Friday, September 29, 2006

Arsene reaches his anniversary.

Sorry for the lack of recent updates. Has been a busy week and I've been incommunicado, or at least internet incommunicado, for much of it.

However, this week is Arsene's tenth anniversary and my blog really wouldn't be up to much if I failed to comment on this.

I started supporting Arsenal back in 1990 when I was just a little lad. England had just been knocked out of the world cup on penalties - a perhaps unauspicious start to my life as a supporter - and I needed a club. I saw the Cannons, Tony Adams and the rest, as they say, est histoire.

The first few years of me watching the Arse saw us play with an all English team in a semi-delapidated stadium. Still, I love Georgie G and I do disagree with the way that the club has tried to erase him from history a little bit. He won trophies, even if he did take a bung and consider Chris Kiwomya a world class player. But he left the club in a state of near meltdown. All our players seemed to be hooked on booze, drugs, gambling, women etc., and we'd been beaten in the last minute of the ECWC final by an ex-Spurs player with the most ridiculous goal of all time. That game still hurts me to this day.

And then along came Arsene. Or 'Arsene who?' as the wonderfully erudite Evening Standard put it. That would be Arsene 'I'll sign Patrick Vieira for £3.5m in one of my first deals' Wenger. I remember seeing Paddy play for the first time and it was like watching a completely new type of football. George's Arsenal had been 'boring, boring' Arsenal, '1-0 to the Arsenal'. Arsene turned our team into the most attractive - in terms of our footballing style - team in the league. I remember one season we scored in almost every game.

He's bought so many players on the cheap and turned them into world class players, there'd be too many to list. I think his net spending is something ridiculous like £45m in ten years. He modernised the club. The Emirates Stadium is his permanent legacy, a monument to his vision, yet so are the world class training facilities at London Colney. He turned the squad into a professional football team, not just a bunch of boozers who played footy on the weekends. Without Arsene, the premiership would not boast the hoardes of incredibly talented foreign players and managers, who have improved the league, and also helped cosmopolitanise [is that a word?] British culture.

But, and most importantly, he bought us success. 3 league titles and four FA cups. He produced the greatest side in the modern English game who went 49 games unbeaten. He deserved at least one of the European trophies, and had our players been able to convert penalties, or had Manny Almunia been able to defend his near post, he would have done. Now we've finally broken our hoodoo in the CL, I expect us to win it under Arsene. To see him leave the club without a CL trophy to his name would be an utter, unacceptable tragedy. I have a feeling this year, though, that we're definitiely going to exceed people's expectations.

So, I'm not sure how many other managers can boast success to a level of not just trophies, but of helping their club, and the league their club is in, postively progress forward. Anyone with any sense would recognise that, even if his an opponent, he is a truly great man. He has a job for life at Arsenal and I really hope he sees it through. It's a further measure of the man, however, that he has openly expressed his desire to go and coach kids in Africa as he still feels he needs to put something back into the game.

Merci Beaucoup Arsene, please stay until you retire.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Even at 50%, Arsenal were twice as good as Sheffield.

Not a great game yesterday it has to be said. One can't argue with the result, of course. It's great to get a home league win under our belts at the Emirates and for Thierry to get a goal. But we were far from convincing, and as late as the 65th minute, it could have plausibly been 'one of those days'.

At a base level, half our team didn't seem to click or be playing at anywhere near the top of their game. Rosicky didn't have any long range efforts, Fabregas's passes were going astray, and no-one seemed to want to give the ball to Freddie. Indeed, Freddie actually had a decent game yesterday, depsite the midfield's reluctance to try and use the right flank. He had a great header blocked with a reaction save, and even if his shooting continues to look slightly unconvincing, I thought he looked more of a threat than against Boro.

But the chief culprit of our woes was Henry. I would dismiss the charge that he was lazy yesterday, and ascribe it more to a odd form of overall malaise in his play. Neither his flicks, passes or shots seemed to be coming off, and when he had a very decent chance stopped with a fine save in the first half, it seemed to sum up his current difficulties.

It all added up to an insipid and lethargic first half. The players seemed to be running through treacle, and all our best play seemed to be coming from our back four, who were excellent all game. Although he comes in for some stick, I think Hleb is actually pretty much key to making our team click nowadays, and we missed his passing and overall ingenuity.

The second half started with a little bit more of a bang, which the crowd deserved. There was a great atmosphere in the stadium at kick off, and I was worried that our first half display might have squandered it. We continued to put on pressure, and eventually Sheffield's Championship nature shone through. Henry tried a rather speculative piece of skill, by flicking the ball over their defence - it worked, with Fab controlling and Gallas blasting home to get a deserved first goal. He was excellent yesterday, and the debate must surely now rage - should he continue at lb, with senderos or Djourou at cb, if Clichy isn't going to establish himself at lb? Or would this be a waste of one of the world's finest centre backs?

We quickly added a second from an own goal, stemming from an even more speculative cross, put in by Henry. United were coming apart at the seams, and Eboue found acres of time and space to put the ball on Tel's head for our third.

It was good to see a win, but I thought the scoreline slightly flattered us, if not United. They had no real spark, and didn't even seem capable of parking the bus. I talked to a very disgruntled United fan after the game who wanted Warnock out. One could almost feel that United didn't expect to take anything from the game. While this is a realistic attitude, it's not the right one for a team to take, who will undoubtedly find themselves in a relegation battle. I think they'll go down.

So, overall, some movement in the right direction, and a win is always a win. However, I don't think we've seen Arsenal put in a great performance at the Emirates yet.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Incredibly, building a new stadium = more debt, and Saturday preview

Our financial results are in, and, astoundingly, it seems building a fantastically expensive new stadium leaves us more in debt than before. Who'd have thought it. I for one am panicking.

Keith Edelman spelt it out in a short statement:

"It is like an individual buying a new bigger house into which you have put more equity - you will have a bigger mortgage, but overall be in a stronger financial position. The two things are completely separate and you do not say 'you have no money to spend because you have a mortgage'.

"A mortgage is something you pay off every month, X amount over a number of years then you look how much cash you have in your pocket to spend. Well, we ended the year with £36million of cash in the bank, in our pocket to spend now, so we are very cash-rich, although we have got high debts, which relate effectively to the mortgage on our stadium."

So effectively, we have a higher debt, but because we have a greater income from the stadium, and a greater amount of capital [surely?] the club will be in a healthier finanical situation, as long as revenues from the stadium remain high. Which they will as long as all us lot keep going. Regular Champions' League football is also important, but perhaps less vital than we once thought.

And, not all revenues go towards debt financing - a significant amount has been budgeted for us to sign new players, or for other cash-needy eventualities. Hence us being 'cash rich', whilst over £200m in debt. It is possible.

This was also significant - if already known by most:

"Previously we had a 14-year repayment schedule, on which the interest rate was quite high.

"Because we sold the stadium out and it was being delivered on time and on budget, we were able to go into the financial markets and get a deal which was very attractive for the club which moves the debt out to 25 years and reduces the interest rate by about 2 per cent.

"So we have lowered our debt repayments substantially every year. It is a good deal for the club and it means we have more money to invest in players and team development."

We have a longer term debt, but a more secure one at a lower rate of interest. Re-financing the debt was, to my mind, very important to our future financial security, and its a good sign that the city sees us in such a positive light. We're not the 'Bank of England club' for nothing.

I didn't see the Panorama last night, but the BBC havn't accused of anything - after the last fiasco - so I'm not too bothered. Seems old Sam Allardyce could be in hot water though. I did love one of the agent's subsequent defence, which amounted to - 'I knew it was a setup, so I lied to try and expose what was really going on'. A defence about as convincing as the legendary 'Chewbacca defence'. [google it].

This should be the last post before Saturday, and a game which will hopefully see the first win at the Emirates. Sheffield will have to 'park the bus' if they realistically want to get anything from the game, but, who knows, some post OldT hubris could affect our play. We've played SheffU a number of times in the past and prevailed over them each time - including the infamous Kanu incident - so this shouldn't be any different.

The only team news i can give so far, is that Arsene has said that Baptista is still a little unfit, and unlikely to start. I should imagine he'll get a half hour run about. The players should be fresh after nearly a full week off. I'm hoping Tel has a stormer to kick-start his season.

See you at the Emirates,


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

If Jens did it, I understand.

A few stories floating around today which seem to be worth commenting on.

Firstly, Jens is facing a potential police investigation, following claims that he kicked a water bottle into the crowd at the end of the first half at Old Trafford. Now, I'm not fully defending Jens's actions, as I do think its wrong for players to take out their frustrations against crowd members. But, Arseblogger received an email which seems to put the incident in context. Apparently, the abuse Jens received from those darling Mancs ranged from calling him a Nazi - par de course for any German in the UK - to accusing him of perpetrating the holocaust and raping the victims. Charming.

If there's one thing that really annoys me about the UK, its the continuing practice of racially abusing Germans due to the events of sixty years ago. Really, get over it. Of course, we should remember the past, but it does not give us the right to act like this in the present. Its like English football fans going to the world cup and singing 'hilarious' songs about German bombers. If you say things like this to Germans you are at best a complete idiot, who brings shame on yourself and England; at worst you're a bona fide racist - the core component of being a Nazi. Moreover, I'd like to see you say it to Jens if it was just the two of you on your own.

On a lighter note, we've been linked with Welsh youngster Gareth Bale. Haven't heard much about him, except that he's knocked in a few storming free-kicks this year. Always good to have some Welsh lads about as well. He's a former room-mate of Theo.

There was a bit of a discussion on here yesterday about Thierry, and his role in the team. A good point was made that the three games Thierry has started in have been the three where the proverbial bus was parked. I would say that he's still a shoe-in to start for Saturday, and, given his performance on Sunday, Adey will surely start beside him. I think Adey and Tel is now our starting strike force, unless Adey suffers a cataclysmic loss of form, or we decide to play 451. RvP needs to start scoring some wonder goals, and also toughen up if he's going to get back in the side; especially with the Beast now breathing down his neck.

Finally, a word on the anti-Ashley chanting. Arsene has come out and said, 'arret'! Although, whether this is just because he's fundamentally opposed to it, or just because he doesn't like the pure filthiness of some of the chants, isn't clear. What I would say, is that Ash is no longer part of Arsenal. Unless you really think that it helps spur the team on by chanting about a former player, is it really worth it? We can't really claim the moral high ground if we chant obscenities about him every week. When he actually comes back in May, fair enough though.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Shades of Madrid in Manchester.

In more ways than one. As regular readers will know, I hadn't been overly optimistic about this match; yet I remember in early February feeling a touch of dread about our match in Spain, and, well, you know what happened then.

Quite simply, we played United off the park. It was a dazzling performance, all the more so for it being on the back of Liverpool Chelsea's dirty, attritional bore-fest.

4-5-1 or not 4-5-1? is that the question? With 4-5-1 Hleb, Fab, Rosicky, Gilbs, Freddie and Adey all clicked together and knew what they were doing. It was glorious, 'pinball' football, with the ball being zipped around the poor Scholes and O'Shea before they could work out what was going on.

It's really hard to fault any of the players when they play that well. Rosicky played like a more brutal Pires, combining Bobby's old elegance with a higher tackling rate, more bottle, and with a shot that's so hard he could market it to the US army. He was just about my M.O.M. due to his phenomenal work-rate. Hleb looked far more comfortable in a five man midfield as he could drift into the centre, yet also not have to worry about shooting. If you take away any expectations of Hleb regularly scoring you realise what a fantastic player he is. It was his pass that set up the penalty. He can take the ball past players through his dribbling and cut defences in two. He also tackled magnificently yesterday. If he has runners in front of him, he should push for the highest assists in the PL.

Gilberto despite, or perhaps because, of his missed penalty, did his job superbly. There were a few misplaced passes but he helped break up any linkage between United's midfield and attack, and anchored our midfield admirably. Freddie still doesn't look like scoring but he did look like a threat yesterday, and showed he still has the ability to play high quality football. Cesc also pulled out a huge performance. He, perhaps, did not reach the dizzy heights of his destruction of Juve, but he wasn't far off, and, most importantly, he pushed himself until the last moments of the game. Any player that can find the strength to win the ball, take it past two players and then set up a winning goal in the 86th minute is no featherweight.

Adebayor's performance was perhaps the most pleasing in many ways. Up until his goal he'd looked, to me, a great leader of the front line, who could hold the ball up and create space. However, with his rather tame miss when almost clean through in the second half, I wondered whether he was actually a goalscoring forward. It was great, therefore, to see him get a goal to complete the restoration of my early faith in him. I had started to waiver of late, but I'm now convinced he is a very decent player, and one who brings more to the team than RvP. If Rvp isn't scoring he doesn't really do a lot else; Adey does, and he could grow into a far mor complete player.

The only player I have any real criticism for is Eboue. His positional play at times was poor, and he has painful lapses of concentration that will cost us if not resolved. Yet he does seem to be learning, and he gets forward a lot better than Lauren. The other four in defence were awesome. Gallas looks like he's been a Gooner for years, not weeks, already. It was great to see him celebrate as he did at the end. Maybe he's beginning to realise what it's like to play for a team that actually try and play football. Djourou and Toure were superb, almost faultless, and I'm struggling to see how Phil can come back in for Djourou when he's fit again.

And Jens. He stood up, stared down Ronaldo and let him smash the ball into his face. Then he gets up and tells O'Shea not to come anywhere near him at a corner again or they'll be trouble. Then he pulls of a save from Solksjaer which equals his save - which i already consider the best I've seen - at Highbury against Madrid. Hero, legend, my favourite goalie ever...

On a more general note, several things were clear.

Firstly, we showed a tremendous team spirit which makes a mockery of Ash's book. For instance - Kolo, in the 89th/90th minute stretching out to make a tackle and pulling something in his hip. Instead of going off for treatment, and leaving us with only 10 men, he stays on and battles through. Jens and the aforementioned ball in face. Gilberto remarking how after he missed the penalty, the rest of the team rallied round him, which spurred him on.

Secondly, we can win the league. I think Chelsea are dangerously close to a Galactico state of affairs - as seen through their midfield of four central midfielders. They were average yesterday and we can beat them. The early hype surrounding United was destroyed yesterday. They couldn't live with us - indeed, I think any team that actually trys to play us [and not 'park the bus'] we can beat. Of more immediate concern - it'd be lovely for Arsenal to win next weekend, at the Emirates...

Thirdly, Henry's absence. This season, we've won four games. In each Thierry hasn't started. To me this says two possible things. Firstly, and most plausibly, he hasn't been fully fit. If not, Arsene needs to have more faith in his available players, and not exacerbate the problem by playing Tel. Secondly, the other players take more repsonsibility when he's not about; if so, they need to keep this and take it into games where he does play.

There's something almost uncomparibly sweet about beating United at Old Trafford, and I hope this victory goes some way to exorcising the ghosts of the buffet.What I do really feel, is that in the space of time between Madrid and Manchester, a new Arsenal side has been built. One that is capable of making a serious challenge for any honour in European and domestic football.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Arsenal must never sell out; United Preview.

Sorry for the site issues yesterday. 'twas not my fault - I logged on to find a blue screen and unhelpful messages from blogger, and I'm glad everything now seems resolved.

If I had been able to log on yesterday, I would have had a very clear message: Arsenal must never sell out or, to be more precise, sold out. Our club must never be whored to a random foreign investor. We have a board of directors who love and care about the club - who are, for all we are castigated for being a 'foreign club' - fans of the Arsenal, and whose attachment to the club is more than financial or capricious. Its only a rumour at the moment, but one of the major share-holders is apparently thinking of selling his shares. If he does, I would hope he sells it to the right type of investor[s].

We must never let a Glazer walk in and whore our logo around the world, while using the club as a sinking fund for his debts. We must never let an Abramovic turn our club into a yacht - a plaything that flaunts his wealth and inflates the hubristic ego of its obscenely rich owner, and that also makes a clubs successes hollow.

Several Russian oligarchs have been reported as sniffing round the club. This would be calamitous: at best they would use the club as a plaything; at worst they would use it as a symbol of their supposed legitimacy, in an attempt to mask the corruption of their other deals. I don't want the business practices of Russian oligarchs associated with the club, no matter what success they could bring us.

Clubs need to stop looking at the short term and think of the long-term future of the game. Alan Pardew's attitude - anyone remember his 'there are too many foreign players' rant now? - is typical of the selective and potentially dangerous myopia engulfing the premiership. His attitude seemed to be - 'well who cares about the future, these players will help us in the short-term'. That he's turned his club into a pimp's accomplice is seemingly lost on him; as are the more general ramifications of having players who aren't really owned by the clubs they play for; or the fact that the club is dealing with a man who has operated as a front for an oligarch who's banned from doing business in certain parts of the world.

I think I speak for most Arsenal fans - or at least i would hope I do - when I say that I'd rather our club won no trophies than tainted ones. The English premiership - with a stronger FA - needs to improve the financial clarity of football, and also consider the implications of the mass selling of our clubs to foreign investors, whose goals may be dangerously far-removed from the traditions of our game and the desires of its fans.

Right, rant over.

I've become slightly more optimistic - perhaps dangerously so - about tomorrow. I feel that something has to give: although whether it be United's flying start to the season, or our league hopes, I'm still not sure.

We're in a better situation than we were last time we visitied Old Trafford due to the presence of three classy, battling players: Gallas, Rosicky, and Baptista. The Neville entity will surely not try and kick those three about like they did to poor old Jose. Indeed, what I really want to see tomorrow is some bottle and battle. A 0-0 would do me, as long as we showed that we have the guts to make a real challenge for the Title this year, and that we're not going to be easily rolled over into submission.

It should be a fascinating match and I'm looking forward to it. I'm not looking forward to the 'paint-drying' competition that will be Liverpool Chelsea before it though. And I wish Sky would not so mercilessly hype everything up nowadays. It demeans us all.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rosicky takes a shot, but worries remain.

Firstly, regarding yesterday's headline, can I just point out that i do know that sponsor is spelt with an o not an e. My bad.

As I was at work last night, I didn't get to see the game. Despite my protests, the Man U Celtic game was put on instead. 'Twas a cracker, but meant I missed a great win for us.

Rosicky's goal was incredible, better than the one he hammered in against the US in the world cup. Only he could have scored that goal for us last night. Freddie and Bobby used to be able to knock in long-range curlers, but Pires is gone, and Freddie has lost the ability. Rvp and Fab might have the ability, but not the power, while Gilbs, Hleb, and Adey would never score from that position. Tomas looked excellent against Boro, and he seems to be making an excellent start to his Arsenal career.

From the general sounds of things, we didn't play too well, and largely relied on a RvP dive - it was a dive - to get their keeper sent off, and take an early lead. Its good to get the three points, but winning by diving is not the way i want to see our boys play. It also seems that we very much needed Tomas's goal, after a less than convincing performance. While the win should hopefully build some confidence, doubts must surely remain about Sunday.

Especially when Kolo is out - or very likely to be so. While Willy can obviously easily sidestep into cb, the prospect of Justin Hoyte facing Ronaldo is not a pleasant one. He's not looked convincing so far this year. Indeed, given Clichy's 'sicknote' tendencies, rumours are already abounding that we're looking at Woodgate - and making Gallas a permanent lb; I wouldn't be surprised if another lb is picked up in the next year, even if Traore is probably the ultimate successor to Ash.

Some good news for us is that Giggs is out of the match on Sunday, a player who's been re-invigorated so far this year. I also noted that Rooney looked completely off the pace last night. This is either a good sign, or a very, very bad sign for us. Indeed, given his past-performances against us, he's probably saving up some form of triumphal return for Sunday.

Elsewhere, The Queen will formally open the Emirates stadium sometime soon. Does this mean the league matches so far have only been 'informal' meetings? Hmm. Quite a result for the club though, and it shows our gravitas in UK sport.

Update: Kolo is fit, Henry and RvP aren't for Sunday. Eek.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ashley Cole, Hamburg, 'new sponsers', and ANR.

I haven't deigned to comment on Ash's book over the last few days as there seems quite enough vitriol flying around the web at the moment to drown even the most happy-go-lucky of people in bile. As far as I can tell, Ash has never, ever done anything wrong. Take the supposed tapping up incident. He was just twiddling his thumbs in a hotel room when, out of nowhere, Jose turned up and they made 'chit-chat'. This 'chit-chat' was completely innocent. Apart from the minor matter of Jose telling him 1) we need a lb 2) you are the best lb in the world 3) are you happy at Arsenal? Y'know. The trivial matters in a footballer's life. Arsenal then had the disrespect to try and use this as a means of getting a points penalty inflicted on Chelsea, and 'hung him out to dry'. Poor Ashley.

When this is combined with 'its not about the money but Arsenal wouldn't give me the extra £1.3m I wanted [over 5 years]', the almost slavish devotion of Ash to the seemingly whiter-than-white Jonathon Barnett [boo!!], and the 'I'm not gay, how dare they call me gay, I'm a real man', which almost reads like the famous 'not that there's anything wrong with that' Seinfeld sketch, there is enough material in Ash's book to make it a true classic of comedic fiction.

Yet its not all bad reading. The part serialised in the Times today about the pizza-throwing culprit - apparently it was little Cesc - is actually quite touching. The moment when the pizza slid down Fergie's face and all our lot creased up, most almost have been the last hurrah of the invincibles. I feel that Ash partially left because a new type of team spirit was being built in the dressing room, which was notably different to then on he'd grown up with. Whilst his insinuations against big Phil are probably untrue, and I would hope that Rvp and Freddie do actually talk, his words do seem to hammer home that the belief and spirit of the invincibles did break down in the aftermath of the United game, and that this was far more fatal to the team's performances than any loss of footballing ability. It also seems that Ash was very much affected by Paddy's departure, with the lynchpin nature of Paddy's contribution to the team is further emphasised.

One almost feels with Ash, that there was a more interesting, and far more plausible book, within him and his ghost-writer - one that should have been written once he'd retired and had the benefit of cooling his temper somewhat. But instead, as Ash refuses to accept any blame for anything, and is also seeking to maximise profit from the publication, we've been served up a hotch-potch of fantasical stories with only the merest basis in reality. I'm sure Ash will regret the book in 10 years.

Ash's book has swamped a lot of far more interesting news that's emerged this week. Firstly Cesc is on the verge of signing an astonishing 8 year deal. As Gunnerblog has correctly pointed out, this will mean that the summer of 2013 - the year before it runs out - will now be unbearable, but I'm sure we all agree that this is fantastic news. And if he did leave we should be able to get about £500m for him, given inflation by the earlier 2010s.

For tonight's game against Hamburg, we'll be wearing a special one-off shirt with 'Dubai' on it, as Hamburg are also sponsored by Emirates. We'll also be without Thierry, which has led to a lot of speculation that Theo might start. I would hope that he or Rosicky start on the left, and that we play 4-5-1, with Baptista as a half-striker, and RvP or Adey up front. Hopefully will have overestimated our poor start to the season and we can rip them to pieces ce soir. We need a decent win before Sunday.

One interesting thing I noticed last night: Chel$ea had the second lowest Champions League attendence of all the CL games. Only 32K turned up [of a 42k capacity] for their game against Bremen - only Sporting Lisbon had less and even PSV and Olympiacos managed more. I'm not gloating, I just think the fact Chel£ struggle to sell out their matches say something fascinating about the current perception of the club.

Finally, if you're as slow on the uptake as me, you may not have realised that ANR has 'moved back to highbury', as they put it, as they're just so popular. I preferred the old site anyway.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

10% from perfection or disaster.

Its hard to stay optimistic after the start to the season we've had. 3 average teams, and 2 points is unacceptable - regardless of the new stadium. If we want to get anywhere in the league this season, we need to start improving fast.

And the most frustrating thing seems to be that we're only 10% from clicking. We're not playing awful football, and we're dominating games. But we're ponderous at the moment when we need to be decisive, whether this be making a quick break, or deciding when to shoot.

We're all used to Arsenal teams full of binding pace, with Jose, Thierry, Bobby, and Ash scampering up the wings. Now, we seem to take an age to formulate our attacks, which is allowing our opponents to get men behind the ball and stifle us. Because that's all Boro, City and Villa have done. Nicked a goal with virtually their only attack of the game and then held on to it through massed defence. And we've had no answer so far. We pass the ball when a speculative effort is needed, or we let them get back en masse before we really launch an attack.

I was surprised with the starting line-up. Rosicky, and perhaps even Walcott, should be starting in front of Ljunberg. I just don't think he has it anymore. He struggles to beat players, he didn't link up particularly well with Gallas, and he just didn't look like a goalscoring threat. He works his socks off but we need more from that position than he's giving. Rosicky caused an instant spark when he came on, with some lovely dummies, and a few attempts on goal. He needs to be starting to get used to the premiership.

RvP also dissapointed. For all his undoubted finesse, he's too leightweight, frequently being barged off the ball and looking for fouls when continuing play would have gained a greater advantage. I'd say to try Baptista in a half-striker role, because my doubts about RvP in the Premiership refuse to go away.

Especially when my worries about Adebayor are rising. I've defended him a lot on here, but yesterday he was hopeless and looked out of his depth. He needed too much time on the ball to control it, and then think about what to do with it, and he wasn't getting into the box to offer the aerial threat we needed. He causes panic in the opposing defence, but he needs to get a goal soon.

Indeed our entire aerial threat is quickly turning into a farce. We've had the best part of 50 corners in our three league games yet I don't think we've really looked like scoring from any of them.

But we did play some nice football yesterday, which could have resulted on a goal if we could find that final 10%. Hleb, Fabregas, and Henry linked up a few times to great effect, yet all three are just a little too far off their top level to turn good football into goals. Hleb, in particular, came in for a lot of unfair abuse yesterday, mostly stemming from a hatful of opportunities when he passed instead of shooting. He is not a goalscorer, and I'm not sure he can be turned into one, but he still forced a superb save from Schwarzer in our best chance in open play. Fans seem to be too keen to deride him when he gets caught in possession, and are quick to forget that TH squandered many of the lovely through balls Hleb played yesterday.

Indeed, the main problem for the team, it seems, is Thierry is 10% away, at least, from full fitness, and consequently he's playing awfully deep. We, at times, had no real forward line yesterday due to this. He, the lynchpin of our team, is not clicking with the rest of the players. It was important for him to get his first goal at the Emirates yesterday, and he needs to be rested if necessary to get himself back to full fitness as soon as possible.

Combined with a defence that looked shaky and uncommunicative - Eboue is painfuly unaware of wider goings on in defence sometimes, even if he's great getting forward - we have a team that aren't playing anywhere near their full potential. The new players need to integrate, and the entire team needs to get used to the Emirates pitch - with they all seem to be struggling with. They need to learn to up the speed and amount of passes necessary for clinical attacks as the pitch is bigger than at Highbury. Clichy and Rosicky need to form our left wing, with Gallas moving into the centre. Wenger needs to make substitutes earlier in the game if things aren't going well. The triple substiution should have happened at least ten minutes earlier - we might have won if this had happened. How Gilberto, Rvp, and Freddie remained on for so long is a mystery, and there was a strong case for taking off Fab and even Thierry.

But time to gel is not necessarily what we have if we want to challenge for the title, or even a top four place. While Spuds and Liverpool have started sluggishly, Chel£ea, and Man U even more so, have sprinted out the blocks. I don't think ManU have the squad or stamina to maintain their current performance levels. But they'll be red hot when we play them next Sunday, and I'm seriously worried that, without some considerable tactical adjustment, we could be looking at played 4, and 2 points. Hence, whilst we may be 10% from moulding our team into something special, the fact we haven't could lead to a disastrous week which could take us a while to get over. Especially as our next two premiership opponents at the Emirates are Sheff Utd and Watford who will undoubtedly play the 'eleven men behind the ball' game.

p.s. To the Stadium announcer at the Emirates 1) you didn't need to announce that many times about the traffic problems as 2) it negatively affected the atmosphere. and 3) the way you announced it made it sound like Arsenal were more interested in flogging us beer than our welfare.

p.p.s Why is club level always half-empty?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Roll on Saturday, and why more footballers should be like Lillian Thuram.

Lots of Arsenal players involved in last night's action. Thierry bagged a goal in a, no doubt, cathartic victory for the French over the Italians; RVP got two crackers against Al Hleb's Bielorussians; Fab set up a goal in Spain's, frankly, amazing defeat at the hands of Northern Ireland; while Jens probably had a quiet read whilst the Germans ruthlessly destroyed San Marino.

It seems that Johann Djourou has picked up an injury while playing for the Swiss, so Gallas's starting position at c-b is surely now assured for Saturday, with Hoyte probably continuing at l-b. RvP can't really be left out after his storming performance, but he could potentially lose his place to Baptista. However, I expect Baptista to start on the bench, and, if the chips are down, as we try and break our consecutive passes record, he'll come on. He certainly seems an 'impact player', who can instantly make an impression on the game due to his size. We haven't really had a sub like that for a while.

Indeed, I have to say that I'm really looking forward to the game on Saturday, and seeing Rosicky, Bappy, and Willy. If we hadn't bought anyone, and if Cash and Jose were still here, I'd be more than a little anxious, but the new signings seem to have brought a tide of optimism - despite Chel£'s efforts - to the club. We need to harness this feeling as a driving force behind our performance on the weekend.

I was forced to watch the England game at work and it was aw,aw,aw-ful. Stuart Downing is not international quality, and if it wern't for the damage done to his reputation by Sven, Theo - who scored again for the u-21s last night - would surely be pushing for at least sub appearances on the left wing. Indeed, the highlight of the match was Ashley attempting a goal-line clearance and missing the ball. hahaha.

Every time I watch England at the moment it just drives me to despair: the massive hubris and comically inflated egos that constantly surrounds the England camp is almost too painful to bear. A prime example of this is Peter Crouch. He's done well since entering the England set-up, but for all this talk of so many goals in so many games, he's only scored in two competitive matches against the footballing titans that are Trinidad and Tobago, and Macedonia. I expect him, and England to come apart at the seems again when we actually play a half-decent team, and everyone realises that England, whisper it quietly, aren't that good. England played reasonably last night- although Macedonia certainly deserved a point if they had scored - yet without any real suggestion that they have, or will, improve from the world cup. 1/4 finals exit at next Euro Championships anyone?

Finally a word in praise of Lililan Thuram, who gave away his ticket allocation - some 70 tickets - to homeless immigrangts for last nights match. This from a man who had also openly told Jean Marie La Pen, essentially, va te faire foutre. An example for other footballers to follow. Thuram pour President! Bit of a contrast to the 'wags' isn't it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Class and respect are earned, not bought.

Chelsea have one objective alone with their statement concerning William Gallas: destabilisation. Destabilising Gallas as he tries to settle in at his new club; destabilising Arsenal fans by placing seeds of doubt in our mind regarding the type of player and man he is. Chel£ don't care one bit about giving their own fans the 'real reasons' why Gallas left. They are incidental. If Chel£ so have a watertight policy of openness concerning their club, lets get Abramovich to tell us how exactly he made his money. Or perhaps they could enlighten us on the Obi Mikel transfer. Or even divulge Abramovich's exact interests with Corinthians.

It's all a bit like a man whose lover's left him screaming she's a whore down the street while secretly sobbing to himself. Instead of confronting the reality of why Gallas wanted to leave the club, its easier to make up a string of defamatory allegations. And before anyone asks why Gallas doesnt just sue them for this: because it's not worth it. Only Ashley has the stamina to go through the enormous court process that will probably go to appeal then next appeal then infinitum. Chel£ have lawyers who could drag this out for months. It really is for the best if Gallas just laughs, and ignores it. Chel£ could have said that Gallas threatened Peter Kenyon with a sawn of shotgun, and he wouldn't receive libel damages until 2010.

It can't, realistically, be about money, because Chel£ have more than anyone put together. I don't want to overly speculate on the reasons why Gallas left Chel£, but I think a hefty part of it must come down to Mourinho's personality, and the way the club is presently being run.

My favourite bit was this:

"Chelsea has a wage structure in place that is valued not only on the contribution of the player to the manager and the team, but also on a player's respect for the club and contribution to the promotion and image of the club off the field. Every player is expected to play their part in this.

"William Gallas rarely recognised these responsibilities.

"He also failed to recognise the role Jose Mourinho and Chelsea played in helping him become a double Premiership champion for a player whose only league title prior to that had been in the French Second Division."

So he should remain at Chel£ forever, out of pure gratitude at the wonderousness of Chel£ and Mourinho? And surely the most important point: if Gallas is so awful, if he was capable and threatening to do all these things: why did Chelsea want to keep him so badly? For that is where Chel£'s logic machine stops judering to a halt and explodes. The simple truth of the matter is: they wanted to keep Gallas, he turned them down, so they now want to try and mentally destroy him.

It can all be, as it has been, easily contrasted with Arsene's reply regarding Ash's move in which he wished him well for the future and thanked him for his contribution to the team whilst at the club. Of course Arsene probably wanted to rant and rave at Ash for being an ungrateful money whore, but he didn't, because he has class. That's why Arsene is a respected manager, and why Jose still has to go on TV and berate people for not giving Chel£ any respect. It's also partly why Chel£ still have tickets for sale for their next home game in the premiership.

If you don't act respectfully and with class, you will not get these attributes attached to yourself. No matter how many times you win the league, or pathetically compare yourself to a mafioso 'family'. Success doesn't inherently earn respect, and that's what no one at Chel£ seems to have realised.

Still, you've gotta hand it to them - the statement's worked. Instead of focusing on our own mattters, we've been drawn into debating all this with them. Still, my advice to Willy: ignore it. Don't rise to it, as I have. In fact i'm so angry, I can't think of anything else to write about this afternoon. So, adieu.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Is the Baptista deal permanent?

While most news agencies seem to be claiming that the Baptista-Reyes switch is only, initially, for a season long loan, the Arsenal website and, er, wikipedia, are both claiming that the deal is a permanent one. The term 'undisclosed fee' not 'loan' are on the Arsenal website.

So is the move permanent immediately?

A triumphant end to the Transfer Window.

On somedays there is so little news that our media-hungry society is forced to create headlines to keep everyone sated. On other days there is so much news that, even if you wanted to, you would probably not be able to report everything that happened. Today is one of the latter. Indeed, if it were not for the plethora of stories and important events surrounding our club today, I would be very much still in bed nursing my hangover. I have no shoes on, but I do have them available, so I seem to have the upper hand on Arseblogger.

I stumbled in in the early hours of yesterday morning but was unable to remember how to use my computer, and sky sports seem to be intent on only discussing the cricket. But all has, albeit somewhat painfully, become clear.

Firstly, the big news. The departure of a true Arsenal legend. Pascal Cygan has joined Villareal for £2m. How our negotiators managed to keep a straight face as they concluded this deal is beyond me. I'd like to wish Pascal all the best. I think it'd be fair to say that he never really cut it in the premiership, despite the lying Opta statistics, but he almost always tried his best and that's all you can ask. Sail safe big man. You won't be forgotten.

The deal which kept most of London up all night was also concluded at 11.59 and 59 seconds. Cashley is joining the vapid, financially corrupting ranks of the King's road, while Willy Gallas has left Mourinho & Co., probably flicking him two fingers as he left. Bonjour et bienvenue Willy. A great signing, although I am slightly annoyed by only getting £5m on top of Ash. Still, we have shown Chelsea that we're no pushovers and that we got something from them they didn't want to give us.

The deal concludes one of the most sordid affairs in modern football. I wasn't one of those chanting abuse at Ash at the Villa game, but he has done himself no favours in this business. He may wake up in ten years and realise that, even if he does have medals from Chelsea, that sometimes morality and respect are more important than success and money. I don't actually believe that everyone has a price, but Ash seems to show that a lot do. Getting Gallas is a great boon for us, increasing the experience of our defence. It also leaves Chelsea with only 3 recognised centre-halves. Things could get interesting. I think they should have picked up a makeshift back-up for Wayne Bridge and kept Gallas, so I'm willing to ignore all the lazy journalism that will contend that they've done better out of this deal than us.

'The beast' is our other major signing of the day, albeit only on loan. Little Jose has fled back to Spain, no doubt in terror at the forthcoming English winter. I think he actually did well for us in the time he was here. In some ways he was a victim of his success - even though he actually did ok, he showed glimpses of a truly prodigious talent that he was never consistently able to maintain. All the best Jose, but you need to grow up a little and start being a man. As for Julio - harrah I say. He had a very poor season at Real last year, but this was largely due to Real playing him on the left wing as far as I can remember. A big, bruising midfielder and a goalscorer all in one. Just the player we needed? Do we have any wingers left?

It's unclear whether Ito has joined - please post if you know - while a Brazillian startlet named Denilson has joined. He could be promising? Qui sait.

The West Ham deals are even murkier than on first glance. They have 'bought' the players but not really as they probably haven't paid anything for them, with MSI then recouping their massive future fees. It's all very unseemly and I thought a club like West Ham would know better. Spuds have bought the massively overrated Chimbonda for about twice his worth, even if picking up Malbranque for only £2m is a good little move.

So,in my view, we've massively strengthened on the last day of the window. Baptista + Gallas are better for the squad than Jose and Ash. Cygan is no longer an option, and a few promising youngsters on top. And Rosicky, lest we forget. If nothin else we've got rid of players with a hugely negative connotations, and brought in some fresh blood which should invigorate everyone.

Lastly, I'd like to echo Vital Arsenal by wishing Sir Bobby Robson a speedy recovery. A real legend, and a completely genuine guy who embodies almost everything I love about football. If it wasn't for him and the England 1990 team I may never have started watching football, so thanks Bobby.

til later. Onwards and upwards!