Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Cole out, Beckham and Torres in?

In our 2-1 defeat to the Spuds reserves last night - hopefully not a portent of things to come in the premiership - old Ash hobbled off again. Are all our defender legs made out of paper? It seems, at current, our defence merely has to look at a blade of grass before hitting the deck in agony. Currently its being reported as a 'sprained ankle', but there's been no definite estimate at the length of time he'll be out for. I read somewhere it could be a month, which, in terms of the effect it'll have on our 4th place chances, is effectively the rest of the season. Hopefully it's just a knock.

Elsewhere, clubcall - that paragon of reliability - has reported we've made an approach for Torres, who, if Barcelona don't get him, will come to us. Not sure about the impact he'd have at the Grove. He has undoubted ability, but do we really want another lightweight La Liga player who's going to take a year to acclimatise to the premiership?

Over on ANR, Miles has been getting quite philosophical - 'do football results matter?' etc.
He also suggests that Becks maybe coming to us next year. Hmm. Do we want him? On current form - yes, he would energise the team. I think he could be good for bolstering the squad: it'd be nice to have at least one player over 22 who isn't crap, sulking, injured, having some form of weird mental breakdown. I would have concerns, however, over how sustainable his current form is - how long he will able play in a manner that will propel us into the Champions League. Also, the club would probably faint when they saw his wage demand.

I have to admire Miles' optimism of us keeping TH. 'Will we finish 4th? no. Will we keep TH? yes.' Hmm.

I also feel the club should be keeping an eye on Jaaskelainen: he seems to be refusing a new deal at Bolton and would be a superb keeper to bring in when Old Jens finally goes to the asylum.

right, must work. Until tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Firstly, congratulations to Arseblogger for making it to his 4th birthday. I can't remember when exactly i stumbled across him, but it is now the first Arsenal site i read in the morning, every morning.

As of this morning we are now 7th in the league. Some fans have started questioning whether we're even going to make a Uefa cup spot. We're going to have to go on some streak until the end of the season if we want to take anything from this year. Even worse, the Mancs hammered Wigan yesterday. What i would give for Rooney in our team. Without him, United would be 7th this season. Still, it seems Ruud's time at Old Trafford may be drawing in: I'm sure all Arsenal wish him well in the future. *any Arsenal fans actually reading splutter their coffee over their computers in disbelief, before realising that the sarcasm of this comment is so biting they now have teeth marks on their arms*

If you haven't heard it, there was the amusing Ronaldo story in the NOTW. Perhaps Arsene told the players about this before the match: probably made them so laugh so much they cheered up enough to win the game.

Cesc is saying he's 100% committed, after speculation with Real. I hope so. Jens is on the verge of a new deal, but speculation has again surfaced linking us with Shay Given and Jaaskelainen. Either would be a great buy: I would hope even Arsene realises that buying a 15 year old keeper is suicide. I do love Jens though. I think he'll be one of those players who we'll all realise we've taken for granted when he's gone. Best keeper by a mile in the Premieship this year .

After telling SWP to go to Chelsea, and advising TH to go to Barca, Ian Wright continues to enhance his post-Arsenal reputation with this story. Nice one Wrighty. Ever considered that SWP would now be pushing for a starting position in the world cup if he was playing for us?

Watched Real last night at Mallorca. Real were abysmal, lazy, and for the most part uninterested. Baptista looked like a £1.3m , not £13m player, and Robinho seemed a light weight even for La Liga. Increasingly glad we didn't get either, although, obviously, things could have been different with us. Real scored a goal against the run of a play after a superb free kick by Beckham planted the ball on Ramos's head. I really think that Becks is now Real's best player, along with Casillas. He's had a real resurgance of form and deserves to be starting for England as captain.

That Mallorca went on to beat them bodes very well for us. Seeing as even Gilberto can dominate the Real midfield, I'm fairly optimistic for the second leg. Although, considering how we've been playing this year, it wouldn't surprise me if Real hammered us.

Right, time for some work.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Blackburn 0 Arsenal 1.

For 65 to 70 minutes against Blackburn, Arsenal did nothing which suggested they deserved to take anything from this game. Blackburn were far the better side for an hour. They were physical, but not unfairly so, and also played some reasonable football. The reason for their dominance was obvious: they closed down our players quickly, denying them the acres of space of time Real had afforded us. Considering Mark Hughes had said this was going to happen all week, you would have thought that we would have expected this. But no. Passes went awry; tackles were poor or absent; Brad Friedel could take a 45 minute nap.

Post-Madrid, the players’ reactions varied. Reyes, who I’m usually a big fan of, did not turn up. His most notable contribution was to run the length of the pitch, and then, instead of passing to Adebayor, who was free and in a threatening position, tried to go the whole way himself, and ended up taking a heavy touch which their defence easily dealt with. He was rightly taken off at h-t.

The goal was a farce, and largely down to Senderos, a player who, again, I’m a fan of but, again, struggled today. He firstly misjudged a ball over the top which Bellamy latched on to, and then, after an admittedly outrageous piece of skill by Bellamy, was beaten by the same player, allowing him to put a cross in for the unmarked Pederson. I counted 5 Arsenal shirts, excluding Senderos, between Pederson and the goal: what were they doing? Certainly not marking anyone else. After the goal Blackburn were all over us for the remainder of the half, and probably should have been more ahead, but for poor finishing.

Pires came on for Reyes at h-t and didn’t really improve matters. His one sizeable contribution in the game was to pass to Henry when he himself had a much better chance of scoring. What has happened to the 15 goal a season Bobby?

Then, inexplicably, Gilberto was left on and Diaby came off for Hleb. Gilberto added almost nothing to the team today. He’s not a battler, and he’s largely reliant on other players winning tackles which allow him to recycle and re-begin play. Diaby looked far the greater threat though, and can both defend and attack. He should have stayed on.

Hleb was excellent and really made a difference when he came on, surging forward, and showing some lovely skill and passing. He really upped the tempo, and Blackburn began to struggle. Fabregas began to come alive, and in the last twenty minutes we should have scored. Adebayor, who seemed more likely to score than Henry, came the closest. He beautifully controlled a ball flighted over to him, before scuffing a shot from just outside the six yard box, which nonetheless forced a quality save from Friedel who had certainly awoken from his nap by the last quarter of the game. I was impressed with Adebayor’s commitment and ability. Had him and Henry been able to link up more successively, which I hope will come with time, we would have eventually found a way through. At the end it was good to see Lupoli finally get on the field after the terror he’s been spreading in the reserves. Yet he couldn’t really get into the game, and he perhaps deserved more than just the last ten minutes.

Afterwards le Boss was typically upbeat: he seems to have got used to us losing 1-0 away from home. His assertion that we didn’t really deserve to lose was more justifiable than usual – but it still begged the question as to why we didn’t start playing for 70 minutes.

Player ratings

Lehmann - 6 – made a few good stops and looked solid. Still hard to tell whether his madness is good for morale, or perilously close to unnecessarily leaving us with 10 men.

Eboue - 5 –. Defending was ok, but gave the ball away too much.

Kolo - 7 – Solid and committed, although, like the rest of the defence, where was he when Pederson scored?

Phil – 5 – tries so hard bless him, but wasn’t really his day. I think he’ll be stronger for performances like this, and he came very close to scoring.

Flamini – 5 – Continues to give 100% effort, even if he is obviously uncomfortable on the left.

Fabregas – 6 – can’t quite see the logic of playing him out on the wing. Arsene should at least give him and Diaby a chance in the centre together. Much better towards the end.

Gilberto – 4 – I can, unlike some fans, see why he plays, but he has suffered the most from Vieira’s departure. His tackling is lightweight, and I think he’s become a weak-link in an important position.

Diaby – 5 – a good effort, and will improve, but still learning.

Reyes – 3/4 – Still in Madrid?

Adebayor -7 – Great technical skills and came closest to scoring. Looked a threat and caused problems.

Thierry – 5 – Couldn’t really find a way to really get into the game. Was still vital to our attack though.

Pires – 4 – Why did he pass it to T when he was clean through?

Hleb – 7 – Did well in a short amount of time. He needs games if he’s going to get better, and needs to be able to play more centrally. Only some excellent defending prevented him from scoring.

Lupoli – N/A.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Another horrible result

Just a quick post.

Final whistle has just gone at Ewood park: Blackburn 1 Arsenal 0.

Oh dear. A depressing, yet, if I'm being honest, predictable result. I'll watch the game tonight and make a fuller post. But, as a not so random stab in the dark, lets see how far I am from the truth with this:

Blackburn gave us no time/space on the ball to play our fancy little passing game. They closed us down quickly and dictated the game.
Gilberto was an invisible wall in reality, not metaphorically.
Our midfield not only didn't score, but didn't look like scoring, and was comprehensively muscled out the game.
Our defence looked like the bunch of inexperienced kids - save kolo and Jens - that it is.
Thierry waited for passes that never came; Adebayor held the ball up well, but looked like a player with a 1 in 4 strike rate.

Champions league next year through league performance is looking increasingly unlikely. These are worrying times, regardless of European performance. Still, we can do it and I always thought this would be a tough game with our current form. But - cold, hard facts: we are 5 points adrift of a champions league spot and West Ham and Bolton look likely to leapfrog us.

Let's hope last Tuesday wasn't a one off.

Friday, February 24, 2006

News 24/2

Various cra...I mean stories floating round this morning.

Ashley Cole is at the centre of two. Firstly, Real now have a 'firm agreement' to buy him at the end of the season. Which seems to contrast with the Mail, who have Real buying Del Horno from the Chavs. As i can't see them buying both - although i wouldn't put it past them - I think the Del Horno story seems more likely. Mourinhio is not the 'patient one'. He already seemed unhappy with him, and his farcical performance against Barcelona may have been the final nail in his Stamford Bridge coffin. Ash off to Real? Maybe - I want him to stay, but I think he could go.

, Ash is fit again. Yay! Well, not quite. Seems he might be fit, but he's only going to play reserve matches for about two months until he's actually fit. So god knows when we'll see him again. Return match at Highbury vs. Real?

According to the Mirror, Real also want to steal little Cesc from us. Well, you can't have him. He's ours. Expect an interminable transfer saga involving Cesc every summer for the rest of his Arsenal career though. wah.

Although Real's president also reckons that TH will stay at Arsenal. Hmm. Are Real now using reverse psychology to get our players?

Finally, we're rich! Moohahah! Well, By 'we' I mean Arsenal. It seems Paddy's parting gift to the club was to contribute to a huge profit in our interim results. Yay! I may even do a post on the full report: or perhaps i'l wait until the Annual report comes out for that.

Must go.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

More post-Real and the never ending contract negotiations.

Another excellent article by Myles Palmer on ANR. Really spot on about why Real were so awful: laziness and greed. I feel sorry for Beckham, because he really gives 100%, despite fading ability. He really thought he'd go to Spain and rack up a few medals quickly, because Real were at the top of a seemingly unassailable crescent. He didn't realise that his move was actually symbolic of everything that was wrong with Real: money and commercialism over footballing ability. Beckham was a great player when he signed, but Real had entered some crazy nether-footballing world were commercial value decided whether you played or not. The symbolic signing of Gravesen was Real's attempt to show the Galactico policy had ended, but it hasn't. Why would you want to join a club where managerial stability is almost attacked? Why would you want to join a club where Robinho is taken off, and Ronaldo left on after Ronaldo had done nothing? Well, save passing the ball to Fabregas for our opener.

Barca are, and always will be, the greatest club in Spain, because, aside from the fairly dirty manner they've conducted the attempted Henry transfer so far, they're all about football. They have great traditions and the club is owned by the fans. Look at the dispute that's broken out just because they're considering have a sponser on their shirt! The ultimate contrast with Real.

I also felt for Woodgate on Tuesday - after the game had finsished naturally. He's a great centre-back, who has improved Real's defence 10X since he's been fit. But he seems to be a bit of a 'sick note'. My hope? Real again put money before football and offload him to us, where we'll put him right. When fit, he should be in the England squad.

Aside from post-real reaction, we're seemingly entering stage 20096605 of the Thierry Henry contract negotiation. The truth is painful: unless we a) win the Champions league b) qualify for the Champions league he won't be with us next season. Indeed, if neither happens he might even move before the World Cup because I think he'll want to be settled before it starts. As i've always said, all the best to Thierry whatever he does. I can only see him going to one club: Barca. He won't go back to Italy because of racism, and he won't go to Real because they're against what he believes football should be about.

BUT i don't think he'd be as good at Barca as Arsenal. The team wouldn't be built around him like it is at Arsenal. I don't know how he'd fit into the Ronaldinhio/Eto'o attack. And the knives would come out very quickly if he didn't produce the goods immediately.

Please stay!! Arsenal are entering a new era. Next season we will be strong if we continue our rebuilding to its conclusion. Our midfield might even start scoring again! As i said before if i just got 10-15 more goals a season we'd be 2nd-3rd in the league now, and T would have signed his conract. But, if T goes then we may go through another transition season. A painful thought...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

News in brief

Some post Real reaction.

Wenger is already banging on to Henry about how this game proves he should stay.

Barcelona just won't give up though. Bastards

Or have they? Maybe?

Thierry is making sure we keep our feet on the ground. Fat chance, but it's the right sentiment.

Oh, and, as per usual, Chelsea are trying every underhand method in the book to win their match.

In some Tabloid speculation, appartently Aaron Lennon is leaving spuds for the North in a £5m move; and Bolton have rejected Didier Agathe, a player with whom we have been tenuously linked. Can't see that move myself. Also, in an almost daily saga on certain slightly untrustworthy websites, Rosicky has/hasn't/may/may never/has exploded come to Arsenal. Personally I think Wenger chose between him and Hleb in the summer, so unless we ship off Alix -hope we don't and I don't think we will - can't see the 'footballing Mozart' joining us.

Must work.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Finally the Real Arsenal turn up


The Real players had really been talking it up this week.

They were on a roll. Robinho was finally scoring; Woodgate was making the clean sheets; even Becks was putting substance behind the style. Gravesen summed it up when he said Arsenal were going to play a different Real to the one they'd been drawn against.

But tonight, in the Santiago Bernabeau, Arsenal outplayed and outclassed Real Madrid. The final scoreline flattered Real: they could, maybe should, have been three nil done within the opening 10 minutes. I was amazed at how poor Real were. Especially considering that they were given a free-kick every time our players made a challenge involving physical contact.

Arsene more or less picked the team I hoped: Pires on the bench - at least two of Reyes, Hleb and Diaby starting. I was a bit dissapointed Diaby didn't start, but our midfield played so well, you have to respect Arsene's choice.

Reyes made Cincinho look average, and forced him to increasingly resort to cheating to shackle him: fouls, hystironics, etc. I thought the behaviour of Real when Reyes was injured was abhorrent: in the premiership the ball would have been out. No playing on, no keeper pushing our player off the pitch.

Hleb was superb. Even more than Diaby I hoped he'd get picked tonight. His close control was awesome, and while his final ball was lacking sometimes he showed enough to make me think he will become a great Arsenal player. His passes will begin to connect, and when they do he'll become Henry's favourite player. My only concern is that means we have another midfielder who struggles to score.

Gilberto was fantastic as the 'invisible wall'; Freddie not only gave 100% but actually looked a threat when going forward; Fabregas was incredible, visionary passing and full blooded tackling. If our midfield could just add another 10-15 goals to our current tally, even if only over the season, we'd be easily in champions league qualification places.

In fact it's hard to pick out individual players for praise because what really gave me heart was the team nature of the performance. Flamini perhaps struggled at times, which is fair enough when you consider how out of position he was. but Toure and Senderos, time and again, helped him out. Eboue seems to be have transformed by the ACoN. His tackling was brilliant and he's so good going forward - it's great to see that we now, when fit, have three right backs who I feel are all good enough for the first team: Ralph, Gilbert, and Eboue. Lehman produced his, now almost standard, superb performance. His save from an offside Beckham was top class - a goal then could have knocked us off kilter and gifted Real a game they ill deserved. I really feel he should be Germany's 1st choice keeper in the WC. Except when England play: stick Kahn in then.

Indeed, perhaps the revelation of the night was Henry tackling back. Finally! I think that summed up a team effort. We may have won due to a superb individual goal, but the team played as a unit, for eachother, and were at it from the first whistle. I haven't seen that combination of graft and skil for a long time. Same again in two weeks please.


News and International Games
Cole out, Beckham and Torres in?
Blackburn 1 Arsenal 0
News 24/2
More post real reaction and the never ending contract negotiation.
News in Brief
Finally the Real Arsenal turn up