Friday, December 30, 2011

The 5 Best and Worst Arsenal Moments of 2011

Measuring events in terms of a calendar year in football is a little silly. Almost everything that happens in club football is only important in terms of the August to May season. But so many things have happened to Arsenal in the last twelve months, I felt nostalgic. So indulge me.

The Best

1) Arsenal 2 Barcelona 1.

We not only beat the best team in European football last season, we beat probably one of the greatest club teams ever to grace the game. Barcelona again tried to batter us out of the game in the first half but we held our own, possibly with the aid of a few generous refereeing decisions (oh how we could done with these in the away leg). If Robin's goal was an inspired moment of individual brilliance, then Arshavin's was a real team effort, featuring incisive passing from several players prior to a brilliant first time finish. The result created a real sense of hope that we finally had a set of players who were capable of beating the very best, and it's surely the best result Arsenal have achieved at the Emirates in our short history at the new ground.

2) Chelsea 3 Arsenal 5

The first time for a while that we've really battered another top English team away from home. Robin's hat-trick was absolutely masterful, and John Terry falling over was, let's face it, amazing.

3) Robin van Persie's form

Not since Henry in 2005-2006 have we had a striker as good as Robin. He scores all sorts of goals, with both feet, and he creates countless opportunities for other team members. His contract situation is a real worry, but we should really just appreciate having such a brilliant player at the club, no matter how much longer he stays.

4) Arsenal 1 Manchester United 0

Only Arsenal could go on some form of crippling end-of-season collapse, and still beat the eventual league champions. Beating United is always great, and it's the first time we've done it for a while. Also, seeing Ramsey get the winner was particularly poignant - not only was it a sign that he was over his injury and ready to step up to a bigger role in Arsenal's midfield, it was also against the team he rejected in order to join the Arse.

5) The last few days of the Transfer Window.

Ok, so maybe Park has turned out to be a bit of weird signing - but even he could still turn good. Other than that, getting Arteta, Benayoun, Santos and Mertesacker in the space of about three days might well have be the difference between us finishing in the top four or not come May

The Worst

1) Arsenal 1 Birmingham City 2

Surely one of the lowest moments in the recent history of the club. Everything seemed to be lining up for Arsenal's first trophy win since 2005. All the big clubs had fallen at an earlier stage, although that didn't stop us from a rather humiliating 1-0 defeat in the first leg of the semi-final to Ipswich. Worse was to come. After RvP had dragged us back into the game, we besieged the Birmingham goal, but lax finishing and some decent goalkeeping from Ben Foster kept the scores level. Just as it seemed extra-time was inevitable, we lost, in ridiculous fashion. Koz and SZCZ both went for the same ball, there was a mix-up, there was a goal. The only consolation from all this was Birmingham's subsequent relegation.

2) Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2

I really don't want to dwell on this, because it was an absolute massacre. A combination of injuries and our disastrous summer transfer window conspired to us putting out a poor, disorganized side at Old Trafford, who were then ruthlessly taken apart by United. The only highlight was the amazing support of the travelling fans, who managed to ensure that the club came away from the occasion with some semblance of dignity.

3) Arsenal 1 Barcelona 3

So, we all know that Barca are a great team, but, my god, they have a lot dubious decisions go in their favour. In what must rank as one of the most appalling refereeing decisions in the last decade, RvP was sent off for basically nothing. Despite a Sergio Busquets own-goal having given us a life-line, it was only a matter of time once we were down to ten men before Barca ripped us apart. Maybe one day we'll play them with our strongest 11 in the Nou Camp, and we'll get refereeing decisions in our favour. One day.

4) Basically 95% of the Summer Transfer Window.

Arsene has said that he could write a book about what happened this summer, and I believe him. The handling of the Nasri and Fabregas transfers was a disaster, and directly led to our catastrophic start to the season. I've said it before, but the Premier League seriously has to look at why the season starts before the window shuts.

5) 95% of the games we played between late February and early September of this year.

In early February, we had just beaten Barcelona, looked like we might win the Carling Cup, and were definite title contenders. By early September, we looked like we were on an almost irreversible losing streak. Massive kudos should be given to the  players for turning around this situation in the last few months, but you have to go back to the dark days of '95 for a patch of form as bad as that which we suffered for large sections of this year.


So, it's been a distinctly mixed year, with some real highs and some awful lows. Let's hope we can build on the upsurge that happened with our form recently in the new year.  A nice cup run would certainly not go amiss.

Happy new year - let's hope for three points against QPR tomorrow.


For more Goonerboy, follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Is Szczesny Overrated? A Statistical Analysis.

Let's face it - we all love SZCZ. Since Jens was dropped in 2007 (in my opinion ill-advisedly) we've had to put up with some of the less convincing goalkeepers in Arsenal's history, namely Almunia, Fabianski and Mannone. Each, for a brief period, looked like they might have the necessary chops, but all have also had a series of goalkeeping calamities during their period at the club. The permanently terrified look on Almunia's face still haunts me.

So when SZCZ turned up it was a relief for a number of reasons. One - he was confident. Goalkeepers HAVE to be confident. They play in the most unforgiving position on the team and they can't beat themselves up every time they concede a goal, or mess-up a goal kick. Secondly - he looked the real deal. He made big saves in big games (Udinese away anyone?) and he could spread himself, Schmeichel-style, in one-on-one situations. In short, he looks dominant and confident, and that has helped our general defensive improvement since September.

But, while perusing Twitter yesterday, I saw some interesting stats posed by Orbinho on Twitter relating to Arsenal and Spurs this season in the league. Both teams have scored the same amount of goals (34) and Arsenal actually have a higher shot-to-goal ratio than Spurs. (15.1% vs. 14.5%). We also have a similar passing accuracy rate. So Spurs are not actually any better going forward than we have been this season.

Where the stats get even more interesing is in defence. We have conceded 26 goals in total compared to Spurs 19. Yet, we have allowed fewer shots on goal (68 to 95). This means that SZCZ's has only saved 61% of the shots on goal that Arsenal have allowed, while Friedel has saved 79%. Moreover, in a statistic entitled 'errors for goals' (committed by any member of the team), Arsenal have committed 7 errors while Spurs has committed 0.

The conclusion would therefore appear to be clear. As Orbinho put it:

"Effectively the difference between Arsenal & Spurs is that Brad Friedel is far outperforming Szczesny and individual errors by defenders."

Now stats are obviously problematic. The main point of Michael Lewis's Moneyball is that looking at the wrong stats can lead to disaster in sports. And Arsenal's defensive stats have been horribly skewed by the 8-2 drubbing in August.

But, there are some things which I don't think can be escaped here. Namely -  Friedel is considerably more likely to make a save than SZCZ when there is a shot on goal. Yes, not all shots are alike, but the twenty percent difference in shot-stoppage % between the two keepers is considerable. And these saves are from both inside and outside the box: 

Friedel v Szczesny Inside box Goals conceded 17-20 Saves 34-25 Save % 67%-56% - Outside box Conceded 2-6 Saves 37-15 Save % 95%-71%

Or to put it even more bluntly, for every five shots on goal each keeper has faced, Friedel has conceded one, while SZCZ has conceded two. SZCZ looks particularly weak from outside the box.

So, is SZCZ overrated? I would still argue no, because I dread to think how what Almunia's stats would be like this year if a similar comparison was being made. Indeed, I would still probably guess that SZCZ's stats stack up well against most other keepers in the Prem - I would be very surprised if they were not better than those of De Gea and Cech. Friedel is probably the best keeper in the league this season and has been constantly underrated seen his underwhelming spell at Liverpool.

Moreover, SZCZ is starting his career, while Friedel is finishing his - I'm fully confident that SZCZ will step up and become a world-class keeper in the next few years. But, the unavoidable conclusion from all this is that the difference between fifth and third place for Arsenal so far this year has been defensive errors and a lower number of shots on goal saved by our respective goalkeepers. And that SZCZ, for all his confidence, is still learning his trade.

Let's hope that we can turn both these stats round in the new year, and that Spurs undergo their traditional collapse.


For more Goonerboy, find me on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

No surprises as Arsenal struggle for goals again

Well that was frustrating, but not entirely unexpected. Just before writing this post I saw a Tweet by Orbinho (follow him) that summed up a lot of what's been going on with the side over the last year or so: in Arsenal's last 15 home games in the prem, they've only scored more than one goal on 4 occasions. Not being able to find the goal today has meant we haven't taken advantage of Liverpool and Chelsea's failings yesterday, and we've put ourselves in a position whereby Spurs can increase their lead over us again tonight, if they beat Norwich.

Much has been made, and rightly so, of our defensive failings in recent months. But defensive failings are amplified when teams don't do the business at the other end. If you don't get the goals to kill off a game, you're always  one mistake away from a draw or a defeat. 

Just think how different things might have been if Nasri had put away any of those chances in the Carling Cup final? Any last minutes defensive balls-up would not have mattered. The pattern has been repeated over and over this season. Unless we get a clean sheet, we've struggled to get the three points.

And when teams can't get the goals to match their overall dominance, players get frustrated. Song was substituted today as he had lost his head - in part, I would argue, because we seemed in complete control of the game, yet were drawing 1-1 instead of winning 3-0. 

I suggested that re-signing Henry on a short-term deal might not be a bad idea in the short-term, but our lack of  attacking options has now become seriously worrying, and I'm not sure that waiting till the summer to pursue our major targets is going to work. 

At the moment, too much of our play is centred around getting RvP on the ball. It makes it easy to defend against us. We have become far too one-dimensional when we ping the ball forward. Today, players like Arshavin, Rosicky, Benayoun and Gervinho got themselves into decent positions, then looked to lay the ball off, rather than shoot. For me, it shows a worrying lack of belief among certain sections of the team about their ability to get goals. 

Yes, Hennessey had an excellent game today - his saves from Mertesacker and RvP at close range won Wolves a point. But, in general, we didn't test him enough, and too many of our shots were easy for him to deal with. But when your main attacking alternative is Chamakh - whose main contribution today was to headbutt Robin - it's not surprising that players look for Robin too often, and that we're not testing opposition goalkeepers enough. 

Finally, a word on Stuart Atwell. He was poor today, but he made poor decisions against both sides. Milijas didn't deserve to go for his challenge that saw Wolves play the last 20 minutes with only 10 men. Atwell managed to wind both teams up as he sought to make himself the centre of attention. But, really, until some form of fundamental overhaul in the nature of refereeing occurs, there will always be Atwells. The gap between the athleticism of the players and the refs is almost comical now. Players move too fast for refs - even with the help of their linesman - to judge what's going on in real time. 

At the very least, Refs need someone watching a monitor in a studio, or pitch-side, who can help them make difficult decisions. Or some form of video challenge system. Until then, unfair decisions will continue to occur. 


Follow Goonerboy on Twitter and Facebook.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Follow Goonerboy on Facebook

If you're at all bored over the holidays, or you want a place to chat Arsenal, head over to the new Goonerboy Facebook page. 

It's really the raddest place to be seen for all Arsenal fans, honestly.

The pros and cons of Henry's return

Given Arsene did his whole, 'I don't know what you're talking about' routine, when questioned about the potential return of Thierry Henry in the press conference on Friday, I would be very surprised if we do not announce that we are re-signing Thierry on a two-month loan-deal very soon, probably in the first week of January.

So what are the pros and cons of this deal?


* Emotionally - this is Thierry fucking Henry. The King of Highbury. Our all-time top-goalscorer. An invincible. I really think that re-signing Sol Campbell was a big boost two years ago, and Jens' return last year meant we were spared a little bit of Almunia. For me, it will give the club a bit of an emotional boost, if nothing else.

* He hasn't completely lost it. Now being based in the U.S., I've managed to catch Thierry a few times on TV playing for NY, and he had a fairly decent season last year. He scored a few of his trademark curlers, and generally made a nuisance of himself. He's not completely over the hill.

* Henrik Larrsson. I scoffed when United took him out on a short-term loan in 2007, but he showed that class is permanent among elite players. He got a few goals, and helped United through a difficult period of busy fixtures, helping them to their first title in four years.

* Who else are we going to get in January? Buying in this month is notoriously difficult. The best players aren't available, and those which are usually are only available at a premium. A short-term deal to help out RvP for a few months is really not a bad idea until we can buy a better player in the summer.

* Chamakh is off in January anyway for the African Cup of Nations, so a short-deal hopefully won't hurt his already fragile confidence.


* He's not going to be the Thierry Henry we knew and loved, in terms of his performances on the pitch. Yes, he's looked good in the MLS - but the standard of football in the MLS is probably similar to the Championship. Competitive, full-blooded, but no-where near the Prem, Serie A, La Liga, etc.

* We have a team and squad that really seem to have bonded recently, and dropping someone like Henry into it could disturb its balance. He's not going to do the famous Henry sulk, but it might be hard for him to accept not being the centre of attention, like he was for virtually his entire time at Arsenal.

* It's hard to get good players in January, but not impossible. And if Robin is off in the summer, we need to blood new players now, instead of trying to pick up multiple strikers later.

* Related to the above points, we've repeatedly tried the budget option with strikers, and I don't think it works. For every Henry or RvP, there's been a Chamakh or Park. We have cash in hand, let's spend some.

On balance, I wouldn't see this deal as a negative, but I think we should be aiming a little higher. We can't just keep on signing an invincible every January - or maybe we can. Maybe Cashley will be back in a few years...or maybe not.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Seasons's Greetings. Let's hope we all get the gift of Arsenal victories over Christmas.


Follow Goonerboy on Twitter. And now also follow Goonerboy on Facebook.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Some Thoughts on 5 Potential January Signings

I've been banging the drum about the need for new signings for a while now, so I suppose it's time for me to actually come up with a few suggestions. I'm going to stick to players I've actually seen play - a revolutionary concept on the internet, I know.

* Gary Cahill

I suppose this is just worthy mentioning briefly, if nothing else because it's not going to happen. From what I've read this morning, Cahill is Chelsea bound who, for the first time in a while, have a much greater need of centre-backs than we do. Terry should be facing a long suspension at some point due to the Ferdinand incident, and Villas-Boas clearly doesn't rate Alex at all, surprisingly. We were linked heavily with Cahill over the summer, but, personally, I think he falls into the classic 'over-rated English player' category. I don't he's good enough for a Champions League side, and I'm much happier with our BFG, Mertesacker.

Desirability  : 4/10. Probability: 0/10.

* Wayne Bridge

In some respects this makes sense. A former international, languishing in Citeh's reserves due to their surfeit of players, could easily be picked up on loan until the end of the season. But then again, he's rubbish. His performances for West Ham last season were abysmal. Personally, I'd rather chuck a youngster in rather than give this guy a go. But, with Arsene moving towards a new, more pragmatic transfer policy at the end of August, we can't fully rule this one out. Let's hope there's a half-decent full-back somewhere else on the market we can pick up on loan.

Desirability: 0/10. Probability: 3/10.

* Lukas Podolski

Finally, someone I actually want us to sign. Considering Wenger came out the other day and said we wouldn't be signing him, this probably won't happen. But things change fast in the transfer window, and maybe we could end up with him. On the plus side, he can get goals, and play anywhere across our front three. He's also got a good deal of experience. However, he also flopped pretty badly when he had to step up a level to play for Bayern. So, does he have potential above his current station, or is he just someone who shines  with the national team every few years? If we could get him for a decent fee, I'd be willing to take a gamble.

Desirability: 7/10. Probability: 6/10.

* Mario Goetze

This guy clearly has something going for him, if we, and several other clubs, have already been linked with big-money moves for him. He would definitely bring another attacking option to the club, and you'd have to bet that he's only going to get better with time. But, I don't think we'll sign him. He will probably wait till after the Euros to move, once he's increased his exposure somewhat.

Desirability: 8/10. Probability: 3/10.

* Eden Hazard

This guy is the real deal - as in he's brilliant, but he's also probably going to Real. He has speed, great footwork, superb passing, an eye for goal - pretty much everything you want in an attacking midfielder. I would be astounded if he doesn't end up at Real in the next 2 years or so, but maybe Arsene can work his magic, and persuade him to play for us for a few years first. I genuinely think we could be title challengers if we got this guy in, either in Jan or in the summer. So, probably not happening. But we can dream.

Desirability: 10/10. Probability: 1/10.

Ok, so that was a bit disheartening. Put some more names in the comment box below, and I'll assess some more January targets in the next few days.


Follow Goonerboy on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winning ugly after a defeat shows how much Arsenal have changed since August

A couple of points after yesterday's win:

* The game showed how far we've come since last season's post-Carling Cup final collapse. Those defeats hurt, and so did the start of this season, but we ultimately managed to clear out a lot of primadonnas and mediocre players from the squad. We have less players that go missing, or make silly, repeated mistakes - I'm looking at you, Denilson, Eboue, Nasri. There also seems to be less of a culture of complacency and entitlement among the current team- every seems to know they have to work hard in every game, something that I haven't always seen in the last few years. Altogether, we seem to have eradicated the culture whereby we go on a massive sulk and lose a couple on the bounce each time we lose. That is very important in the long run.

* That said, we hardly sparkled. While winning ugly is important, I am now seriously worried about how much certain players in the squad need a rest. The chequebook better be deployed in January.

* I like Frimpong, but I don't think he's ready to start Premier League matches for us. Especially with Jack back in the new year, I'd be tempted to loan him out. I know that goes against what I said in the previous point, but Frimpong looks very far from being a reliable understudy to Song at this point. He will be Dench; just not yet.

* Mertesacker has made a few high-profile mistakes since he joined (like two of the goals against Chelsea) but he's still made a massive, positive difference to our defence, in my opinion. It's such a joy to see a defender who is calm and thinks about the game, rather than just motoring around, frantically trying to mop up mistakes. I think by next season he'll become a rock, next to whoever's partnering him.

* Benayoun needs more minutes. He offers more than Arshavin and Rosicky. He has a combination of talent and work-ethic which is great to see. I hope he signs a short-term, say two years or so - permanent deal in the summer.

*  Did anyone think Robin was going to miss the penalty? Thought not. His booking was absolutely risible and should be rescinded. A clear penalty.

* Hutton is a disgrace, and there were horrible shades of Dan Smith on Diaby about his tackle on Vermaelen. Luckily TV doesn't appear to have picked up an injury. For every skilful player in the prem, there are still too many neanderthals who lash out violently on a regular basis. Remember, this is the same player who committed a horrific foul on Shane Long earlier in the year for which he received no punishment. Players like him need to be eradicated from football, and the FA needs to bring him longer bans for violent conduct.

* Chelsea play Tottenham tomorrow and for the first time in a while it's difficult to know who, on an non-emotional level, we want to drop points. At this rate, it looks like it will be between us three for third and fourth spot. Chelsea look weaker at present, but still have huge resources and could splash out in January. Spurs are flying, but usually fade when it comes to the crunch. Should be an interesting match. Let's hope they both lose. Badly.


For more Goonerboy, head over to Twitter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Team news for Villa - How Much Will we Miss Song?

Looking around this morning, it's probably best to start with positive injury news, which unfortunately comes almost exclusively in terms of Villa missing players.

It seems that Bent, Heskey, Herd and possibly also Collins are out for Villa. The absence of Bent and Collins are particular pluses as far as we're concerned, but so many of Villa's team have been playing poorly this season that it's hard to know what to take as a positive or not.

I don't think anyone really knows what Randy Lerner was thinking this summer when he appointed McCleish, a manager with a proven track record of getting teams relegated in the premier league. Maybe the convenience factor? Just pop down the road to get your new manager?

Whatever Lerner was thinking, Villa may well find themselves dragged into a relegation battle in the new year if they are not careful, and McCleish maybe realizing that long-balls and heavy tackles don't get you very far in the Premier League anymore.

As such, we should expect to take the 3 points tomorrow. Whether we win or not will put the City result in its proper perspective. Dropping further points could take an oddly uplifting defeat, and turn it into the beginnings of a mini-slump, just when we start the grueling Christmas period of fixtures.

As far as our team news go, Gooner Talk has said that the Telegraph reckon Gibbs will be out of the Villa game. On top of Djourou's injury, this may well mean Miquel has to fill in at LB, with Koscielny on the right. Far from ideal.

An even bigger absence will be Alex Song, who'll miss the game through a suspension he's finally picked up for cumulative bookings on Sunday. He's clearly become a massively important player for the team, even if he didn't necessarily have the greatest game against City. The famous stat, posted by Orbinho, was that up until late March last season, Arsenal had not won a game in which he did not start. I'm not sure if this changed or not in the last two months of the season, but, given our appalling finish to the season, I doubt it changed by much, if at all.

Over on the 'Positive Gooners' blog, the writer has claimed that Arsenal's win percentage this season drops from 66% to only 33% when Song hasn't played. So despite Villa's awful form this year, I am not one-hundred percent positive about the game tomorrow, especially due to my wider concern over whether we have the squad depth to successfully navigate the busy Christmas period. A scrappy 1-0 could be on the cards, and let's hope it's us that gets it.


For more Goonerboy, head over to Twitter.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A good performance, but Arsenal are still in a precarious situation

It's easy to trot out cliches about yesterday's game - it was a great advert for the premier league, etc. - but the fact of the matter is that we lost. We may have lost heroically, and we can be proud of the performance, but we're still three further behind in terms of the race for Champions League spots.

When compared to the shellacking we received just a few months ago in Manchester, we've clearly got our season back on track. Indeed, we were lucky not to come away from the match with at least a point. We went toe-to-toe with City for 90 minutes, and if anyone but Joe Hart had been in City's goal, I'm confident we'd all be feeling a little happier today.

But they did, and we don't.

What frustrated me the most about yesterday's game was that we dominated the match, in terms of possession, but we lacked a cutting edge. Perhaps ironically, the absence of Clichy was a big plus for City, as the excellent Zabaleta almost totally nullified Walcott, and thus cut-off our main supplier to van Persie. Gervinho frustrated more than he impressed, and was largely kept quiet by a combination of Toure and Richards. One feels that he could have done more to take on Toure with his pace.

In midfield, Song, Ramsey and Arteta all played well, but lacked a killer ball. Ramsey was unlucky not to score from a corner, and I'm hoping he can get goals back into his game.

At the back we were largely solid, and it wasn't a defensive mistake that cost us the game. Szcz made a good save, TV made a good interception, and we just couldn't keep it out. Indeed, where it not for JD's injury, and yet another forced reshuffling of the defensive pack, I think we might just have a kept a clean sheet.

Indeed, where the game was won and lost was not between the two starting XI's, who largely matched each other, but between the greater depth that City have in their squad.

Especially in the last ten years, football has ceased to be a team game - it has become a squad game. And the sheer weight of talent that City had in their squad ultimately came to bear. What we would give for a player like Dzeko to add a different option in the last twenty minutes of our games. He isn't even that great a player, but compared to the non-contribution that Chamakh now regularly produces, Dzeko is a demi-god.

Similarly, we need options other than Arshavin to come on to bolster our attacking players. It's time to play either Benayoun more regularly, or to give Oxlade-Chamberlain a chance, because Arshavin is now spent as an Arsenal player.

So, it comes down to this. We have a pretty decent first XI at the club - perhaps better than some of those that have sailed into the Champions League in seasons' past. But our squad depth is woeful. Obviously, no team can plan for four full-backs being injured simultaneously. Yet, we need to have new attacking options coming off the bench if we going to get the goals to put us into Europe next year, or to get us past Milan in the new year. A massive January transfer window is coming up. If we don't get it right, our mini-revival could slip away.

Don't forget to follow Goonerboy on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Injury Record / Look who's Defending Putin / Torres

Few stories floating round in the Twitter-verse that I thought I'd comment on in more depth.

Firstly, the guy over at Republik of Mancunia produced one of his periodic stats analyses, with the goal, I presume, of showing that United have the worst injuries record in the prem. However, in his analysis, he was forced to admit that we, in fact, have the worst injury record out of the top English clubs. According to the table provided, we have had, on average, a staggering 67 injuries per year since 2002, which is ten more than United, who have the second worst injury record out of us, them, Chelsea, City, Spurs, and Liverpool. We are not imagining it - there is something about our squad which means we pick up a lot of injuries, whether its our medical team, the way we train or our style of play. The analysis is slightly flawed, as it doesn't really account for length of injury, but it's still something to chew on. Hopefully the new medical centre, combined with the more direct style of play we have this year, will change things, but who knows. We already have all four of our full-backs injured, after all.

Elsewhere, this heartwarming story emerged from Russia. Usmanov has apparently sacked members of the management at the paper he owns, Kommersant, for poking fun at Putin for the rather dubious, to put it mildly, elections that just took place in Russia. Good to see our second-largest shareholder defending a tryant. Something worth bearing in mind for all you David Dein lovers out there.

Lastly, there's a lot of rumours flying about that Torres is going to leave Chelsea in January. Now, Torres has been, in essence, a failure at Chelsea. He has perhaps not been awful, but he has not justified the absurd £50m pricetag put on him. But even if Chelsea were to sell him in Jan, I very much doubt we would stump up the £20m supposedly required for him, especially when a similar amount might land us someone like Podolski. In fact, I would be very surprised if Torres moved anywhere until at least next summer.


For more Goonerboy, find me @GoonerboyBlog on Twitter.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

We are not a one-man team, but we have to buy a striker in January

At the end of Saturday's game, SZCZ fell to his knees and kissed Robin's boot. Whilst it's a manoeuvre many other gooners would probably replicate at the moment, a better one would have been to cover Robin's entire body in cotton wool.

We are not a one-man side. We have one of the best goalkeepers in European football. We have Vermaelen, Mertesacker, and Koscielny, who are all excellent CBs. Sagna, when fit, is a great player. Arteta, Song, Ramsey, Walcott and Gervinho have all contributed to our recent run of form through their passing, tackling, interceptions, assists and goals.

But Robin is the lynchpin. An injury to him deprives of us a player who probably only has Messi and Ronaldo as peers in terms of goal-scoring during the last twelve months.

But the real problem isn't that Robin is integral to our form - so what if he is? What's wrong with having great players, after all - it's that we have no one who can come in and effectively take over if he's injured or needs a rest. Of course, we're never going to find a carbon copy for him anywhere. There aren't many other strikers knocking around who are banging 30 goals a year and who area available on the cheap. But there has to be better options out there than Chamakh and Park.

When a player has basically been out of form for over a year, as Chamakh has been, you realise it's not form, it's probably that he's not very good. If he were to have to deputise for a long period of time, he probably wouldn't get more than one in four or five goals a game, which isn't good enough, even if some of his link-up play is underrated.

The jury is probably still out in terms of Park, but the whole transfer smacks of the bargain-bin. He wasn't prolific in France, and it's hard to judge his record with South Korea because of the standard of opposition they regularly face. Maybe we are all misjudging him, but he has basically had one good game since he got here, and Arsene's reluctance to play him is odd.

So our priority for January is a striker. Buying one in Jan will add a premium to players which are already the most expensive to buy, but I worry how thinly our squad will be stretched in the new year. I'm open to suggestions, although I think there is some basis to the Podolski rumours.

Ultimately, it would be criminal not to build on our recent renaissance. So let's hope we make some decisive moves in the marker in January, or that Park can show why Arsene was willing to take a punt on him.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Live blog for Arsenal Everton

Head over to @goonerboyblog on twitter for live updates of Arsenal vs. Everton.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The statues were the right choices - hi-res picture of Adams statue

Lots of chat today over whether Arsenal chose the right people for the 125 year statues.

In issues like these, you're basically asking people to decide who their favourite Arsenal players were - a ridiculously subjective exercise.

So, at least for the initial statues, you have to go with the obvious candidates.

Herbert Chapman remains Arsenal's greatest manager. Yes, Arsene has won a bucket-load of trophies, and entrenched is in the top-tier of world football, but Chapman basically founded the modern club. Plus, it would be a bit much at the moment for an Arsene statue. He recently got a bust, and in ten years time he'll get a statue.

Tony Adams remains Mr Arsenal, despite his somewhat odd relationship with the club since his retirement. He won more medals than any other Arsenal captain, and I think people forget what a massive player he was for us.

Henry is ultimately the club's greatest goalscorer. You can debate all-day over whether he or Dennis was overall the better player,but, ultimately, Henry has the goal-scoring record. Also, having a statue of him in that pose is awesome.

I think that we'll see more statues and tributes in the years to come, so I wouldn't stress if you favourite player didn't turn up today.


I'm going to try and live-blog the game tomorrow on Twitter, so come and find me @goonerboyblog

Follow Goonerboy on Twitter

Hey everyone. Just to say that as part of the blog re-launch, Goonerboy is now on Twitter.

Find me @GoonerboyBlog, or just click on the 'follow' button in the column to the right of this post.

I should have a post up soon with a great pic from the statute unveiling today.

The Pros and Cons of Manchester's Exit from Europe


So, the first pro is fairly obvious - hilarity. It's always funny to watch United lose, especially in Europe where Fergie's ability to influence referees is less pronounced. The fact that they were served up one of the easiest CL groups I can remember makes it even funnier. The loss also exposes the fact that United aren't, perhaps, the force they once were. I know it's become almost as common to say United are on the decline among the football media as 'this season, Liverpool will definitely be title contenders', but there does seem to be an end of an era air around the club. Scholes has gone, and Giggs will be gone soon as well. Ferdinand can't hack it anymore. Fergie is 70. They have no central midfield. None of these are damning - indeed, I still expect United to finish second - but you wonder whether United really bought the right players in the summer.This article, by Daniel Taylor of the Guardian, suggests that the Glazers financial pillage of the club is really beginning to hurt the team in the transfer market. Yes, they absolutely destroyed us in August - but it increasingly looks like that result may have papered over quite a few cracks.

City's defeat is funny on a few different levels. Nasri's face being one of them. It would be easy to go into 'a money can't buy you everything' rant, but, let's face it, they will win something this year. But it also shows that they are not the all-conquering force that their domestic form has suggested so far. They are beatable in a one-off game situation, especially with Lescott and Toure in defence.

From an Arsenal perspective, it gives us a glimmer of hope in terms of the competition. We have been far more consistent in Europe this year than in the prem, and our record against English teams in the CL is abysmal. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think we've ever beaten an English team over two-legs in Europe? Let alone in the last ten years. With a bit of luck we could go further in Europe this year than many of us hoped back in early September.


United and City are now free to focus on the league. While Europe has shown City are beatable, the resources at their squad make it a big ask for any team in the prem. I think we will give them a good game, but, as Alan Davies keeps on saying, I worry for our unbeaten record. It's one thing for them to buy the league; it's another to buy one of the greatest achievements in modern football.

I would expect Mancini to use the exits as an excuse to spend more cash in January, and the title already looks a foregone conclusion.

The exits of the Manc clubs also means that it's only us and Chelsea, out of the six teams realistically competing to finish in the top-four, who will be playing top-level European football in the new year. This increases the chances of United sowing up second place and, I hate to say it, the spuds getting 3rd/4th. They may yet implode, given the potential fall-out of 'arry's court-case, and, let's face it, the fact they are spurs, but they look a good outfit at the moment, and will be better rested than us for league games.


Schadenfreude is a wonderful thing in football, especially when it is at the expense of the likes of Ferguson and Mancini. In the short-term, seeing Manchester stripped of meaningful European football is a wonderful mix of joy and hilarity. Their exits also increase the chances of us going on a decent run in the competition.

However, it's hard to see past the Spanish teams, and even resurgent Italian and German teams like Napoli and Bayern, for the CL this year. By overly investing our resources in the competition, we could weaken ourselves domestically in a competition against other teams for top-four places who won't be playing as many games as we are. Furthermore, their defeats increase the likelihood that City and United will be in January - although, if United don't, perhaps a serious financial malaise really has taken over the club.

The ultimate conclusion of all this is that, despite Wilshere's return in January, we need reinforcements. Many of Wenger's buys this summer have turned out well, but we need more bodies in midfield and up-front. We are a van Persie injury away from our mini-resurgence collapsing, because Park and Chamakh are not up to the job of being a reliable understudy. Buying a striker in January will be expensive, but the club needs to bite the bullet if we are to fully exploit any advantage we have gained by the events on Wednesday.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

I'm back, and so are Arsenal

Since we last spoke, I've completed a degree, got married and switched continents.

The Season ticket has been swapped for 10am kick-offs at Lucky Bar DC. Thankfully, some of the best Gooners in the world reside over here in the States. (get in contact if you are a fellow DC gooner).

Forgive me for not posting.

But, really, the reason my posting slowed up over the last few years is that, for at least the last two seasons, I found it difficult to say anything original about Arsenal.

There's only so many so different ways that you can talk about the same bunch of overpaid, overhyped players choking when it came to the business end of each season, which seems to have happened for at least the last three years since our last real title challenge in 2008.

But something has changed this year. Especially since the fiasco at Blackburn, I've started to really enjoy watching Arsenal for the first time in a long time. Of course, I'd watch - and support - an Arsenal team made up of eleven vela-denilson-nasri-eboue hybrids, if it ultimately came down to it. None of us are switching sides. But not having to watch a bunch of spineless primadonnas is much nicer.

It's nice to watch a midfield which keeps things ticking over, and doesn't switch off. It's nice to watch midfielders who's first instinct isn't to look for the next pass. It's nice to watch seasoned pros who don't whine and quietly get the job done.

Given that the nadir of the youth project has surely come and gone (the hellish months between the Carling Cup final and the demolition at Old Trafford) I actually feel optimistic about the future for the first time in a long-time.

And who thought we'd have been the English team that qualified so comfortably for the second round of the Champions League?

So, Forward. I think this will be a very interesting season, and I hope to comment on it more than I have recently.


Hope you all like the new layout. Any suggestions are welcome.

Question for the day - should Goonerboy finally join Twitter...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A sad day in the history of Arsenal Football Club

A few tweets from Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor, summed up my misgivings about the events which have occurred in the past 48 hours:

I am in shock over Kroenke taking 62% of Arsenal. Heart not head. Doesn't feel in keeping with Gooner traditions, tho am not sure why.

What may be lost at Arsenal with Kroenke takeover is our distinctiveness & proud sense of independence. Now we're just like the rest. Sad.

It's hard to sum up the mood amongst gooners at the moment, and I don't claim to be any such barometer - but I felt that it might be worth adding my 'two cents', as it were, to the argument.

Firstly, I don't believe that any football club, let alone ours, should be privately owned by any one individual. Clubs should be representatives and servants of wider communities, and should be owned by their fans. These fans, as far as I'm concerned, can come from anywhere in the world. I've watched Arsenal play in bars which are thousands of miles away from Islington, and seen people there who care just as much about the club as local ST holders. Football should be, above all, about passion, a sense of belonging, and tradition - and fans are the best people to ensure these things are maintained at the forefront of a club's vision.

When I buy a match ticket, or a replica shirt, I want to know that my money is going towards the running and growth of a club, not towards, fundamentally, the enrichment of an already fantastically rich individual. Under private ownership, clubs are simply machines to serve the economic interests of their owners. That's not why football clubs came into existence, and it's not why they should exist today.

Secondly, whilst Kroenke has stated in his offer doc that "The offer will not be funded by way of any debt finance … for which the payment of interest on, repayment of or security for any liability [contingent or otherwise] will depend on the business of Arsenal", this doesn't necessarily mean that we are going to avoid a situation whereby the fans effectively pay for Kroenke's purchase of the club.

As Matt Scott in the Guardian put it:

"The Guardian asked Kroenke's adviser how Kroenke had financed the acquisition and if it had involved any form of borrowing against his other assets. Kroenke declined to respond. When asked whether the director-shareholders had applied a restrictive covenant preventing dividends being drawn from the club, Arsenal responded that since it was not detailed in the offer document no such covenant exists. That opens the door to the possibility that, in a less direct way than Glazer, he may in future use the club's funds to service leverage he has taken on to fund the buyout."

If Kroenke wants to win over the Arsenal fans, he clearly needs to be much more open about how he is going to finance the purchase of the club, and what his intentions are for its future management. And, personally, I want to hear from the man himself, not just Gazidis. Arsenal fans pay thousands of pounds in ticket prices, and have a right to hear directly from the club's upper management about how the club is being run.

Of course, Kroenke has managed his sports clubs very successfully and prudently in the US. But US sports teams are subject to much greater degrees of regulation that English football. The NFL, for example, is effectively run as a closed monopoly, with strict spending caps, by the 'franchise' owners. Running the St Louis Rams is a very different proposition to running an Premier League team, and I'm not sure it should be cited as evidence in Kroenke's favour.

To sum up - a takeover by Kroenke is preferable to one by Usmanov. But this weekend's movements saw the beginning of the end of Arsenal as a club which had fans as substantial shareholders. It really has come to something when I hope that Usmanov does keep his shares, in order that the multitude of small fan shareholders are not forced to sell their stock to Kroenke.

It does not have to be this way. In Germany, 51% of all clubs must be owned by their fans. It seems that the Germans have not forgotten why football clubs came into existence. Hopefully, one day the UK will also remember that football is not just about money.

As a post-script, I'd also just like to express my gratitude towards Danny Fiszman, in the hope that all Arsenal fans recognise the work undertaken by this man, the last true 'custodian' of the club. If Danny trusts Kroenke enough to sell his shares to him, then I will given Kroenke the benefit of the doubt in the short-term. But, given the other recent takeovers of Premier League clubs, I think it would be short-sighted to be anything but extremely cautious of what may occur in the future.