Monday, May 29, 2006

Theo's performance, a few transfer rumours, and the Chavs' money

Sorry about the lack of updates since Thursday, but this has not been entirely my fault: there has been very little to report. I would assume this is because most of the world's quality players are locked up in world cup training camps, which makes negotiating new deals difficult - if not impossible, as Shevchenko and Rosicky have shown.

I was going to write a post on England B's shambolic performance the other night, but didn't get round to it. Suffice to say - Theo acquitted himself nicely amongst the squalor, with a few deft pieces of control, a rasping shot, and some general all round speediness.

The pressure on him is farcical: he was given a standing ovation just for getting on the pitch. While it's nice to show that we'll all behind him, there is a real danger, in my mind, that he'll drown under the enormous expectations placed upon him. I hope he does well at the world cup - for England, his and Arsenal's sake - but I won't hold it against him if he struggles. I hope more people remember this, otherwise we could destroy his talent before it blossoms.

In general, over the next few weeks, I'll post up a few England articles. These will have [England article] in the headline - you can thus decide whether to read them or not before you get there. Similarly, more general articles regarding the world cup, will have [world cup] in the headline.

Right, regarding our gorgeous gooners...

Chavski are, reportedly, trying to steal Kolo. HANDS OFF. I doubt he would make such a traitorous move, but i also suppose that every player has their price. Regardless, we're meant to be, supposedly, on the verge of offering him a new contract. Would be a sensible move anyway.

Paddy is also meant to be heading back to us. Er,no. Although the rumour of him and/or Sol going to Newcastle seems a little more plausible, as does the rumour that Sol is on the verge of being shipped off to the cottage. While Myles appears to have been wrong with the destination, and the price, I would be very surprised if Sol was still with us come August.

Players we've actually been linked with are a little thin on the ground. ANR has a few, and, unsurprisingly, they're quite young: Podolski, the German 'Rooney' (!?!?); a young Turkish player named Sahin - haven't heard of; Merida - who may 'do a Fabregas' and get out of his Barca youth contract; and French under-21 international, Ribery. They're probably all great players, but it'd be nice to get another established talent in. Especially if Cygan remains our fourth choice centre-back - shudder.

Ian Grant also, correctly, states that despite turning the premiership into a near farce due to their financial clout, programmes like MOTD and Sky aren't going to openly criticise Chelsea due to viewing figures.

Personally, my hope is that the Chavs turn into the new Real Madrid - finanically blouted and decadent, buying players they don't need, or who are past their prime, due to their name and supposed kudos, in order to satisfy Abramovich's ego. The way he runs the club is little short of a child buying all the shiniest toys in the toy-shop to show off to his mates. At the moment, stability is only being maintained in the club because of Mourinhio, who, despite his whinging and acting, is a damn good manager. Yet i have the feeling that his unhappiness does partially stem from Abramovic and Kenyon's running of the club. Myles has suggested that the SWP move last summer was completely engineered by Kenyon - explaining SWP's dissapearance this season - and i feel the same thing happened with Ballack, and possibly Shevchenko.

Will these players really strengthen Chelsea? Ballack is a near carbon copy of Lampard - Mourinhio's favourite player - except better, yet Mourinhio was happy with having Frank. How the hell will the two fit into the team? Will Ballack actually be a disrutpive purchase? And, at 29, £35m+ is a ridiculous fee for Shevchenko. He will get the goals in a way that neither Crespo or Drogba did, but is he still worth that fee? He only got 19 goals last season. Is this not a slight case of Abromavic just wanting an ex-Soviet jewel in his crown, regardless of what Jose thinks?

I think these players will strengthen Chelsea, but there is a real chance that the Chavs' edifice could come apart if they continue with their current 'galactico' policy. Here's hoping, because i think other plans to limit their power probably won't work.

Til later, an end of season term-card for the players is in preparation [by me!],


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Adieu et merci, Bobby mon ami.

So, it was finally confirmed today that Bobby Pires will be swapping the Canons of London for the Submarines of Spain. Considering the rounds this story has been doing, I was surprised at the shock i felt when i logged into this morning and read that the move had been confirmed. You never want to see players of Bobby's quality go, no matter how old they are. Vieira last year, Dennis and Bobby this year: it's a lot to take.

It's, ultimately, a sensible move though. Bobby has one more good season left in him; but not two. Arsene called his bluff, and while he has the security he wanted at Villareal - at least ostensibly, i hope he doesn't become one of those players who's constantly moving at the end of their careers - I've no doubt that he really wanted to stay at the club. Arsene's over-30 contract policy has, to my mind, culled a major victim in its ruthless efficiency.

Fittingly, there is a near torrent of articles celebrating his time as a Gooner on I particularly like this picture special. I strongly recommend, if you haven't already, checking them out. They are a great tribute to a great player, and bring to light some things I was thinking about when his departure was announced.

Firstly: his consistency of goalscoring against Spuds. Gotta love that. His goal at the lane earlier this year was a far harder chance than it looked. As Myles on ANR pointed out at the time, Bobby was the only Arsenal player on the pitch who would have tucked away an opportunity like that. There are countless others, including that great finish in the epic 5-4 in the previous season. Indeed, as points out, Bobby has played in 12 matches against the Spuds in which he's never been on the losing team and he's scored 8 goals. Top class boyo!

Secondly: his general class and goal scoring ability. He just oozes technical ability and danger. He has a very characteristic style of play, and looks almost flat-footed at times. But he was devastatingly effective at cutting in from the flanks, and either scoring, or setting up others. I should imagine Thierry will be particularly gutted to see him leave as not only were they friends, they had a superb footballing relationship. I wouldn't be surprised to see Tel pay tribute to him in the next few days.

Two memorable goals for me, out of many, were his incredible curler against Liverpool in the unbeaten season, and the double lob against Villa. It almost seemed unfair to humiliate Schemical in that way; until, of course, you remembered that he was an ex-Manc. The sheer number of goals Bobby got us - he was regularly in the top-ten goalscorers in the PL each year - really drove our performances. I think the fact they've dried up this year - his goals and Ljunberg's - really hurt the team, and showed just how important his performances were to the club when he was in his prime.

Thirdly: that moment at the trophy presentation ceremony. Brilliant. I never knew 'Wayne's World' was such a popular film among Gooners. He thoroughly deserved to be footballer's writer of the year. Also, his courage from coming back from a potentially career ending injury was hugely laudable. I don't think he was ever quite the same player after the injury, but he was still brilliant.

It's been a tough final season for Bob. The goals haven't been there as much, and I completely understand if he was at tears at the end of the CL final. He didn't deserve that, but that's the way football is sometimes. Still, its fitting that he scored in the final game at Highbury after all the joy he's brought us in the last six years. I hope he remembers that performance as his 'true' final game for the club.

So, farewall mon ami. You did us, and the club, proud. A truly great Arsenal player has left the building, but shall not be forgotten. All the best in the future.

Oh, and here's a link to some of his performances. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rosicky signing asks as many questions as it answers.

namely: where the hell is he going to play?

Firstly, lets get these, faintly ridiculous, videolinks out the way that seem to have been linked around the web:


The problem with these clips, is that they obviously, in a massively subjective manner, portray our new Bohemian [ eh!] in the best light possible. yet compare these links to this one:


Hleb looks like a goalscoring dynamo in this vid...

My point is: I am concerned that Rosicky won't get that many goals. These vids probably contain almost all the goals he's ever scored in major competitions: don't take them as representative of his overall scoring prowess. And one of our significant problems from last year was a lack of goals from midfield. Rosicky wants to be played in the centre - like Hlebby. malhereusement, Wenger will undoubtedly not play him there, like he didn't play Hleb in his favoured position, and he'll try and push Tomas into a new place.

But where! there are three possibilites as far as i can see

1) left-wing. Obvious. Fighting with Reyes for the position. Bobby could be on his bike. Neither reyes or Ros get goals but both are assist-meisters. Plus, rosicky is a fighter like Freddie. Imagine the technichal ability of Jose, with the bottle of Freddie = Tomas = new left-winger. Yet it took Alex almost all season to adapt to this position fully. No more transition! Please!

2) Fab's place. Not going to happen. Wenger hasn't bought Tomas to be a squad player.

3) Bergkamp role. A possibility. We would have to start playing 4-4-1-1- rather than a more avowed 442. yet, where does this leave Adebayor, and RVP? Is RVP being sacrificed for a lack of team play? Is he our Van Nistelrooy: all goals and nothing else? Rosicky only scored 5 goals in the Bundesliger last year; he scored 7 in 12 for the Czechs in qualifying. If he can up his scoring rate, a permanent 4411 system is a distinct possibility. And he will, because he will this arsenal team will offer him more opportunities for goals. But I would say that Adey will be Henry's standard strike partner. Even if Rossy gets the no.10 shirt.

Don't get me wrong: Tomas is fast, incisive and a battler. He's proven international standard. He's a superb purchase, at a knock down price. If we can get him up to 10ish goals a year - we'll cruise next year.

What the signing does show is a distinctive change of tact from Arsene. This is proven quality he's buying. This diamond has very few edges to smooth. Arsene, far more than he's letting on, wants that CL trophy - as Arsenal, WTF pointed out- which is why he's buying proven quality. This certainly won't be the last signing of the season, and i should imagine Arsene will try and get another before the world cup so as to save on money. Instead of buying a kid to build up, he wants players who'll get him what he wants soon.

Elsewhere, Torres is the big name we've all been linked with; but how about David Villa - highest Spanish goalscorer in La Liga this season. Also, after snatching Rosicky from under thier noses, will atletico want to do business with us?

Either way - we need a midfielder to add steel to our midfielder. Please, no boring, 'we need a Vieira replacement' suggestions. He is irreplacable. But, we do need a big, strong, tackling, defensive midfielder. Please write in suggestions. For me - yaya, Zokora, and the Diarra who plays for Lyon.

Overall though, what a great way to respond to last Wednesday. Instead of moping about, we've signed the best player in the world on a new long-term contract, and got a player of proven quality in. Class. Hopefully first of many. Also, interestingly, He'll be up against Essien when the Czechs play ghana in the WC. Interesting.

As long as Rosicky doesn't replace Hleb - who i really rate - this is a good day for the club - and i hope Arsene does really sait in this situation!


Rosicky signing confirmed

Just appeared on

As usual the wonderful phrases 'undisclosed fee' and 'long-term contract' appear. Arf.

WIll make my review post later today or tomorrow. Reaching the final hurdle with a work related project at the mo.

EDIT: i've just been on East Lower, and 1) not only did he beat me to it but 2) he made the same joke as me about the fee and contract.

Damn. All i can say is, East Lower, I salute you. King among bloggers.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Arsenal sign Rosicky?

If yes- good with a but... the but will be explained tomorrow. Essentially: where does this leave Hleb- who i really rate. Overall, though, just the signing i wanted - an international with proven quality, in the 23-27 age range. I will do some research on his goalscoring record as well.

Apparently, he's currently at Highbury having a medical and has signed a contract.


If no - sorry, transfer talk always gets me over-excited. But, this seems more concrete than talk of Campbell off to Feners.

The great Sol Campbell transfer mystery.

So Sol's gone to Fenerbahce screams Myles. 'No he hasn't' is the general reply.

This statement appeared on the official Fenerbahce website:

Rumours that we have agreed all terms with Arsenal FC’s Sol Campbell are untrue.

Claims that the player concerned will be arriving in Turkey to complete the deal do not reflect the truth.

Now, this statement is clearly written by someone who knows his legalese. Note: 'that we have [not] agreed all terms' - does this mean some terms have been agreed? Does this many terms are in the process of being agreed? Does this mean terms were ever in the process of being agreed?

The second statement is no less ambiguous: Could he be completing the deal elsewhere? Does this refer to the immediate future, or the entire summer?

Overall, I would be wary of those who would say that this is a comprehensive refutation of Fener's interest in Sol. Personally, I'm now of the opinion that a deal is being negotiated, but it is unclear whether it will be successfully completed. I also think that the £8m figure is too high.

Which leads me to 3 conclusions about Myles's post yesterday:

1) it was a total wind-up and Myles is trying to make a point about Football rumours. Conclusion: unlikely, I think even Myles would know better.

2) Myles's 'sources' misled him into thinking that negotiations were complete, and Myles jumped the gun to get what he thought was a scoop: Most likely. If so, slightly annoyed at Myles, but its just his journo instincts coming out.

3) Myles was right, and all other parties are in denial. More likely than 1), yet still, I feel, unlikely.

Either way, I hope you all realised that I was merely passing on information yesterday, due to the shock of the situation, and also trying to pass on info to potentially substantiate Myles' claims - something he had, as per usual, failed to do.

What the whole debacle has shown, is that the majority of Arsenal fans are willing to let Sol go. Whilst I agree with this opinion, I was most dissapointed to see Arseblogger's blithe comment: I won’t be sorry to see him go one bit.

I will, despite his frankly awful season, because Sol has been a great servant of the club up to this year. He was an integral part of two championship winning sides and, as many of us accept, this would have been three if he had not sustained an injury at such a critical moment in the 2002/3 season. He hasn't quite turned into the Tony Adams replacement as a lot of us hoped when he arrived, but i still think he's, overall, a legend. It's the right time for him to go, but that shouldn't blind us from the great performances he's put in over the years for us. Nor the fact that he was a titan on Wednesday night, and put in one of the great performances of an Arsenal player since i've been watching the team.

I'm sure that in the next few days this story will either become fact or slip away to nothingness. Either way, I'll be surprised if Sol is with us in August. If so, bye-bye, but thanks.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Campbell sold to Fenerbahce? Any turkish speakers out there?


1) myles has just posted on ANR that Campbell has gone to Fenerbahce for £8m.

2) I found this in the arses on Arseblog:

All odd, interesting; but true?

Do we have any Turkish speakers out there to translate.

Edit: easier linkage: ANR article Fenerbahce site

Belletti does Barca no credit, and transfer rumours.

Full story is in the News of the World which can be found here: [please don't sue me for reproducing this - I have credited you!]

JULIANO BELLETTI, the defender who scored Barcelona's Champions League winner, last night sensationally claimed: "Thierry Henry is finished as a top-class striker."

The Spanish giants are furious at Henry's decision to snub them and stay with Arsenal.

And Brazilian Belletti sneered: "Henry is Arsenal's best player but his time at the top level of the game is over.

"He might just make it into the world's top 10 at the moment but that's not for certain.

"He needed to leave London to become one of the top strikers but if he doesn't leave Arsenal, he never will."

Belletti also ACCUSED Arsenal of having problems among the players, LABELLED them a ‘tired' team and TAUNTED Ashley Cole for losing his side the Champions League Final on Wednesday.

The winner was scored down Cole's flank and Belletti said: "We were told Cole was not in the best shape. Ronaldinho said he was going to attack down Arsenal's left. That was the key part to our game-plan."

Belletti added: "Arsenal had no secrets we couldn't unlock. They are a tired team who have problems among the players — and we took advantage.

"We knew there was uncertainty about whether some players were waiting for the season to end so they could leave."

I wonder if the papers will harp on about this lack of class as much as they have about Tel's and arsene's post match comments? I especially loved his comment about us being tired. Although it is true - Fifa automtically assume the world player of the year must come from Spain or Italy, so staying in England probably has seen him wave goodbye to that gong. Regardless of actual talent, naturally.

Personally I think all Tel and Arsene showed is how much they hate losing. Like Mournihio has been doing all season. We must build a well of righteous indignation from which we can build success next season.

Elsewhere, rumours linking us to Andy Johnston have been hotting up. Hmm. Ashton would have been a better buy in this vein. Would be a very interesting purchase, but i'm not entirely favourable to it. Unless we could get him for around 5m ish.

Also, suggestions regarding a possible exit for Rvp are growing. He needs to have a big season next year: not just in terms of goals, but team play as well. Even without the goals, Adebayor is certainly first choice partner for Tel next year, as Tel lurves him. Torres, as ever is linked, and I would not be surprised to see the 'Mozart of football' - Rosicky - arrive. Especially if he's been being watched as much as Ian Grant on ANR suggests.

What's important is that we buy established players, to at least a level like Hleb was - a few seasons in top flight, internatinals, yet still relatively young - and get Ash to definitively stay. We need about 2-3 new players this summer. And, as much as it pains me to say it, perhaps the hunt for a new keeper must begin. Jens is my fave keeper of all time now, but he'll be 37(8?) by end of next year. And we don't want a repeat of the Seaman 'er, when will you actually retire mate' farrago.

I suspect there will be at least one purchase in the, 'eh, well I suppose arsene sait' mould, but at least one guy i've heard of would be nice.

Til later. Gb.

Friday, May 19, 2006

We owe Thierry Success.

All of us do. The other 10 players in every arsenal first XI. Every Arsenal fan.

I've had to laugh at those 'pundits' who've said that this signing shows a lack of ambition on TH's part. So, which shows less ambition: signing for the champions of Europe and Spain; signing for a team with an average age of around 22ish, who haven't won anything.

And i laugh at all the supposedly 'in the know' journos and pudits who've peddled this story since last August. Made great copy didn't it? Sold a lot of papers didn't it? Shows a complete lack of journalistic integrity doesn't it? As long as the media is based on what sells and not what's actually occurring, things like Tel's contract saga will become sagas. People constantly said that T would leave because it made them look like big men, who knew what was really happening. Idiots. My bile, however, can in way match the tirade on today's great arseblog. check it out.

This is Thierry's greatest gamble. He could have swaned off to Spain, and won a plethora of awards. But, instead, he's stayed with us. For once, loyalty rules:

Loyalty to the club.

Loyalty to the players.

Loyalty to the fans.

Henry will finish his career at Arsenal. He will set records that may never be broken. We owe him success. We owe him premierships, FA cups, and most of all the Champions league. Make no mistake: Henry is a phenomenon, the greatest player in world football today. He is so good that he could walk into any team in the world and achieve success. We have to give him that success to reward his loyalty.

While all i have been able to do is replay his missed second half chance in my head, I've now realised that he was knackered. If the chance had come even ten minutes earlier he would have had the energy to take it. I hope one day we are 11 v 11 against Barca so Tel can show them his full repetoire.

This year Tel stepped up. Goals against Madrid, Juve, Liverpool, Spuds, his pass against Villareal: hmm, not quite the absent big game player eh? Considering he was injured for a good few months, he still bagged 33 goals. He is the best player in the premiership. Only Rooney and Gerrard are near him. And, make no mistake about this, we should thank every other premiership team and player for this new contract. Tel is staying because he knows that the premiership is the greatest league in the world. Passion without violence; skill and physicality; no racism or bribery. No other league can boast this. We should all be proud we created it. I think in the next 2-3 years, other players will recognise this, and the premiership will become the world's true premier league.

So in a week that would have otherwise produced a kind of lengthy melancholy within me that not even butters [see previous post] could overcome, a silver lining is visible.

We are the Arsenal, and we have Henry. We owe him. I want Thierry to retire festooned with medals from his captainship. He's a great footballer, but, more importantly, a great man. He is the embodiment of the beautiful game. He encapsulates everything that I love about football.

I have never seen a player like Thierry, and I feel privileged that he is here now. If he loves us, the feeling is more than mutual.

Thierry, merci bien. Vous etes mon roi. Although remember - no player is bigger than the club.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

The beautiful sadness.

So, we're all feeling like shit? Yes?

I don't know about you but all I can think about is flashpoints from last night: Sol's goal; me turning to mate at around the 75 minute and saying only 15 minutes to go; Eto'o looking up to the linesmen after he'd scored to see if he'd flagged; Tel's misses; Freddie forcing a great save from Valdes; the Barca bench running onto the pitch as our boys slumped to the ground.

And so, the melancholy begins by thinking constantly about what might have been and what did happen. It's hard to know which is the more upsetting.

So, I thought I'd just say a few things on this subject to try and raise spirits.

Firstly, the defeat was no where near as bad as the CWC final in '95. That was horrendous, losing to a freak goal, by an ex-spud in the last minute of extra time. And then having to go to school to get ribbed about it all the next day. At least we can all take some slender morsel of comfort from knowing that not only were we not humiliated, but we more than held our own. I really think our boys played like heroes yesterday, and we have nothing to be ashamed about. I hope we draw barca next year, and show them what we can do with 11 men.

Secondly, a brief quotation, from, perhaps, a rather unlikely source of inspiration. In the South Park episode 'Raisins' - on youtube I think - Butters [another one of my heroes] breaks up with his 'girlfriend'. Stan has concurrently broken up with Wendy, and joined a Goth clique to express his new found depression. To Stan and his Goth mates, life is merely endless depression.

Walking home they encounter Butters, who is crying over his loss, and the following exchange occurs:

Goth kid: I guess you can join up with us if you want. We're gonna go down to the graveyard and write poems about death and how pointless life is.

Butters: Well, no thanks. I love life.

Stan: Huh...? But... you just got dumped...?

Butters: yeah... and I'm sad! but at the same time I'm really happy that something can make me feel that sad... it's like... it makes me feel alive, y'know? I makes me feel human. The only way I could feel this sad now, is if I felt somethin' really good before, so I have to take the bad with the good. So I guess what I'm feelin' is, like a beautiful sadness... I guess that sounds stupid...

Goth kid: Yeah...

Stan: No. No, Butters that doesn't sound stupid at all.

Butters: Well, thanks for offering to let me in your clique guys, but to be honest, I'd rather be a crying pu**y than some ***** goth kid.

And that's what supporting a football club is all about. You have to take the highs with the lows. Otherwise it doesn't mean anything, and you're just a fairweather supporter. The lowest of the low.

Remember that the sadness we all feel is a reflection of the joy that moments such as Tel's goal in the Bernabeu, Fab's goal against Juve, and Jens save against Villa brought to us. These moments are not now meaningless because we lost yesterday. They are great moments in the history of our club which should never be forgotten.

It's been a great campaign. And one day, I hope we finally get the trophy that this club so richly deserves.

Although having said all this, me giving lessons on how to avoid footballing depression is one of the most monumentally hypocritical acts of my life.

Still, I always try and remember Butters whenever I'm sad.

A hopeful Gb.

Always outnumbered, never outgunned: Arsenal in Paris.

I don’t generally read or favour the Daily Express, but I think their headline summed it up:

‘So brave, So close’.

My god, I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder to be a gooner. We were Churchillian in our defence. We surrendered, but only after an amount of pressure comparable to that which led to the evacuation of the BEF in 1940. If Winston had been there, I know who he’d have favoured. A heroic defeat? We could only be from Britain.

We came out and dominated the first twenty minutes. After barely 2 or 3 minutes Henry produced a flick of Bergkamp at Newcastle-esque brilliance. Unfortunately, and remarkably, the finish didn’t follow. A few minutes later he viciously whipped a shot in which was unconvincingly beaten out by Valdez.

We were on top, we were dominating, we were dictating. And then Eto’o went through. Jens made a professional foul. It was a red card. But if the referee had any common sense, he lets the goal stand, keeps Jens on, and plays on 11 v 11. That is the spirit of the game. Ok, If Giuly misses, Jens had to go. But with that red card, the game as a contest between two competitive teams died. And through sensible refereeing it could have been prevented. 1)He has two other options: one blow up immediately and not even see if advantage could be played. This is the option he took and shows, to my mind, a poor referee. Or 2) the even harsher option which would have been to allow the goal and send off Jens, which was a definite possibility.

Most of all I felt for Jens – the immortal hero of Villareal. He’s still my player of the season, and if I was in his boots I would have done exactly the same. Still, and for ever, a hero and Arsenal legend.

Almunia came on, and had a mixed game. He played as well as he could. He made a superb save early on from Eto’o, but I felt Jens would have kept out at least one of the goals. What struck me was how poor his distribution was when compared to Jens. Every time he got the ball he punted it straight back upfield, which put the pressure straight back on us. Yet I felt for him – he’s not good enough for this level, but he played his heart out. And that’s all you can ask.

No Jens = 10 men. And if anyone, anyone, doubted whether Arsenal are an ‘English club’ they should have seen our effort afterward. It was backs to the wall, never say die stuff, that, I’m sorry, only premiership clubs can do. Barca would have folded like a Catalan flag under Franco in similar circumstances. [oops, un-PC goonerboy]

And on 37 Eboue dived and won a free kick. Sol headed it in. Was this justice or not? Did we deserve to be ahead if we dived to get it? I don’t know. It reminded me a lot of Lampard’s goal against France in Euro 2004. Indeed the whole game seemed similar, aside from the sending off: one team going one-nil up, defending, coming so close, and then the other scoring two late-ish goals to settle it.

Second half was an ordeal. Ultimately, however, we blew it. Freddie – who was a colossus tonight – could have got the decisive goal. Tel, when put in a position I would stake my house on him scoring from, missed a golden opportunity. If he had been on Left-channel, game over.

Minutes turned to hours and it seemed we could hold out. And then the substitutes. Inspired by Rijkaard; insipid by Wenger. Larrson changed the game. That right-back whose name I can’t and don’t want to remember did as well. Flam merely came on and showed us why his best position is Left-back, not centre-mid.

If we’d have held for 5 more minutes we would have done it. Barca’s heads would have gone down and we could have held on. But as soon as he first goal came, I thought we were only possibly going to win via penalties. The second came and I thought it was over. We had nothing left in the tank. Several bridges which should have been too far had been crossed.

And so it is. Runners-up. Barca get big ears.

I’ve written a separate article on why I love Arsenal, and why I’m as proud as ever to be a Gooner.

We were awesome tonight, in the circumstances. Considering all of Europe had written us off, we held Barca with a man down for the majority of the game, who only broke our defence with an offside goal. That is what particularly stings me.

I can’t really particularly fault a player. The back four were all incredible. Sol, who we’d all doubted before the game, had his best game for two to three years. Ash, Eboue, Toure: kings among men. Freddie, Gilbs, and Hleb played their hearts out and can’t really be faulted. Indeed, even though Fabregas never really got into the game, this was completely a result of the sending off. The midfield had to rapidly adapt, and Fab struggled, despite some beautiful flashes of what could have been. I was also gutted for Bobby, and this was, if the papers are to be believed an undignified send-off for such a great career at the club.

Neither Henry nor Ronaldinho influenced the game in the manner every one thought. Ronaldinho was selfish and arrogant, constantly trying to penetrate the Arsenal defence single-handedly which Campbell and Toure lapped up – Henry, notably, was scathing in his assessment of Ron’s performance post-match. Henry himself was infuriatingly peripheral, but this was again a product of the sending off. He worked and worked, but couldn’t get into the game. If he goes to Barca after this game I’ll be amazed, truly amazed. He was not impressed by the conduct of the Barca players, and I think this will weigh heavy in his mind. Tel has pride and a real belief in the innate beauty of football – I think he saw tonight that, even in defeat, we offer that to him far more than Barca. Of course, he could still go elsewhere.

A word has to be said on the ref who was awful. The Lehmann sending off is perhaps justifiable - but booking Henry for a legitimate challenge in which Van Bommel kicked him in the back? allowing teh barca centre backs to kick Tel to death? booking only one Barca player in the match. Apalling. Utterly appalling.

What most pains me is that I truly believe that 11 v 11, even 1-0 down, we would have won. We had ten times the backbone of Barca. Yet as soon as the sending off happened we were only ever going to knick it. That we came so close to doing so fills me with pride.

But we’ll never know. We deserved it tonight, we truly did. And all we can do is hope for next year. One day, hopefully before I die, we’ll get that little yellow star above our badge.

We never win in Paris do we? All I can say is, if you’re a gooner, be proud of the team.


Proud to be a Gooner

Er, I wrote this when slightly worse for wear at 1 am yesterday. After wondering whether it was wise to post I thought yes.

Bumper Goonerboy today in honour of our heroic performance in Paris, with three posts to raise spirits. So without further ado here is the aforementioned post, sorry if it's a bit mawkish but I still mean it now when completely sober:

A few reasons why I’m proud to be a gooner. In no particular order.

Because I remember Alan Smith scoring the only goal when we lost our only game in the 90/91 season.

Because the first time I saw Arsenal play, me and my Dad got soaked by sitting in the front row of a half empty North Bank.

Because I remember Steve Morrow breaking his arm.

Because I remember Arsenal Parma in ’94. Alan Smith scoring after Tomas Brolin had hit the post.

Because of Dennis’s penalty miss against United in ’99, and Giggs subsequent goal.

Because of Marky Marky Overmars sticking one past United in ’98.

Because of seeing Arsenal Wimbledon 5-0 in’98.

Because of Arsene.

Becase of the Marble halls. The first thing I saw the first time I entered Highbury. [Get in!]

Because of Paddy coming on as a sub for Raymond Parlour early on against Sheff Wed early on in his Arsenal career.

Because Jens won us the FA cup last year

Because we are the only invincibles.

Because of Thierry.

Because of the back five.

Because of Dennis.

Because of Highbury.

Because of Arsenal in Paris in 2006.

Naturally, I could go on. The main point I wanted to make is that we lost tonight, but we can hold our heads up high.

‘When I was just a little boy’, seven to be precise, a part of my heart became devoted to our football club. I implore you all, wherever you are, to go out with your Arsenal shirt on this week. I will be.

Proud to be a gooner. Always.

Monday, May 15, 2006

'Once more unto the breach': Champions League preview.

So, the day is finally approaching. It's all been a bit surreal since we beat Villareal. It's not like the World cup where you basically play the final two or three days after the Semi. It's been a fairly long wait between Jens' save and Paris. I've been pretty busy with my work recently, but it suddenly struck me on Sunday. We are in the final of the Champions League. I think I almost had a panic attack as this realisation washed over me. It's taken so long for the significance of this to sink in. I truly, without hyperbole, think this is this is the biggest match in the club's history; easily the biggest in my fifteen years as a fan. And we're so close to glory!

And what a journey it's been this year! I never thought i would see the performances of the type Arsenal have put out this year in the CL. I remember, and I hope some of you do as well, when we won the CWC back in '94. For me, this year's European campaign has a similar feeling to it. A sense, if i dare to say it, of destiny. Of course, I thought I had the same feeling in '95. And then Msr. Nayim stepped up.

It's been an incredible run. I'll never forget the way we took apart Real in Madrid. How Henry, almost nonchalantly, thought 'sod this, I'm going to have to go even further than you thought possible'. I love the commentary on Itv. Tyldesley and Pleat are badgering on about some injury, before Clive realises that Henry has skipped past half the Real squad. Henreeeeeeee!!! One of the greatest footballing moments i've ever experienced. And the way we almost disdainfully brushed aside Juve. One could almost sympathise. Couldn't rig the referee for that game, eh?

And now it's Paris in May and one game.

Can we do it?

Yes, is the short answer. Yes, I'm an Arsenal fan and I'm bound to say that, you may cry. But there is logic in my subjectiveness.

To Johann Cruyff, half the Barca squad, and most of Barcelona, there is no game on Wednesday: there is a trophy collection ceremony. How can this not work in our favour? Only, chillingly, Ronaldinho seems to have given us any credit; mostly because he's a really nice guy, and doesn't have a chip the size of Highbury on his shoulder like Van Bronkhorst. We need to lure Barca in, pretend we are the weak wounded beast they think. And then strike.

Simply put, we play 4-5-1. I have a feeling this won't be the high-scoring, carnival of joga bonita football final that most neutrals hope. Most finals are tense, tight and low scoring. Occasionally, as Liverpool have shown, they do open up - but this is the exception not the norm. By the time players have reached the final, they know there can be no mistakes. One mistake can be the difference between going home with big ears or not. So conservative football usually rules. Only if early goals are scored, and the game immediately opens up does this change.

I think we'll try and knick it one-nil. We have the players to do this, by subduing Barca for 60-70 minutes, then scoring. Barca have some great players: Eto'o and Ronaldinho in particular are almost sans pair in the world. But, look at Barca's defence: Van Bronkhorst - Arsenal reject; their keeper, whose name I forget, didn't make the Spanish squad; and i think Henry could skin Puyol. This is not an impenetrable line.

I think one moment of brilliance will determine the final. Henry has produced one against Real, Juve [ his goal and his pass to Fab], and Villa [ his pass to Hleb]. It will be cagey, and contained football, with one surgical incision being the critical moment. I've always said that henry is a better player than Ronaldinho, and that if he was either Brazillian or played in Spain he'd have the world player of the year on debenture until retirement. I hope he proves me right on Wednesday.

Everyone needs to be immense, but in particular the Spine needs to be sound. Jens, Henry, Fab, and Senderos/Toure, need to play out their skin. If Senderos is fit he must start before Campbell. Gilberto has to help the defence contain Ronaldinho and Eto'o. Most importantly our flanks need to be firing. Hleb and Eboue can take Van Bronkhorst apart. Jose and Ash - i'm sorry, because i think you've been awesome, but Ash must start over Flam - must do the same on the left. If the flanks are firing, and the defence is sound, Henry and Fabregas can start pulling the strings, and things could really go our way.

The problem with finals is that they're almost impossible to predict when they're between two teams of almost equal stature. I think the players, and most fans, know what type of football we have to play to win this thing. But in finals, strange things occur, and so predictions are often fruitless.

Until this year i truly doubted whether we would ever be in the final of this competition. And now that we're here, all I ask is: no regrets. Whether we win or lose I want to see all our boys run until their legs seize up with cramp [preferably when we're comfortably winning though], and fight until the last bead of sweat exits their body. Because that's all you can ask: that we do our best to win this trophy. We have come so far, and with one more push its ours.

To quote the man who's got us there:

If you do not believe you can do it then you have no chance at all.

Come on Arsenal. Show Barca this is our time.

See you all on Thursday. A, frankly, petrified Gb.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pires, Henry, Campbell, and Cole: who will go?

At least one, if not two of the four players in the title will leave in the close season, I'm pretty sure of it.

Which players it will actually be is another matter.

After a season of speculation, I think everyone assumed it would be Th or Ash, but I'm now fairly certain that they'll both stay. How could Tel leave after Saturday? The post-match interview said it all: he's as much a gooner as any of us . The near delight he took in denying Spurs Europe was palpable, as he talked about having to endure the 'are you watching Arsenal' chants during Spurs game against Bolton. 'yes i was' I think was his answer, with 'And are you watching now?' his implied rebuttal. He can play in the CL with us next year. He is the centre-piece of an exciting new team, built around him. The team are moving to one of the best new stadiums in Europe. He has his great mentor, Arsene, near him. He could still leave, and I would respect his decision to do so, but i really think that if he recognises that this season was one of transition, he'll stay at the club and look to the future with the rest of us.

As for Ash, I really hope he stays. Ash is an old-school football playboy, revelling in his rapid social ascension. He's bling, and sometimes annoyingly so, but he is a great, great player, to my mind the best left-back in the world. Players as good as Ash, you have to forgive their dalliances. His liason with Chelsea was a mistake. He knows it, I'm sure, and I wish he'd stop pursuing these 'martyr of free-trade' cases which I'm sure his agent is pushing him toward. If he spoke publicly to the fans and admitted his mistake, the issue would not exist. I, and I'm sure many others would forgive him, and he could continue building toward the captain's armband that was surely destined for him. As it is, 50/50 he'll stay. If the club gets a sizeable bid, there's a real chance they'll accept; especially as their pride was wounded by the entire tapping up incident. Add to that Arsene's strident distaste of party boys, and Ash may have a foot out the door. As i said earlier, I hope not. Even in the mere two games since he's been fully back, it's been a joy to see him at LB. I almost feel bad for betraying the Flamster after his heroics, but if fit, Ash should start in Paris, if we're serious about victory. Overall, whilst I disagree with the level of wages played to current players, I think the club was taking him for a ride before the farrago broke. If they'd hadn't prevaricated over whether to pay him 60 not 55 k a week, none of this would be an issue, and I think that's a wage Ash deserves. On balance, I think there's a great chance he could still stay this summer. It depends on how much each party is willing to put behind them.

So, my bet as for the big name who will leave the club this summer lies with Sol or Bobby. Sol didn't so much burn his bridges as atomise Tower bridge with his defection against West Ham. It's been good to see him back in the team, but he isn't the player he was. A firm bid from the likes of Newcastle could see him skiddadle up North. Bobby, I hope stays. Unless we get a Beckham-esque, experienced winger figure in for next year, Bobby is definitely worth an extra year. He's not worth two though, which is why i can see Arsene's reluctance to offer him any more, and Bobby's contemplation to go elsewhere. There's a real chance he'll be in Spain next year i feel.

Ok, two last things. Firstly, congratulations to Alistair Cook and Marcus Trescothick on fine innings today for England. Secondly, commiserations to Boro on their defeat last night. They didn't deserve to be hammered like that after the excitement they've brought to the competition this year, and I still think they've done the premiership proud. Although, I Hope this is not a portent for either England or us next week...

On that bombshell of terror, adieu for now.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Gambling is rife in English football: Sven chooses England squad. [England article]

When I was 17, one of my prouder moments as a footballer came when i was called up to my school's first team due to a last minute injury. I think Theo might have, just maybe, surpassed that today. Even if the situations are, obviously, eminently comparable.

So, oddly enough, after his numerous liasons, Sven surprises us all by growing a pair of balls. The gamble this world cup squad represents is something approaching that of Hitler's in 1941. Sure, invading Russia with a massively superior army sounds easy; but is Sven setting up his own Stalingrad? [BTW, I'm not saying Sven is comparable to Hitler as people, lest any confusion about Sven being a neo-fascist surfaces tomorrow. Just, y'know, logic, gambling and reality are often quite different, like in 1941.]

Only four strikers get the nod. Of which: Crouch, who can't score; Rooney who has multiple fractures in his foot which, at best, will not recover until the knock out stages; Owen, who hasn't played since january; and our very own Theo, who, er, hasn't played in the Premier league.

To call this a small gamble, would be like calling Russia a small country [analogy continues!]. But, logically, there is sense in the decision. Defoe has been dire for most of the season, and Bent, whilst a solid player, doesn't really look international quality. Nor do Beattie or Johnson. Theo will be better than all these players within 3-4 years: why not give him a chance? If Rooney and Owen were both happily skipping along to the tour bus, I'd see no problem in this. But, as it presently stands, if we were to play 2 up front, Theo could start as Owen and Rooney would still be injured. That is a step too far in my book.

In Sven's defence at least he has allayed our fears of Heskey returning to the fold. Shudder, NO!!!!, shudder. Theo is the future, Heskey is the gloomy mire-ridden past. The call up is also great for us: Theo can only come back a better player from this experience; I do wonder whether Arsene's calls for him to be included were altruistic or based on this consideration.

I completely agree with Lennon getting a chance because he's been excellent for Tottenham this season. It must be terrible for SWP, especially given as if he'd signed for us - or indeed anyone but Chelsea- or stayed at City he'd be in the squad. Yet, he dug his own grave going to Chelsea, and you have to say, based on form and performances this season Lennon deserves to go before him. He was, eurgh it pains me to say it, great at Highbury, and repeatedly skinned Phil and Flam. He can also score - a pertinent consideration in our striker crisis. What has happened to Shaun is tragic. This must be his lowest ebb here if he is to recover and become the great player I think he's capable of becoming. To do this 1) leave Chelsea. That's it. And take self-confidence lessons at your new club. Realise you've made a mistake and this is a chance for renaissance.

The biggest surprise for me is Ledley King's ommission. I know this is probably based on injury, but he's a solid squad member who could fill in in defence - he certainly deserves to be higher up the CB pecking order than Sol - or even, in an emergency in midfield, although i would not start him as the holding midfielder after his performance against Argentina.

Elsewhere, Owen Hargreaves, again sneakes into the squad. How? and why? Jermanine 'mediocre' Jenas also scrapes in.

Aside from that, the rest of the squad was fairly predictable. Leaving me with the following teams to start the first game

Scenario 1) Rooney doesnt make it; Owen does.

Neville Ferdinand [although I would pick Carragher] Terry Ash
Beckham Lampard Gerrard

Neither Owen or Rooney make it, or the, 'Auf wierdersen, England!' scenario:

Same, but with Crouch up front, to be interchangebale with Theo. Possible more of Christmas tree stylee:

Nev, Ferd, Terry, Ash
Becks, Carrick, Lampard
Gerrard, Cole

Should all be interesting. Congratulations Theo.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Perfect. Just perfect.

What more can you say?

What a game! What a day! I envy all of you who went to Highbury - I want my free t-shirt!

We did things the hard day today - much like we have done all season. Wigan were certainly not going to roll over and let the celebrations begin. They fought and made a real game of it. All credit to them: they've been a breath of fresh air this year into what had been becoming an increasingly stale premiership. But we fought, and we won, and in the end, as TH said, the league table doesn't lie.

Today was a beautiful, and a more than fitting tribute to our great stadium. In some ways, finishing fourth is more fitting than winning the league. Just like the move to the Emirates stadium, finishing fourth is the start of something new. A new team of youngsters with fantastic potential has been blooded this year: hopefully, the only way is up from here.

It can't of been Tel's last game either. He chose his words carefully in the interview- never really directly saying anything about next year, or playing at the Emirates. But his intent seemed pretty clear in his celebrations. It was almost as if he was revelling in the fact he can now stay: we've proved to him, I hope, that we can match his ambitions. If today was his last game for the club - shudder - he coudn't, and we couldn't, have asked for anything more. His performance was extraordinary. He swaggered through the match, bringing deft touches, and sublime skill to his every intervention with play. I feel priviliged that he is an Arsenal player, and I truly hope he continues to be one.

It's been a tough season - but in the last game at Highbury, a vision of the, potential, future was glimpsed. The personnel we have at the club, when mixed with a few new buys, have the potential to be even greater than the invincibles.

So thanks to Dennis, and thanks to Highbury.

Now let's see where this club can go.

Friday, May 05, 2006

My favourite Highbury moments.

The first game i ever went to was Arsenal Leicester in 1995. Goonerboy was very much a boy back then, and had been excited for weeks in advance. My Dad and I were in the North Bank and this was barely weeks - if I remember properly - before Georgie Graham was sacked. I remember staring in awe at the jumbotrons when I got in the ground: these were still quite the novelty back in '95. Leicester were bottom of the league, and Arsenal weren't exacly soaring above them. That season, when i received my Highbury baptism, we finished about 13th, lost in the ECWC final due to that goal, and Graham was sacked due to taking a bung - although I was too young to understand what that meant. Pretty bleak times. But I was at Highbury!

Only 30,000 fans had turned up, and Georgie came on the screen before the game to thank us all for coming, and that he was happy so many people had turned up. Hard to imagine a premiership game not selling out nowadays at Highbury, but that was the state the club was in.

The game was a fairly scrappy affair. It was pelting down with rain, and my Dad and I were sitting right in the front row or so in the lower North bank. After being drenched in the first half, I'm pretty sure he must have downed a pint at h-t - I remember being so thrilled that the plastic pint glasses had Arsenal badges on them. The stand was empty enough that we were able to sit further back in the second half. It was about 10 minutes or so in that Merson - who was my favourite player, even more than Wrighty, and even after the disillusionment of his multi-addiction frontpage scandal - broke the deadlock. Bliss.

But it was not to be, and Mark Draper equalised with a free-kick - a player we were being strongly linked to at the time. The game eventually finished 1-1, but I was happy. My first game at Highbury and it had been magic. And we hadn't lost!

After that I wasn't so lucky. I remember seeing Arsenal getting beaten 2-1 by Everton during Rioch's year in charge. It was our only last home league defeat before we went on some huge home undefeated run, pretty much summing up my luck. I think after that I saw three draws, two of which were 0-0s.

It was only after about half a dozen games over 3 seasons that i finally saw Arsenal win, A 1-0 against Sheffield Wednesday. I had my view partially obscured by a pillar, but the catharsis was palpable. Dennis, who i still can't believe is also going this year (sob), got the winner and before the match he was presented with some form of European player of the year award thingy. I was so proud to see that. I think he may just have come third, but to see a player like that play for us, at Highbury and to score when i was there...magic.

My best Highbury moment was in the '98 season. We beat Wimbledon 5-0, and we could have scored 10. Petit finally scored his first goal for Arsenal, and the win made it look like we could actually catch United. I remember walking out the ground and everyone singing how we were gonna win the league, and it actually seemed plausible. Within a month, we were champions, and it seemed that I had been there, at Highbury, when it all began to fall into plac. I know that probably wasn't the case - but that's how I've remembered it, and it's a truly treasured memory.

The first actual time I went to Highbury was also pretty magic. We were living in Wales at that time and my family had come up to London for the weekend. My dad decided to take me to Highbury just so I could have a look at the stadium. As we were passing, a tour group went in, and my dad did the old foot in the door routine.

So during my first visit to Highbury, I strode in through the front entrance and into the Marble Halls. Not bad, eh? Saw the dressing rooms, sat in the dugout, secretly took a blade of Highbury grass, marvelled at the spankingly opulent toilets, and saw the FA cup - i think it was the real one, we had won it the year before- in the trophy cabinet. My secret hope that the Arsenal first team would swagger in unannounced as part of the tour did not come to fruition, unforunately.

Ah, memories: in a few days, these will be all that remain of our beloved Highbury. The bricks and mortar will soon crumble, and only the thoughts that we all have indelibly marked on our minds will be left.

I can't wait to see my first match in the Emirates next season, but I'll never forget Highbury. I think it's the most beautiful stadium I've ever been to, because it's not a stadium. Its soul, its history, and all the players and the fans made it far more than that.

So, goodbye Highbury. I'm going to miss you. Thanks for the memories and all the happy times.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Night of the resuscitated goalscorers.

Man City 1 Arsenal 3. Ljunberg 1, Reyes, 2. Have I woken up in the not so distant past? Reyes scoring? Ljunberg scoring? Arsenal winning in the North-West? Why, it's like a dream of days of yore.

A very good result indeed, and one, I'm happy to say, we had to battle for. Although, in truth, City did not have the quality to take points off us, and even a draw would have been embarrassing by the end.

A win was only salvaged in the last 20 minutes of the game, however, and in the first 25 minutes City were the stronger side, dominating possession. This was to be expected, given the fact we were the away side, and it was fairly apparetnt that we were merely biding our time.

Henry was achingly brilliant. He might not have got on the score sheet but, as at Sunderland, he was the difference between the teams. His pass to Freddie took four city players out, and was, again, one of those beautiful reverse balls which are so completely disguised that I'm impressed even our own guys know to run onto them. A good clinical finish from Freddie followed. If he'd done that five more times in the league this season we'd be fourth and be able to start Sunday's party tonight.

As it was City then, against the run of play, equalised. An extremely scrappy goal with some woeful defending on our part. About half a dozen of our defenders, notably including Ash, seemed to be at fault at different stages of the ball trickling through to the net, and it was poor all round defending. Aside from that moment of rustyness Ash did pretty well, and it was great to see him running up and down the flank. To me, and this is just gut feeling, he didn't look like a player with one foot out the door. And i'm increasingly convinced that even with a fit Flamini, Ash will get the nod on May 17. Flam probably deserves it, but Ash is the better player, and he just gives us a vital extra dimension which will really help us push on to Barca. Sol, conversely, was poor. Until Phil's been gone, I think a lot of us haven't realised how much stability he gives us at the back. Sol couldn't win headers, looked slow and generally not up to the task. He seems to be a liabilty at the mo.

Second half and we piled on the pressure, with RvP coming close at least twice. He was a lot better than his last start, but he still seems to be missing that extra 1/3rd of belief which saw him play so well earlier this season. It was encouraging, but he was notably frustrated when he came off; a frustration that a number of city defenders had notably inflammed.

I was dissapointed to see Hleb come off who, apart from Gilberto - who, to give him credit, had been awesome - had been our most creative midfielder. But Jose and Bobby proved the difference. Both Jose's goals were things of beauty. The first saw Bobby play thread a wonderful ball through to Eboue on the overlap, who cut it back to Jose for a lovely finish. The finish was uncharacteristically instinctive for Jose, although, not as much as his second goal. After Tel had seemingly runrings round half the Manc team he knocked across to Jose who beautifully curled it into the top hand corner. A bona fide peach. As with Freddie - where have his shooting boots been all season. Whether he steps up or not next season will be key to our league performance.

Three great points then, with goalscorers who should have scored more goals this year. All credit to City though. Before our second I really thought it was heading toward a draw, and City really put pressure on us in the first quarter of both halfs. I can see why we nearly bought Sameras. He's a real handful, and has a real presence of a goalscorer about him. It took Jens' 'I'm king of the wind up merchants' routine to nullify him. That and, as per usual, two world class stops.

I have to also say that Song was by no means awful tonight. He clearly doesn't have the spark of genius of Cesc or Diaby, but he seems to be settling into a fine 'do a job' role.

As good a result as this is, one has to say, again, Pas de Henry, pas de gagner. [if that's wrong - the translation that is - please correct me ]. I'm really scared about what would happen to us without him. Sans Henry, pas de gloire pour nous.

So, everything to play for on Sunday. Hopefully West Ham will pay back some of the favours Sol did them early in the season. If not, I should imagine that celebrations will be slightly muted at the final, final salute.

Aside from the Arse a big day for England as a mediocre manager extraordinaire Steve McClaren is appointed. Why, with Steve at the helm I can truly envisage years and years of consistent mediocrity for the national team. All the best to him, but this is a farce of an appointment. The England team is English because of its players, not manager. But until we have another disaster with an coach appointed purely on nationality the England team will not get the coach it deserves. Hopefully next time, ability, not nationality, will guide the appointment process, all the way. Not just try one foreigner then give up, sulk and appoint a muppet when you fail. Myles- after his woeful diatribe against Ashley - is back on form on ANR with his column about the appointment.

Til next time, I shall await the final, final, absolutely last, ultimate, can't be any more, no honest this really is the last salute on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Diaby out for 9 months after horror challenge

The Daily Mail has suggested that Abou will be out for nine months after the horrific challenge by Dan Smith in our game against Sunderland on Monday. In the 92nd minute, when his team were three nil down, Smith clearly thought that the best way to show what type of player he is was to purposely cripple another young professional like himself. He obviously didn't mean to break Abou's ankle, but the chance is always there in challenges which are that dangerous. His apology, where the word 'if' is used repeatedly ['if' i did catch him etc.] is similarly offensive.

To put it mildly, Arsene is livid, and justifiably so. Diaby has been wonderful since he signed in January, and I'm gutted for him. nine months is a long time, and it sets Abou's rate of progression into a first team regular back significantly. I'm not sure whether legal action is really wise though. Knowing the law, if anything did happen it would take months to get through and merely cause substantial stress on all sides, when Abou should be concentrating on recouperating.

So, just to say, get well soon Abou! Goonerboy, and i hope his readers too, is behind you. You're a great young player and you'll be scampering round the Emirates in no time!


Monday, May 01, 2006

A scrappy walkover in Sunderland.

We came, we saw, and we beat a championship team. We were in a bit of a double edged sword situation yesterday: win and everyone yawns and says so what, draw or lose and we get mercilessly whipped.

But a strolling win didn't initially seem on the cards. Sunderland pressured us well in the first quarter of the match, and whilst they didn't get a shot on goal, Jens looked noticably edgy, dropping a few crosses as they came over.

After winning a free-kick on the left-hand side, Henry floated the ball in and Sunderland scored an own goal. Henry then set up Fab with a beautifully threaded ball, who then delightfuly pocked it over the keeper [no matter what the Sky commentator said it wasn't a mis-hit]. Tel then completed his hat-trick of influence on the goals with a goal himself, curling the ball over the wall and into the corner. As the kick was lined up it was obvious he would try it, given the acres of space the Sunderland keeper had afforded him. The game hammered home, if it was any more possible, how much we'd lose if Tel goes. He was literally the difference between us and a poor, poor side. We would have struggled to score without him today, and a Henry-less future just does not bear thinking about.

Second half, and we st-ro-lled. I read the paper. Most notable incident for me was another miss from RvP, after Dennis had expertly chipped the ball to his run. His lack of confidence in front of goal is really beginning to be a worry. Although I won't even try and defend how poor Adebayor was today.

The second half was also notable for Ash, 'I'm not just the cash, I do also play football' getting back on, prompting a rant from Myles on his latest ANR piece. [which he even ended with, basically, 'if you don't agree with me f*** off' statement]. Now I agree with Myles that the likelihood is that Ash will be sold this summer, and that this sale is largely Ash's fault, but, personally, it was great to see him in an Arsenal shirt again. He has quite a unique deneamour on the field, and it was, possibly the highlight of the game to see him scampering up and down the left wing again. I wish he had just come out and apologised for what he did with Chelsea, instead of trying to turn himself into some ridiculous martyr for laissez-faire economics. A frank apology to Arsenal fans, and he could stay. But it hasn't happened, and, given his agent, where the cash goes so will Ash; at least probably. I hope not: he's such a good player, and we've really missed him this year. I hope he stays, despite everything that's happened.

Ash's arrival meant we had, shock, two England players on today. Take that Daily Mail. In truth, Sol was pretty poor though, falling over at one point and letting a Sunderland player through, his blushes spared only by a superb reflex save from Jens. He looked slow and lumbering, which bodes ill for us if Phil isn't back for the CL final, and is equally bad for England when Sven inevitably takes him to the World Cup.

The game was also marred by a horrendous challenge on Diaby in the 92nd minute. His screams of pain were audible on the tv, and a replay of the challenge showed Smith - sent off on in his debut earlier this season - catch Diaby awfully on the ankle. Seeing him subsequently strapped to the stretcher, his ankle hanging off at a right angle , it was obviously serious, and it's a blow to lose him for the last few games of the season. Especially when it means we'll see more of the distinctly average, if not awful, Song.

So, good to get the points, but it all be for nowt if we don't beat City on Thursday, which will be a far tougher game. West Ham's win tonight was slight hope that they might actually try and take points off Spurs on Sunday.

The other notable incident of the weekend was, of course, Rooney's injury. 80 minutes gone, 3-0 down, and still scampering around the field, he breaks his metatarsal. Couldn't he have, just for once, curbed his enthusiasm and considered the bigger picture? It's his sheer exuberance which makes him the player he was, but he will definitely learn something from this. In any case, England's Pele is now gone. Sven will definitely take him, of course, and no doubt Rooney will play, but it will be, in all likelihood, a fiasco of a rushed back, half-fit player. A good idea I saw today to solve the problem would be to play Joe Cole as a support striker off Owen [ if he goes], with Becks, Lampard, and Gerrard behind, with a holding midfielder behind them. Given the goals Lamard, Gerrard and Cole get, this would be a workable idea for me.

Til next time, Gb.