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.


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.


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.


A brief Sunday round-up.

September 5, 2010

Greetings from a hot as hell Yokohama. It’s mid-30s here and that is just wrong for the first week of September.

 

Anyway, there isn’t a whole lot going on really. The international break is a pain in the arse and is made worse by the fact that Spain play games because, as now seems the norm, quotes emanate out of various publications and sources regarding Cesc. If the current quotes are accurate and not distorted by translation, it is clear that Cesc is still at the club because he was told that he would not be allowed to leave, not that that fact was ever in doubt.

 

There are two ways that you can look at that, if you take it in a negative way it means that Cesc has his heart set on playing for Barcelona and may not be able to fully focus on Arsenal, particularly as the end of the season approaches. However, looking at it in a positive way, you could also say that it is great that the club stood up to Barcelona and fought to keep a player that is key to the club and also the fact that Cesc accepted the club’s stance on the matter and didn’t try to agitate for a move should be commended.

 

I prefer to look at it in a positive light and I don’t think that Cesc will ever give anything less than 100% while representing our club. So, let’s just enjoy watching him play football while he is still playing for us. Of course, the newspapers are trying to spin it as he is being held against his will by Arsenal. We just have to be smart enough to see through that nonsense.

 

Elsewhere, John Lukic has been talking about how the club really ought to have signed a top class goalkeeper during the summer. You won’t find many that will argue with those sentiments, but there isn’t a lot we can do about it now. We should just accept that Almunia will be our no1 for the whole season. I just hope that he doesn’t get injured because I would cry if Lukarse were to play for any extended period of time.

 

Adebayor has shown yet again how much of a tool he is by claiming that if Man Shitty win ten games in a row people will begin to believe that they are a bigger club than Arsenal. This from the man who was trying to get out of the place just 2wks ago. Fool.

 

That’s about that for today. Hopefully you will begin to see the blog appearing in the NewsNow feed from this week onwards as things seems to have been sorted on that front, fingers crossed.

 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


A routine run-out.

July 18, 2010

Yesterday saw the long-awaited return of The Arsenal in the game against Barnet at Underhill. The team ran out comfortable 4-0 winners and were never really put under any pressure. The goals came from Arshavin, Simpson (2) and Nasri. The assists came from Rosicky, Wilshere (2) and the fourth goal coming from a defensive calamity by Barnet. There is no point in going into any kind of great detail on the game as for a better report on it you should check out Gunnerblog whose Gilberto Silver attended the game.

 

Our two new boys got some playing time under their belts and from first impressions it is clear that Koscielny was right when he said, upon signing, that he needed to build up his strength and power. He is a bit gangly looking and will need to build up his muscles if he is to be an effective centre-half in the premier league. That said, he is still very young for a centre half and has time on his side. Also, it was just the first game of pre-season, with new teammates, so it is much too early to make any kind of prediction on how he will fare over the course of the season.

 

Chamakh got a 2nd half run-out and by the looks of the way he plays, he could pick up a few yellows over the course of the season and may not be as prolific as we might hope. But, as long as he helps to create goals, as well as score some, then he will be a good addition to the squad.

 

I though Jay Emmanuel-Thomas had a good game and I was surprised at how big he looked. Though, maybe the midgets around him just made him look bigger than he actually is. I thought Traore was a bit suspect and I am glad that he will just be our third choice left back next season. Frimpong also impressed.

 

In his post match interview, Arsene confirmed that six of the eight players yet to return from their post-World Cup holiday will return on Monday, in time to join the team for the pre-season training in Austria. In a roundabout way he also referred to Koscielny not doing so well with aerial challenges early on but slowly adjusting and becoming a bit more competitive in them. It will take time for him to get used to the English game and bulk up, that’s for sure. He also commented on the fact that Chamakh is good at linking play and involving the players around him, which should suit our attacking midfielders and style of play. I wonder if it means he will spend more time outside the box than in it. Let’s hope that he can get the balance of linking play and finishing a move off right over the season.

 

Although Wenger said all the right things in terms of Cesc staying at the club and any idea of such a move being over, looking at the video it wasn’t the most convincing of statements. However, I may be reading too much into that, but it’s just the impression that I got from watching it. However, in an interview which appears in today’s Guardian, the boss is much more emphatic about the situation:

“There was a lot of unneeded talk. It is not pleasant to read that every day. Now, the story has to stop. Cesc is our captain, he is so important to us and we want to keep him, that is why we were not listening to any offers. It was not a problem of money, just the desire to keep him at the club.

We can only influence our own behaviour and I believe things have now gone straight again with Sandro Rosell. We always had a consistent attitude and were always reluctant to talk about Cesc’s departure. It is very important we give the impression that just because somebody wants a player from us, we do not just give in.

We have shown our love and care for Cesc since the start. I believe Cesc loves the club, has shown his attachment to the club many times and I am very confident the story will end there. We want Cesc to be part of our club next year, and that is it.”

The first sentence in the second paragraph of the above quote is very telling as to the club’s views of Laporta and his regime and is about as close as Wenger will ever come to calling Laporta a c*nt in public. Great stuff. It also has the added effect of forcing Rossell to act appropriately and respectfully if he wants to differentiate his regime from Laporta’s in order to seal a deal for Fabregas at some point in the future. The attachment that the boss feels for Cesc is also evident by his talking about the ‘love and care’ that the club has for, and has shown towards, our Catalan captain. It was also good to see that Wenger wants to show that Arsenal are a big club that can resist the overtures from one of the world’s so-called big two. We need to show the world that just because a club wants to buy one of our players, it does not mean that they will be able to prize one of our prize assets away from us.

 

It was interesting to see the link to Schwarzer being played down, with the excessive fee being asked as the main stumbling block to any such deal going through. That, for me, is good news as any fee in the region of, or above 3m is just way too much money for a 37yr old. I could only justify an outlay of that magnitude if it also included his signing on fee and salary for the duration of the contract. There is also a rumour that Wenger told a fan that he hasn’t decided on his no1 for the coming season. Does this mean that a search for a keeper is still underway? The grapevine indicates that it is, judging from word I received during the week.

 

There are reports that we have had a 14m bid for Jagielka rejected. That’s a lot of money to bid for a player that recently had a serious knee injury. The boss was also very quiet on any alleged deal for Joe Cole.

 

Talking about Gallas and Silvestre, the club expect them to sign with another club while Campbell is currently in footballing limbo. While none of the three have been definitively ruled out, one suspects that out of the three the only one that has a chance of being here when the Premier League kicks off in mid-August is Campbell.

 

Right, that’s enough for today. 1,000+ words is more than enough for anyone to digest on a Sunday. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.