Archive for January, 2010

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ManYoo preview.

January 31, 2010

Good morning world 😉

It’s nearly 10 AM, I have got out of bed an hour ago, and will be very brief today – no point going into tactics and team selections, enough of this has been said all over the media as well as in the places of work, pubs and homes in the build up. Everyone has his favourites and ideas and I shall keep mine to myself for the time being…

If anyone needs a reminder of this, today we face the defending Champions at home – whilst they may not be the the same team that humiliated us in the Champions League semi last season, they are not to be taken lightly, as they have enough quality, luck and experience to give anyone a headache on their day. SAF’s comments regarding this game being the biggest one in the season would suggest that for them it is as serious as it gets. I reckon both of the longest serving managers in this country would consider clashes like this one the sole reason to give it ‘one more year or two’ in their respective hotseats when new contracts are on the table – I know I would!. North London derbies have their specific buzz about them, but this is THE big time.

Needless to say, both Ferguson and Wenger, both sets of players, the rest of the staff from Pat Rice to tea lady as well as – last, but not least – supporters know this. This is war. This is one of these games you look for as one of the first when the fixtures are announced.  No matter where both teams are as far as the league table is concerned, this is always a six pointer. There’s more to it than just a bunch of empty cups – it’s like two star gladiators who can’t wait to hack each other to bits just to hear the roar of the Colosseum again. No matter who comes out as a winner, the slate will be wiped clean when the dust settles, they will get magically patched up, their severed limbs will be sewn back on and they will be be at it the next year, the year after that and a few more.

This is one of the games where the players have to give it all and it’s for the supporters to create the electric atmosphere to put the 12th man in red on the pitch. If you don’t sing, cheer and jeer at the right moments, shame on you! There are people who would be prepared to go some lengths to get their hands on your piece of plastic to do just that 😉

Nothing but a win will do today as we are at home, most of our players are back from injuries and they are not unstoppable. This game should give us a good idea how the rest of the season is likely to pan out. However, there is the right time for everything and now is the time to say ‘Come on you rip roaring, new arsehole tearing Gunners!’

Thank you for reading! Now over to you – what do you think?

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Another one out, no signing in sight.

January 30, 2010

Unless a ‘super, super signing’ is to be unveiled tomorrow before the game to raise the roof, this transfer window is about to go begging. I was in two minds, whether the countdown picture to be used with this post was supposed to be a ‘2’ or a ‘1’, taking into the account tomorrow’s clash – eventually, I have decided to stick to the facts and perhaps naively believe that if we are really to get someone in, then our CEO will be working overtime to pull this through. Silly me 😆

Our teenage future midfield superstar, Jack Wilshere has just joined Bolton on loan until the end of the season – given that we are out of both domestic cup competitions, it is a very good move for everyone concerned:  barring some injury disaster of cataclysmic proportions, we certainly wouldn’t be able to allow Jack The Lad enough game time for him to develop into something in the mould of Joe Cole on crack, whereas Coyle is a long time admirer and should give him more chances – besides, Bolton looked enough of a footballing side in our recent games and they actually look like they are on good path to be cured from the nasty disease called fatsamitis. Mind you, there are enough bruisers in their squad to offer the little one enough protection for him to weave his magic, glimpses of which we have seen in the last season. Our mate, who is a famous Polish reggae singer (seriously, we have these! check this out) came to play a gig in London and it coincided with the FA Youth Cup Final at the Emirates – we took him to the game and he immediately singled him out, saying that the kid will be something absolutely special and couldn’t believe that he was only 17.  In the process, we are rumoured to have also managed to negotiate the right of first refusal if Trotters decide to sell Gary Cahill, who looks like a decent enough centre back, which makes the deal even better.

This should be the last of the players to leave the club this month – needless to say, it would not be too shabby if we saw someone coming in to cheer us up and show or rivals that we mean business to leave them quaking in their boots. After the long period of rumour drought, there is a little bit of a speculation about us signing Nice’s Loic Remy – I can only speak for myself, but I would be prepared to trust Grimandi’s judgment in that respect: our former defender reportedly said that he had ‘a physical standard that is outside the usual’ and given that our forward line is looking a bit iffy, we should pounce before anyone else does. What are we waiting for then? Where I come from, a wise saying goes that if no one knows what the issue is, then it must be the money – unsurprisingly, this is no different, as Our Glorious Leader is said to be refusing to meet their valuation. Whether it is just playing the hard ball, like we witnessed during Arshavin transfer saga or a simple, categorical ‘non’ remains to be seen. You wouldn’t think £13M for someone dubbed ‘the new Thierry Henry’ is over the top, would you? Our beloved neighbours are said to be negotiating with Pompey to bring back Kaboul to Shite Hart Lane for the price of £10M or so. I’m sure a player that comes that highly recommended is worth splashing out the extra few bob and Remy who bears such uncanny resemblance to rapper Xzibit could seriously pimp our attack. Then again, it’s not my call, is it?

Thank you for reading, hope you’ve enjoyed it. I will be back tomorrow with the United game preview – until then 😉

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I’ll be back, said The Verminator.

January 29, 2010

First and foremost, I think most of the Gooners welcomed the news that our No.5’s fibula is in one piece . Actually, scratch that, make it every AFC fan in the galaxy! According to the official website, he ‘may’ miss ManYoo game, which is not necessarily equal to ‘will’, so let’s all hope it’s just a little bit of mind games ahead of the English version of El Classico. Kudos to these brilliant Skynet guys for patching him up in no time at all. Our ‘guests’ on the other hand will definitely come to THOF without Rio Ferdinand who has been banned by the FA for deliberately elbowing Craig Fagan during their recent game. Charges were violent conduct and lodging ‘frivolous’ appeal against the original decision. The ban itself has been extended to four games and our forwards should benefit from their back line missing his towering presence. You have to laugh at SAF though: ‘If he gets a fair hearing Rio has a good chance’ – Sir, people get arrested and convicted for doing similar things outside a local pub, you should know better than that 😉

With many players returning from injuries as well as both of our Africans back home already, I will be surprised if we will make any moves in the transfer window, which is inevitably drawing to a close. Both ‘camps’ of Arsenal supporters exchanged opinions on this and the discussions did get quite heated a couple of times, sometimes bordering on ugly or even crossing this line. I for one, as much as I think we could and should sign a player or two, will just sit back and observe, without any expectations and suggest you do the same: there is just no point in going mental over something you can’t influence in any way, shape or form. On top of that, when one doesn’t expect, it’s only the nice surprises that wait around the corner, as whatever else happens is foreseen and anticipated. Some will call it pessimism, others will say it’s nothing more than being realistic. Someone once said that a pessimist is an optimist with experience and I will just leave it at that.

Mind you, we have a knack for signing players on the deadline day recently and if you look back as far as our ‘nearly season’ of 07/08, then you should remember signing Lassana Diarra out of the blue (pardon the pun). Can anybody honestly say that it didn’t come as a surprise when it was announced on the club’s website? ‘Where the fuck did that come from?’ was the common reaction amongst our ranks and if you were not surprised, then you must be either Wenger or Mourinho…

Silly season’s countdown clock is showing ‘3’ today and here’s to hoping that Uncle Festa and his chums are getting busy behind the scenes, working on signing someone to simply improve the balance of probabilities of winning the title or at least giving our rivals a mighty scare and a taste of things to come by taking the title race right down to the wire. I don’t want this to be misunderstood as spouting of  ‘the next season is our season’ rubbish already, as I think this one should be ours. However, if we don’t win this, I will be content with giving it a damn good go without collapsing and having nothing to play for all too early like it was the case last season.

Thank you for reading – tomorrow will be the last day of this ‘will he, won’t he’ guessing time, as it’s unlikely that we will be doing much but ‘talking all that jazz’ of the encounter with the old arch-rival on Sunday. Can’t wait 😀

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Two is the magic number.

January 28, 2010

Two zeros on the scoresheet. Two points dropped. Two players injured. Hit woodwork twice. Result: two points off the top, although the leaders have a game in hand. The next two games are absolutely crucial as far as our title chances are concerned. Hell, getting results there is vitally important in order to finish no lower than third spot, looking at the Premier League table – 6th placed City, having only played 21 games to our 23 would be far too close for comfort, should the worst case scenario unfold. Why is finishing in the top three so important, you will ask: take into the consideration that it is the World Cup year and I would rather not have to go into the early Champions League qualifiers, as it would deprive our players of much needed rest – our team is packed with internationals and I would prefer to start the next season proper as late as possible.

Don’t get me wrong, but I go into every game expecting that we will get all the points, as it is really no fun otherwise – this is what being a fan is all about, right? I wrote yesterday that nothing less than 3 points will do for me and I was genuinely convinced that despite the fact of trip to Villa Park being a notoriously tough fixture (just ask Chavs), we would come up trumps. Members of ‘glass half full’ brigade will say that it’s not too bad a result and I would be inclined to agree, given our lineup. When I first saw the team assembled to face Villans, I really felt for Cesc who was asked to orchestrate our midfield play partnered by two lightweights in the shape of Ramsey and Denilson. Again, let me explain: that’s some grossly unbalanced midfield, if I ever saw one – three players of the same kind, with the only classy one being Captain Fantastic and the other two just making up the numbers. Unsurprisingly, Denilson was his normal useless passenger self, bar one good scoring attempt and our young Welshman was again guilty of not keeping things simple and doing the best piece of defending for Villa by getting in Rosicky’s way when the latter wanted to smash in the rebound after Fabregas’ shot cannoned off the post with the keeper beaten. The goal was gaping with Friedel being nowhere and only shit luck or Ramsey could have prevented us from going one up right before the break. Sadly, it was the latter.

We have got equally unlucky in the second half when Rosicky received a clever pass from Cesc, following a nice break by Arshavin, which ended up with their goalie thwarting his shot. The ball went skywards, the brilliant Spaniard cushioned it towards TR, who frustratingly blasted it against the crossbar. If that didn’t tell you that it wasn’t our day, then maybe injuries sustained by Verminator and Dudu will leave you convinced. While we know that our Crozilian has just pulled a hamstring, which apparently is just a minor niggle, there is no solid confirmation if we should or should not worry about whether we will see TV anytime soon. Now let me put it this way:  I love Eduardo, but his temporary absence from the squad will not have as much of an impact as having half of our best CB pairing for years out of the contention for God knows how long. Hopefully, we will know a bit more today.

Our Belgian was replaced by Sol Campbell who once again was very impressive – I had my doubts whether he could handle playing multiple games in the short period of time, yet he proved that he was much fitter than anyone would care to give him credit for. Yes, he has lost a few yards of pace, but he should be able to make up for it using bags of experience he has. The way he pulled down Dunne and pleaded innocence immediately to get away with it was absolutely priceless. If he manages to pull us through the next few games in the same fashion, then I will be getting his name printed on my new home shirt, due to be announced anytime soon. Rumour has it that we will finally get to look like Arsenal again with all white sleeves – I deliberately bought only the away kits this season and the last, as our current home outfit makes us look like Charlton.

Before this ‘make or break’ period started, I said that I will be happy with seven points from four – this is not how I planned it, but we can still equal or better my estimate. The next home game against the fired up ManYoo, who have just beaten their nearest rivals to the Carling Cup Final will show what we are really made of – we should have Song back and Bendtner will have a few more training sessions under his belt to shake off the rust. He looked reasonably well yesterday and we might have fared a bit better, had he started in place of our No.9 who looks worryingly off pace.

I will not tear into below par performances of a certain few, it should be enough to say that one can only hope that we will not see too much of them in the upcoming matches – please Arsene, see the light: they are not good enough, they don’t have the ‘qualitee’, and should not be anywhere near the first team. With just the mere few days of transfer window left, something must be done. We have the best chance for years and not addressing all-too-obvious shortcomings would be bordering on professional negligence. Please, please, please…

I will be back tomorrow, hopefully with good news on Vermaelen as well as with my thoughts on the last three days of the transfer window. As Wrighty7 likes to say: keep it Goonerish 😉

P.S. Since we didn’t score any goals (luckily, neither did they)  and the highlights of single non-scoring chances are quite hard to come by, these who didn’t watch the game or simply want to relive it are welcome to check out the highlights here.

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Fergie set to get his revenge for Rambo failure.

January 27, 2010

Another one bites the dust then, eh? Seems like we have been beaten to Chris Smalling’s signature by our arch-enemy from the Old Toilet. Now consider this: ManYoo are supposed to be on the verge of bankruptcy and we are said to be sitting on the piles of cash doing little more than just gathering dust, yet we couldn’t come up with something to match or better whatever SAF could offer. I ask, what does it tell you? For me, it’s either just another case of a great mis-match between AW’s valuation and the market reality or sticking to the principles at all costs – according to some, Smalling is supposed to be an Arsenal fan like you and me, and it must have taken something special from them or something especially insulting from us to turn his head away from opportunity to join us and choose Manure instead. Interestingly, Roy Hodgson said in the interview after yesterday’s game that no bid from Arsenal was received – begs question why Arsene was looking so smug when asked about Smalling during one of the recent press conferences? Someone is talking shit here…

No matter what you think, playing football is a job like any other and you have to consider your options, taking into the account all monetary and non-monetary factors. Sure, one can consider taking pay-cut or a SLIGHTLY less attractive deal to join his boyhood club, but on the other hand he needs to take into the account the fact that footballer’s career is short and can be cut even shorter any second – not everyone may be lucky enough to survive an encounter with one of Martin Taylors of this world, right? As much as some – myself included – were infuriated with our favourite Togolese’s comments about planning the retirement, he had a bit of a point: hardly anyone is going to sucker himself playing for less if he can earn considerably more, simple as.

I have just watched Arsene’s press conference: when asked about Smalling, he said that they must have offered more money and chuckled – someone please enlighten me, what’s so funny? I would like to have a laugh too, but the categorical statement about not being after a striker ‘at the moment’ as well as the other one about how he already forgot about Stoke game (not that I want to remember that either, mind you) somehow did not leave me in stitches. It’s the latter that left me particularly unimpressed: try telling this to the poor mugs who made the trip ‘oop norf’ and sang their hearts out. He also said that we did not lack experience back there – I mean, is he for real?

OK, enough of this ranting, some may think I’m some sort of mentalist. 😆 There are some good news too: Nasri is back in training, despite the fact that timescale for his return was initially pencilled for 21 days, as was Ramsey’s who already got a runout against Stoke. With Song managing to avoid getting shot in Africa and on his way back as well as Bendtner being set to travel to Villa Park it will be a bit more difficult to predict the starting lineups and substitutions. Not to mention that the pirates’ darling is coming home as well after Ivory Coast crashed out of the ACN – unfortunately, this means that every Arsenal fan’s not-so-favourite Ivorian will be available for selection for our most dangerous rivals too. I would rather have him knackered after going all the way in the competition than retuned and raring to go on the next Sunday. Oh well.

Thank you for reading, I will be back tomorrow with my views on the first episode of ‘get rich or die trying’ quadrilogy, screening of which commences today – I didn’t feel like writing a preview somewhat, it should be enough to say that nothing but three points will do for me. And oh, someone please explain Smalling what a huge mistake he’s making…  😉

Come on Arsenal!

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It’s the final countdown ;)

January 26, 2010

No, I am not going to write about the cheesy 80’s smash hit. This is about entering the final straight of the transfer window, which will slam shut on the Sunday midnight. As I said before, this must have been the most tranquil transfer window for some time – not too many coming and going at vast majority of clubs, we have just loaned out Big Phil and brought Big Sol back on a free to maintain the status quo numbers wise. Let me make a little digression: it takes a big man to admit a mistake and I must say that I was quite impressed with Sol so far. The prodigal son of Arsenal returned and was easily our best player on the pitch against Stoke – I came across an interesting article about how hard he worked to get this short term deal and if he manages to maintain such form and attitude whenever he is asked to play, then all is forgiven and my hat will go off for him 😉

Back to the subject: maybe it’s just me, but we seriously need to bring in reinforcements to mount proper challenge for the two trophies we can still play for. It’s been said at the very beginning of the month that we need to sign two players to balance the squad, increase the competition for places and prevent fatigue. Signing Sol doesn’t count as one, given that we got shot of Swiss Tony – 26 days into January and we are still at square one as far as I am concerned. Let’s now hope that something is brewing and we will see these two players (namely a striker with presence and a tenacious defensive midfielder) brought in this week – making last-gasp signings has been our thing in the last few windows, so maybe it’s not all lost.

From my point of view, adding to the squad of players we have can only be a good thing. Some may ask  what do we do when they are all fit and how do we keep them happy. Well, I am struggling to remember when was the last time we had all the players available for selection – anyone? Plus, competition for places makes them go the extra mile, especially since most of your players are young and the danger of suddenly becoming convinced that there is no need for further development as one has already ‘made it’ is always looming, ready to rise its ugly head. And it’s not just that – when Bendtner got injured, we have lost not only a player, but a whole dimension to our game and without anyone ready to step in to offer something in the air we got reduced to being only able to play on the deck, which may sometimes prove to be difficult to carry out successfully when the opposition chooses to tighten the space and suffocate our passing game. This makes it all too easy for them to focus on intercepting the ball without having to look out for the high balls. To call crossing into the box for our vertically challenged players to try and nod it in ‘hopeful’ is a bit of an understatement if you ask me 😆

While a tall striker is an absolute must, we could also do well with signing a backup DM better than our current second choice – shouldn’t be too hard, eh? Then again, we should have our main man back for Manure game, as Cameroon has finished their ACN adventure after Egypt put them to the sword in the quarters. As long as Song doesn’t do a Kolo we should be OK, so I am not THAT bothered about this position, however, it is always better to have an option rather than not…

Thanks for reading, what are your thoughts?

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Angry ramblings of a lunatic.

January 25, 2010

Well, it was certainly not what one would expect or hope to see on Sunday afternoon on the national TV, was it? It is really hard for me to draw positives from this game, as it left me with the sense of déjà vu – I mean, how many times did we see our players making plenty of misplaced passes, getting brushed off the ball all too easily and being unable to produce an answer to what a well organised, sturdy side had to offer on the day? How many times we witnessed the team caught sleeping and making it difficult for themselves? Yes, I do appreciate that it was practically our reserve side, but Our Glorious Leader promised to field a side that would have a good chance of winning the game and progressing to the next round, didn’t he?

Just one of these days, some will say. Others will blame the shit pitch, opposition set out to defend, trying to hit us on the break and the like. I will simply say that we were not good enough. You could excuse the debutants and youth players for being a little shaky, but how do you excuse another poor performance from the full internationals like Theo and Vela? ‘Oh, give Theo a break, he is just back from injury’ Yadda, yadda, yadda – he is paid more in a week than the majority of us in a year and you would think that his job description must include tasks like being able to do a little more than run at fullbacks just to bounce off them to land on his arse, misplace passes and show no footballing intelligence whatsoever. Young man, based on yesterday’s performance, surprisingly impressive Sol Campbell is closer to getting a place in the World Cup squad than you are and it is time for you to step up and produce, as long as you give a toss, that is. There were so many below par individual performances that I will just mention the three players that came away with any credit, namely the aforementioned Campbell, young Eastmond and Cesc. The rest should hang their heads in shame, then take a long, close look at the match video and proceed to work their nuts off in training to eradicate their own shortcomings.

I am absolutely livid – it’s ridiculous that we conceded the first goal just after 70 seconds as a result of one of these long throw-ins. Come on, did we really have to shoot ourselves in the foot like this? Questions must be asked about our No.2’s awareness in that situation – this was just so much like him, wasn’t it? Now don’t get me wrong: I really want him to do well, and he may become a great keeper, given enough time, but he has a long way to go and we should let him make these costly mistakes somewhere else. If I had any influence on the player purchases, he would never get anywhere near our club – I can only say that we have decided to loan out the wrong Pole and the Bees must be laughing. Someone said yesterday that funnily enough we have loaned out the only world-class keeper we have and kept the three that just don’t cut it for one reason or another. Strange that.

After producing precisely nothing, we equalised in the 41st minute, thanks to a cleverly played freekick – instead of having a pop, Cesc rolled the ball on the ground towards Denilson who duly dispatched the shot, which took a deflection or two and ended up in the net. We have gone off at the half time with the scores level and again, the scoreline probably saved our players from Le Hairdryer.

Both teams seemed to have gone out for the second half with intention to get it over and done with on the day – each team had own reasons for this: we needed another fixture like a hole in the head, while they must have been aware that it will be much tougher for them to get a result at THOF. Frankly, it was them who seemed more likely to nick it and we really looked like we were banging our heads against the wall. Cue the triple substitution with AA, Dudu and Ramsey replacing Coquelin, JET and the woeful Walcott. While the first two didn’t impress, they have been thrown to the lions by AW, honestly – tough away Cup tie in a practically reserve team is not where you want to bleed the youngsters with little or no first team experience, is it? And don’t get me started on Walcott, it should be enough to say that he was shocking – again!

Injection of talent resulted in us stretching their defence a little more and all was going reasonably well until Ramsey must have thought that it is better to go for the Hollywood pass rather than keep it simple. Needless to say, we have lost the ball, and Sidibe received a pass to run half the length of the pitch unchallenged by Denilson who just ran next to him, then backed off after seeing that he would not match his pace if he tried. The Malian ran and was allowed a pin point cross for Fuller to head in his second goal. I am sure Theo could do well with taking a leaf out of Sidibe’s book on this one: this is how you run, beat your man using your pace and cross the ball – not too hard, is it? I will not even go into the subject of Denilson not being the answer to our defensive midfield worries: it should be enough to say that if you cannot outrun or successfully challenge a player of Sidibe’s class, being the defensive midfielder, then you should not be at this club, period. Yes, Traore left acres of space, but since he wasn’t there, one would expect a player who is plugging the gap to do more than just have a little jog (yes, I know he tried to run, but he is so frustratingly slow that he makes Song look like Usain Bolt) and watch helplessly as the ball was crossed and headed in past the hapless Fabianski. Given how dire we looked until that moment, scoring two goals needed to progress in the time left was probably too much to ask. I mean, we managed two (yes, two) shots on target in the whole game. The third goal was just icing on their cake if you ask me. Tuncay’s handball spared us further blushes and the game couldn’t end soon enough. Stoke fans rubbed the salt into our travelling supporters’ wounds and no one can blame them, really.

Thank you for reading, I will be back tomorrow with my views on this squad’s deficiencies and our chances to get our hands on the silverware this season. Potters’ debacle leaves us with just two pots to compete for, the competition is as tough as it gets, we are short in a few areas and the final week of the transfer window should be put to a good use.

Grrrrrr…

Whoosah… Whoosah…