Posts Tagged ‘Song’

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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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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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Globetrotters and bruisers.

January 12, 2010

‘…In every game, we gotta have the brains and the muscle, the game and the hustle…’

The above gangsta rap quote is all about balance. While we have enough brains, muscle is not something we have in abundance. Arsenal don’t like the physical confrontation on cold northern evening or, as a matter of fact, anywhere else – it’s a cliché, but has a whiff of truth about it. Yes, we are one of the best footballing sides in the world. Hell, I will go as far as saying that it is a very close competition for the top spot between us and Barcelona, but when the opposition team – no matter how much ‘lesser’ it is – tries to suffocate us by resorting to kicking us, then it is a common occurence that La Bella Macchina of the funny old game coughs, sputters and grinds to a halt. Sure, if only we lived in the ideal world where ability is all and mean streak is nothing, we would simply be flat track bullies, but unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – this is not the case, and that makes the pursuit of the ideal balance between the two all the more important.

I loved it when Cesc clattered Repka in the early stages of the Champions League back in 2007 after the latter tried to scare our young side with pre-match comments about how they will get in our faces. This was the beginning of the ‘nearly season’ of 07/08, where our magnificent run of form was cut short by the horrific injury sustained by Eduardo and, er, substandard officiating in both Premier League and Europe. Since then, we have lost a few of tough as nails players without replacing them and sacrificed the following season on the altar of development. Did it produce these few grit players, the enforcers who would be there to protect these who offer nothing but flair? Well, you could count Song as one at a stretch. Who else? As much as I wanted to give Evra a piece of my mind after the infamous ‘men against boys’ comments, if you leave that particular game aside, he was not too far from the truth, was he? Frankly, we were found wanting against the physical sides all too often, despite the massive gulf in class and the common opinion that we should wipe the floor with them. On top of that, these games often resulted in overcrowding problems in the physio room, seriously depleting our squad options.

If you look at the Invincibles, they were certainly not lacking anything in that department – in fact, it was commonly known that if you try to kick us, we will kick you back as much. Our captain was quite a hardman without being a common thug either, despite the fact that his impressive collection of bookings and numerous occasions when he had the shower room all for himself before the final whistle could lead to thinking otherwise if you only read the statistics. The battles between Paddy and Keane, ill-tempered as they got, were nothing short of epic. Maybe it’s just me, but I reckon we would seriously increase our chances of winning stuff if we could help ourselves to a few of these – sure, one hundred miles an hour football is pleasing on the eye, but sometimes one has to fight fire with fire and some explosives on top of that. The famous Big Al’s quote ‘You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone’ sounds all too accurate.

Presence. Power. Mean streak bordering on thuggery. If I was to reinforce our squad to mount serious challenge on all fronts, I would browse what the Monsters R Us of the footballing world has to offer. Again, we need to make ourselves immune to yet another type of hindrance. Now is the time to get these shitkickers to change the tune to a squeaky one. You know it makes sense, don’t you?

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Two points dropped in the blizzard.

January 10, 2010

First of all, apologies for the post being a little late, but I had to get some perspective on all this – if I wrote this yesterday, it would be nothing short of angry ramblings of a lunatic. A proverb says that the morning is wiser than the evening, in other words, I just had to sleep on it. So here I am, still gutted with the result, but I will try to find some positives amongst the number of things that have gone wrong. Seriously, I will try…

OK, here goes: last season you just never knew which of the two Arsenals is going to turn up. One of them was the well motivated side that made slick, crisp passing game their own, the other one was never up for it, misplaced numerous passes and was generally getting overran by whatever opposition we played. This resulted with us being out of the title race by Xmas after we capitulated to the might of the likes of Stoke or Hull City. No disrespect to them, but we should be beating them without too many problems, had we applied ourselves. As far as yesterday’s game is concerned, we have to go back to the old cliche of game of two halves.

In the first half, it seemed like we had no answer to whatever they had to offer right from the start . Yesterday, I missed the first 20 minutes, so I had to take advantage of ATVO’s highlights facility to know what I am talking about. Seeing it in the cold light of dawn allows you some distance, but doesn’t make it any less annoying – Everton came flying out of the blocks, closing us down, intercepting our passes and looking much more hungry. Quite frankly, if you asked someone with absolutely zero knowledge to guess which of the two teams is the home one, currently in the third spot just 4 points off the top, it would be surprising to get the right answer.

Yesterday, I asked if Denilson was ready to take over the defensive duties for the time while Song is away trying to avoid getting shot. The answer is a categorical no – as much as I hate to say this, I will say it: I told you so. He got brushed off the ball too easily and his perceived intelligence, special game reading ability and anticipation counts for nothing without the Cameroonian’s physical presence. In the 12th minute, he got easily dispossessed by Saha, who you would not class as a monster, which led to him having another pop at our goal. Gallas blocked the shot for a corner, and we have conceded another set piece goal from a simple header by Leon Osman of all people. Don’t get me wrong, but to allow someone this short a free header in the box is just criminal. This was a good wakeup call, and we seemed to go up a gear afterwards, despite their attempts to disrupt our game with cynical fouling, which went largely unpunished by woeful Peter Walton. The fact that Fellaini managed not to go into the referee’s book during the game is nothing short of shocking, as he fouled, dived and got away with the lot.

Luckily, we have managed to equalise on 28th minute, after they didn’t clear the ball properly and allowed Denilson to nick it and pass it to Arshy, who gave it to Eduardo for him to tee young Brazilian up for a shot, which took a wicked deflection and ended in Tim Howard’s net. There was not a lot more to write home about in the first half, bar maybe Eduardo being questionably flagged for offside when he tried to stab the goal in with an outstretched leg.

I don’t know if the team talk was calm and balanced or another Le Hairdryer, but we looked much more determined in the second half, trying to win it. One must wonder, why they couldn’t muster the same in the first 45 minutes? However, we committed so many bodies forward, it must have left us exposed at the back, which resulted in the inevitable sucker punch. We got hit on the break after a serie of corners, when Rosicky chose the wrong option and they made two quick passes to set up Pienaar to run half length of the pitch unchallenged and chip over Almunia. Two points to make: firstly, we would normally have our no. 17 waiting there not to allow so much space and trying to break it up, secondly, this must be curtains for Almunia – again, he was caught in two minds: should I stay or should I go? You either stay on the line or come all the way, even taking one for the team, as long as it is outside the box. If you want to make yourself big, do it – had he come a yard further, he would have blocked this chip, as the ball missed his outstretched hand by mere inches. He is a liability and must be dropped – Fabianski could not do much more damage, could he? On top of that, a young keeper is earning experience from such mistakes, whereas this 32 year old ‘experienced’ idiot only earns money. The defence have precisely zero confidence in him and we will not win anything with him between the sticks – common denominator for the winning teams is a great keeper, I seriously challenge everyone to give me ONE example being the exception to that rule.

We have conceded in the 81st minute, but luckily, Rosicky made amends for his earlier mistake by scoring in the dying minutes. Again, it took deflection, this time off Lucas Neill and lobbed into the net. It was lucky, as Howard would probably have kept that out otherwise. We even tried to snatch a winner, but had to settle for a draw in the end.

Despite fightback and equalising late, which spared us blushes, it still feels like two points dropped, not one gained. AW needs to reconsider whether we have enough to mount a serious challenge on all fronts. As far as I am concerned, we need to dip into our pockets and buy at least two players, ideally three. Le Grove’s Pedro wrote a post in form of the letter to Our Glorious Leader, and I couldn’t have put it better myself if I tried. We are seriously short of options, and it makes us predictable – read the bit about the team selection in yesterday’s post, if I can figure this out, so can any professional football manager. If we are serious this season, we need a striker, a holding midfielder and a centre back, as Billy looks more and more likely to sustain some kind of fatigue related injury anytime soon.

Thanks for reading, I will be back tomorrow with more transfer market gossip analysis…

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Champagne football & fireworks on the NYE Eve

December 31, 2009

As I wrote yesterday, we needed to repeat what we did to them at home earlier in the season when they were doing everything possible to emulate Spuds early record from a year ago, bar conceding a goal. It seems like Arsene had pretty much the same plan in mind and was visibly not the best pleased with the fact that our players did not comply with the last bit and conceded a perfectly avoidable goal shortly after Ramsey rifled an absolute cracker to make it 3:0. It ended with the exactly the same scoreline as in the reverse fixture and I don’t think anybody can have any complaints as far as the game as a whole is concerned.

There were some voices in the blogosphere saying that Pompey will try to park the bus and frustrate us, which proved to be quite successful tactic employed by ‘lesser’ sides, but they were quite positive and tried to take the game to us, which was quite convenient, given our usual struggle to break down the innovative 10-0-0 formation. Credit to Avram Grant for not falling for this temptation, as they had their moments and managed 6 shots on target – this made the game quite interesting and provided great antidote for the trauma caused by watching Tuesday’s paint drying contest between Pool and Villa. Pompey managed a good win against the former thanks to being positive, but what worked against negative result-at-all-cost approach typical for Fat Spanish Waiter simply could not work against arguably the best footballing side in the country.

There were so many great performances, I just don’t know where to start – Eduardo looked really up for it in the early stages, chasing the balls, getting into good positions but to little effect. Cometh 27th minute and he got his reward from a freekick. Yes, it took a wicked deflection and Hreidarsson should have stayed closer to the post, but I don’t think anyone in red & white had many complaints – I thought initially it went wide as the net hardly bulged, but there it was, ‘1:0 to the Arsenal’ and we were on our way. He also played a part in our second goal when he kept his cool to pass it sideways in the box to Rambo for him to clock up an assist for the Nasri’s goal when I thought he will be dispossessed by Finnan. He seems to be getting back to form and should get better with a run of games.

Another one who starts showing his value to the team is Diaby. Yes, I admit, I was his harsh critic in the past, but he seems to have taken criticism well and now he looks as if he eradicated his weaknesses and if he is consistent, he may play important part in our season. I hope there is more to it than just desire to go to the upcoming World Cup, but I am happy for him to contribute like he did in the last few games, no matter what the cause is. He started using his height and posture well, and when he is applying himself, he is simply unplayable. Here’s to hoping that he will maintain this form.

Now let us all pause and hail King Song – what a monster he is…

I saw glimpses of his quality during the ACN 2 years ago, where he dominated opposition and I hoped that he can emulate that for the club – last night he was everywhere, breaking up their play, doing the dirty work as well as looking the business going forward. His fine headed goal was just the icing on the cake – as far as I am concerned, he made this goal by thrusting into the box and causing their defence enough problems for them to make a hash of a clearance which landed at Nasri’s feet. The latter provided a well measured cross, which was cleverly steered into the Pompey’s net to make it 1:4. His heart-shaped gesture made to the camera after the game was a lovely touch too! We will surely have a bit of a worry in the coming month with him gone to the ACN.

Obviously, there were more bright points to our display, like the aforementioned Ramsey, for whom I see great future at Arsenal  – chew on that, SAF! Premature publishing of information on young Aaron’s ‘signing’  on their website was almost as funny as Petit borrowing money for the Highbury-bound taxi from Alan Sugar. Another one who deserves praise is our ‘3rd choice’ left back – I would be seriously concerned about my place in the starting XI if I was Clichy…

Sure, there were a few things to moan about, like the goal conceded (judging by AW’s reaction, he will have a little video analysis session with the culprits) or AA having a little bit of an off day, but hey, let’s save it for a rainy day, eh?

Finally, I would like to you all the best in the coming 2010. May all your Arsenal and non-Arsenal wishes come true and more!

I will try to post on the New Year’s Day as long as I get my hungover self near a computer 😉 It’s the start of the silly season afterall…