parts of the world and returning too late to participate in the subsequent Arsenal game.

 

* UPDATE 2: Gibbs’s bruising officially confirmed by the official site. No break.

 

Enjoy the rest of your day.