Monday, 29 August 2011

EPL Match Day 3

Manchester utd 8-2 Arsenal.

Battered. Thrashed. Destroyed. But most of all, humiliated. That is the only way to describe how it felt yesterday to be an Arsenal fan. A day when we suffered our heaviest defeat under Arsene Wenger. Where we conceded 8 goals for the first time in over 100 YEARS. A day when Arsenal football club had its trousers pulled down in front of the world and was rogered for a full 90 minutes (plus stoppage time).

Rather than focussing on the specifics of the match, lets face it, 7 billion people the world over have seen the goals now, I would prefer to focus on the whys, the hows and the where to from heres, starting firstly with the team.

I'm not going to jump on the Wenger "we had a young team" bandwagon. Look at the average ages of the teams: Manchester United; 23 Arsenal; 23.6. So there goes that theory straight away. yes our team was young, but theirs was younger. So why was it better? Simple. The young players at United all have Premier League experience, David De Gea excepted. Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Johnny Evans, Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck all had at least a season of top level experience and that list didnt even include the "older" Nani, Rooney and Anderson, three players with a wealth of premier league experience already. Add on top Patrice Evra and you have the perfect balance between youth and maturity, old and young. They were able to bring on Giggs, Hernandez and Park. They could have also called upon Ferdinand, Berbatov and Fabio. A truly impressive matchday squad.

Arsenals on the other hand was a complete shambles. Carl Jenkinson gave it his all, although he was woefully out of his depth, Armand Traore was immensly poor, and Francis Cocquelin has no business being on a premier league pitch yet, let alone the pitch at Old Trafford. The experienced heads of Tomas Rosicky and Andriy Arshavin were so poor, so pathetic, they might as well have not been on the pitch. Laurent Koscielny and Johann Djourou both have enough experience between them to be able to marshall a defence better than they did yesterday. Yet the pair looked like they hadn't even met each other before, let alone played football together. They were a total disgrace. Aaron Ramsey has no reason to hang his head, he was left woefully exposed in the middle of the park for the entire match, While Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott also can carry the tiniest amount of pride from the match, having both scored. Although the captain did miss a penalty when the score was still only 1-0. I cant say that it was a game changing miss though. And once again, Woijech Szczesny was Arsenals hero. I've said it before this season, the man will be amazing. The fact that it was only 8 is singly down to the Polish stopper.

And what do we get from Arsene Wenger as a response? The same Typical retort about how new signings are not always the answer. Well guess what Arsene. They are. When the squad is as poor, as weak and as low in numbers as ours clearly is, then signings are most definitely the answer. You only have to take one look at our bench to know that. Fabianski, Chamakh, Chamberlain, Lansbury, Sunu, Ozyakup and Miquel. When you pair this up against the United subs that were shown earlier, only one word comes to mind. Pathetic. There is no way that these players should be left to bear the brunt of the press backlash because it is not their fault that their manager seems incapable of bringing in some new, experienced players in the same key areas that football fans the world over have been telling him we need. Fans who don't get paid the same money he does, but have had to put up with the same rubbish excuses and the same tosh on the field for far too long.

The worst sight in my time supporting Arsenal.
Ok so we have injuries. So did United. We had Suspensions. So what? we should have had the strength in depth to have been able to combat these issues, but due to the account, we havent bought anyone of note yet, whereas Alex Ferguson had all of his business done in the first couple of weeks of the transfer window. Although to be fair we have made a couple of bids. £6 million for Gary Cahill, an offer that was described as "not even derisory" by Bolton and £10 million for Jagielka, £2million less than last year. What a joke. You can not buy world class defenders for peanuts, so why bother trying? I'll tell you why, so that Monsieur Wenger can say "well er, we made some bids but er, they were not accepted. But I er, have full faith in my squad of players that I have now". Not good Enough Arsene!

So where to from here? Simple. New signings. We have two days and at least £50 million pounds to spend. Apparently we are signing another striker, called Park. ok, we dont need another striker but its a fresh face. We have been linked with Benayoun today. Excellent, he's experienced and has a touch of guile, just what we need right now. How about going £10 million for Parker? Over the odds but it should secure him. And please, please please offer £20 million pounds for both Cahill and Jagielka. You may think it is over the odds but WE NEED THESE PLAYERS. Just buy them and let the board worry about the funds.

There are two plus sides however. Firstly we now have a two week break. Time to get players fit again is exactly what we need. But best of all? No matter how bad we think things are, we can always look below us in the league and see that Tottenham Hotspur are still below us. Happy days.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Book Of Exodus: Chapter 3; Samir Nasri

In the last chapter I told of how I expected Samir Nasri to be the next player to leave the Emirates, and this week I was proved right. The strange thing is, I don't find myself too upset about it anymore.

Without a doubt, the Frenchman had been on mercurial form over the last couple of seasons, even if he did go off the boil after Christmas last year. However, his total lack of grace and the way he carried himself in trying to force through his move to another club, any other club, was all wrong in my book.

Unlike his former captain Cesc Fabregas, Nasri was extremely vocal in expressing his desire to leave. First he wanted to go to Manchester United, then Manchester City, then to either Barca, Real Madrid or Manchester United again but if none of them come through for him then Citeh will do. As it was, it was the blue half of Manchester who were able to gain his signature and all for the paltry fee of an estimated £24 million pounds and £175,000 a week. So it wasn't about the money then Nas?

He wasn't even above slagging off our fans, first moaning about songs being sung about him, proclaiming he was still an Arsenal player. The point is Samir, you didn't want to be. He then went on to say that he felt the fans didn't have enough passion, unlike the backward facing dancing fans of City. A point he then went to deny, even though it is on tape. Strange.

Any way, I guess I should wish him all the best blah, blah blah, but I don't really want to. See you in December Samir.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Week 2

Its been a very busy week for the Arsenal with 3 matches since the season opener against Newcastle united and, luckily for me, all of them have been televised.As there is so much to catch up with, here are three brief reviews on the matches. Lets start, logically, with the first game last tuesday:

UCL QR3; Arsenal 1-0 Udinese
                  Walcott (4)

Arsenal began their qualifying campaign for this years champions league against definitely the toughest oppenents that they could have been drawn against, the fourth best team in Italy, Udinese. The game began in a very open manner with both teams starting out on the offensive. However, it was Arsenal who took the lead in the fourth minute, as Aaron Ramsey crossed from the right flank, putting the ball on a sixpence for Theo Walcott to volley home from close range with his left foot. The perfect start. However it was downhill from there. Udinese found their feet and, spearheaded by the impressive Anonio Di Natale, completely dominated the rest of the game. The Italians created numerous chances and where very unlucky not to score and, truth be told, should have won the match but for the exploits of 'keeper Wojciech Szczesny who pulled of several fine saves. Arsenal hung on to their slender 1-0 lead and would take it with them to northern Italy eight days later for a match which was by no means a foregone conclusion based on the two sides very differing performances.

EPL Match Day 2; Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool
                                                     Ramsey (78 og)
                                                     Suarez   (90)

Arsenal's first home game of the premier league season was never going to be an easy one with suspensions and injuries decimating the squad coupled with big spending Liverpool strengthening their own, and so it was proved as two late goals saw the Merseysiders to their first victory at Arsenal for eleven years. Again, the game was a very open encounter with both sides playing flowing, open football that was very easy one the eye. There was a problem almost immediately for the gunners as, after only a quarter of an hour, centre back Laurent Koscielny was withdrawn due to a back spasm. He was replaced by eigtheen year old Ignasi Miquel, making his league debut. another full debutant, Emmanuel Frimpong, would not start the game very brightly, picking up a yellow card for fronting up to Dirk Kuyt after barely five minutes. It was an act of petulance that would come back to haunt the youngster. While the game was played at a fast pace, there where not too many chances created in the first half; Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson both having headers saved by Szczesny for Liverpool, and Frimpong and Samir Nasri, on his last appearance in an Arsenal shirt, both going close from long range.
The secong half followed the same pattern, both sides sharing chances with Arsenal with the slight upperhand until, on the seventieth minute, Frimpong went charging in to a tackle with Lucas Leiva, catching the Brazilian with a high kick, and deservedly picking up another yellow. He was lucky it wasn't a straight red. Immediately the difference between the two squads was shown, as Liverpool called upon Raul Mereiles and Luis Suarezto win them the match. They duly delivered. In the 78th minute, the two exchanged passes, finishing with a cross by the uruguyan. Miquel attempted to hook clear, but his effort rebounded back off Ramsey, looped over Szczesny and nestled in the corner. Arsenal immediately showed the weakness of their squad, as they were only able to bring on Henri Lansbury as a response and, as they searched in vain for an equaliser, a fine flowing move by liverpool was finished of as again the two substitues combined with Meireles teeing up Suarez for a simple tap in in injury time. As the final whistle blew moments later, the home side where booed off the pitch, the fans perhaps turning against Arsene Wenger's apparent unwillingness to spend and stregthen the squad. The mood was one of unoptomistic negativity as Arsenal headed in to the second leg of their Champions League qualifier.

UCL QR3; Udinese 1-2 Arsenal
                   Di Natale (39)    Van Persie (55)
                                             Walcott (69)

Arsenal secured their place in the group stages of the Champions League for the 14th successive year after an impressive 2-1 win in Udine gave them a 3-1 aggregate successs.
The game started at a frenetic pace, with both sides having a chance inside the opening minute. Arsenal were lucky not to find themselves behind early on, Antonio Di Natale having a goal ruled out for offside after 8 minutes. Arsenal played some of their best football for quite some time, with new boy Gervinho the catalyst of all things good. His dribbling skills created chances for both Walcott and Van Persie inside the opening 20 minutes but the superb Handanovic in the Udinese goal was more than equal to whatever was thrown at him. Gradually however, the home side took control, and it was rich reward when that man Di Natale, who had finished as Italian footballs golden boot winner the previous two seaons, broke the deadlock after 39 minutes with a fine looping header from Pinzi's inch perfect cross. The home fans were jubilant, the few away fans were silent, no doubt fearing the worst as I'm sure every fan watching at home also was. They needn't have worried. The Arsenal side that came out after half time was a completely different side to the on of the first half. Tomas Rosicky came on for Frimpong and ran the show, dominating the midfield in every sense. After knocking on the Udinese door for the first 10 minutes of the second half, it was finally unlocked on 55 minutes. Another jinking run from Gervinho, a perfectly placed cut back and an emphatic finish from Robin Van Persie pulled Arsenal level and even more importantly, gained a priceless away goal. Udinese didnt give up and only 3 minutes later, following a corner, a debatable penalty was awarded following an alleged handball from the immense Thomas Vermaelen. Di Natale stepped up and fired his penalty to his top left. However, Szczesny flug himself across and pulled off a magnificent save to deny the striker. The home side looked broken after that as Arsenal went on to dominate possesion and, on 69 minutes, Sagna played the ball over the top for Walcott to race through and fire home, securing Arsenals place in the Champions league

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

EPL Match day 1

Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal

Rather than give a full review of the match which ended in a stalemate, I think it would make more sense for me to comment on the two main talking points from the game, those being the Alex Song stamp and the Gervinho r,ed card.

Lets start with the stamp, logical as it did happen first. Early in the second half, Alex song was tussling for the ball with the saintly Joey Barton. One thing led to another and suddenly, all that we could see was Barton rolling around the floor in agony, as Arsenal were awarded the free kick. On seeing this, he charged over to the fourth official and started giving it the verbal. But for what? Well there was a strong chance on reflection (and several helpful T.V replays) that Song had stamped on his calf intentionally, an incident that the referee had failed to spot, although he was unsighted. Unfortunately, I can't defend the Arsenal man for this. Although Joey Barton is not necessarily the nicest boy in the playground, there was no need for him to be walked on like a doormat and therefore i feel that the imminent three match ban will be fully justified. I for one would like to see violence like this stamped out of the game (excuse the pun).

Now to flash point two. Gervinho. About a quarter of an hour from the end, the new acquisition danced his way around a couple of defenders, into the penalty area and, although he could have shot, went down. On first view it looked like a stonewall penalty, on reflection, maybe less so but they have still been given. However, our man Barton took exception to what he saw as a blatant dive and stormed over to Gervinho, hauled him off of the floor and a huge brawl broke out. Again, St Joey of Newcastleshire went down rolling around in agony and card Gervinho. Up pops Barton proclaiming to all and sundry that he had swallowed a whole knuckle sandwich. Replays showed that what had actually happened was that the very tips of Gervinho's fingers had brushed against his face as he had attempted to slap Barton. Clearly the scouser isn't made of too Stern stuff. Barton himself picked up a yellow for the incident, a move which has quite rightly infuriated Arsene Wenger, as he feels both should have been given a red, or both a yellow, a point which I wholeheartedly agree with. Violent conduct is violent conduct after all. Unfortunately however, the new Ivorian must now sit out the next three league matches, against Liverpool, Manchester United and Swansea.

For those who are interested, the match itself wasn't much to write home about. It was a scrappy affair, only really coming to life after half time with the song incident and the introduction of Theo Walcott, who changed the complexion of the match with his pace, even unleashing the first shot on target of the match! Following the red card, the match petered out to a somewhat bore draw and, suspensions aside, Arsenal wont be too dis heartened to take the point away from St. James's Park. The were definite signs of encouragement, no more so that in defense, as Thomas Vermaelen's league return was faultless and his presence added an air of authority to what was last season a very shaky defense.

Next up in the league for Arsenal is the arrival of Liverpool for the first league match of the season at the Emirates. Before that however is the must win Champions league Qualifier against Udinese.

The Book Of Exodus: Chapter 2; Cesc Fabregas

So the most protracted transfer saga in recent memory has finally come to an end. Cesc Fabregas has finally left the Emirates stadium and returned to his home town club of Barcalona, banking Arsenal £35 million in the process, and maybe it isn't before time.

Arsene Wenger himself said that if he wanted to he could have commanded a much higher price for Cesc by auctioning him off to the worlds richest clubs but, knowing that he only wanted to play for Barca, he wouldnt do that. So why not sell him earlier on in the summer then?! Any way, I digress.

As much for my girlfriend as anything :)
I have to say I think the way Fabregas has conducted himself during this saga has been nothing short of exemplary. In a time when all players seem to be only be motivated by money when it comes to transfers (Samir Nasri anyone?), Cesc has had no thoughts of the sort, making it clear that he wants to return to the club he was at until the age of 16. This fact is underlined when you see that he is waiving a million pounds of his wages for the next five years to help pay the transfer fee.

His farewell to the club and thankyou to Arsene Wenger was also high class, acknowledging the part that Arsenal has played in his development. Again, this is something we dont see enough of these days.

 I guess all that is left now is to say a very big thankyou for the eight years of high quality football that El Capitan gave us, maturing from boy to man, he led the team with pride, always playing with a swagger and extreme confidence and was a joy to watch. Adios El Capitan.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Goodbye Great Britain

I don't often get the chance to write about things that happen in the 'real world', however, due to the events of recent days leading to the postponement of several football matches today, I have an, albeitrather weak, excuse to do so.

Lets start at the beginning. Saturday; A policeman shot a local man dead in Tottenham, North London. The family of the man, Mark Duggan, and some locals organised a peaceful protest at the fact that a policeman was able to shoot dead a civillian, although he was a local gangster carrying an illegal firearm. Anyway to cut a long story short, peaceful protest turned in to a mass riot which has now gone on every night since saturday. Businesses have been burnt to the ground, shops, homes and cars have been set alight and destroyed and town centres have been looted. People have woken up to find their livelihoods snatched away from them. Businesses they built up from scratch razed to the ground in the space of a few short hours and for what?

On Sunday night for the first time I reposted a 'chain status' on my facebook account. To cut a long story short, it was about how proud I am to be British. A fact which, at the time, I would never doubt or dispute. However, owing to the actions and scenes which I, along with millions of other British citizens have witnessed, My pride and faith in Britain, and England in particular, have been completely shattered. No more does this country deserve the moniker Great. To see the images of destruction,vandalism and criminality of the people of our country completely embarrased me and made me ashamed of the minority of the young people in this country.

The worst part about all of this is that it seems to have no meaning to it at all! OK, the peacful protest on saturday has some grounds, and maybe even the first night of riots.  Fine, draw a line under it there. Maybe your point got across and things will change for the better. However to see this continue on to Sunday and Monday evening and spread throughout our capital and across the whole country is nothing short of ridiculous.

The only thing worse than this is the reasons that I have heard given by the mindless thugs that have been perpertrating these acts. One young girl claimed she was 'getting her taxes back'. A girl who looked like she hadn't even left school yet and wouldnt even be paying taxes. I have also heard people say it is because of the gap in wealth between the rich and poor getting wider coupled with a lack of opportunities for the young people. Now, I am sorry, but this a country of Wren, Brunel and Stephenson. Three men who both started out with nothing, even less than the young people of today. And yet they went on to create St. Pauls Cathedral, the Clifton suspension bridge and the steam engine respectively. All of these things helped make this country the best in the world and yet, all the pride that these images invoke have all been wasted, sullied, destroyed by the thugs who have been running amok recently.

Today David Cameron was kind enough to return from his holiday in Italy (two days too late if you ask me) to address the situation. To be fair, I was a little impressed with his response. increasing the police force to 16,000 on the streets of London is certainley a step in the right direction, although it does leave the rest of the country terribly exposed, and I like the sound of "if you are old enough to do the crime, you are old enough to do the time". However only time will tell if any of this makes a difference. Until then, the country remains gripped in fear of another night of rioting, looting and generaly senseless behaviour.

One thing that has also annoyed me about this is the statuses on facebook telling the people to go to Afganisthan if they really want to fight. Clearly the people who are posting this do not realise that the thugs dont want to fight. They are taking advantage of a severely stretched police force to comitt as much vandalism and robbery as they can. If these people were to go over there then they would not survive 5 minutes, although I guess that is a plus point.

I suppose all that we can hope for is a swift end to all of this carnage, that our police force show themselves to be the best in the world, to bring all of the yobs to quick and strong justice and make us all proud. Who knows, maybe in time we will be able to put the Great back in to Great Britain.

Ox In The Box

So finally Arsene Wenger has bought us a new, experienced centre half. Whats that? Alex Chamberlain is only 17? And he is a winger? Oh bloody hell!

Anyway, hes here now and by all accounts isnt that bad. I dont know to much about him to be honest, but i do know he can play anywhere across the midfield and can also support the striker. The only question is where will he fit in? I guess only time will tell. Heres a little fact file...

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
  • D.O.B:           May 15th 1993
  • Age:               17
  • Position:         Attacking Midfield
  • Born:             Portsmouth
  • Height:           5'11"
  • 9 goals in 36 league appearances last season

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Setting The Club To Rights

Firstly I feel I should issue an apology. I didnt write any match reviews from the Emirates cup and I will not be writing one from the Eusebio cup match against Benfica for one simple reason. I will justr be repeating myself. Time and Time again I have told of how defensive frailties have cost Arsenal matches throughout pre-season and in my review of last season and I have finally had enough.

Now, I could forgive this if Mr Wenger had made some steps to cureing what is effectively terminal problem for the club, a definite achilles heel. However, this close season has been one of the most disappointing and frankly embarrasing close seasons that I can remember. For all of the bravado about how much money there is to spend, all the talk of the players we have been linked with and all the hot air from the executives telling us this will be a busy transfer period , we have one new wide man and one new young right back. Quite frankly, this is not good enough.

Last sunday, after the draw against New York Red Bulls, I heard the team get booed off the pitch. A sound that I never thought I would hear, but yet I fully expected because, for the third time in two days, our defensive deficiencies had cost us goals, points, and ultimately, our own trophy and I aswell as every other Arsenal fan has finally had enough. Sebastien Squillaci is a useless donkey. Laurent Koscielny is a total liability and Johann Djourou is just not good enough. All this just serves to undermine the brilliant Thomas Vermaelen and also any goalkeeper we have. SORT IT NOW!!!

The other issues that I am certain all gooners are fed up with are the ongoing transfer sagas involving Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Neither wants to be at the club any more and quite frankly, we dont want them if they dont want to wear the shirt. We have already missed out on Juan Mata because Wenger was too ignorant to snap him up, choosing to wait and see if Barca would pay up for Cesc before making a move, and I am sure that it could cost us more. There is already money to spend, why wait for more to come in? Any extra money we get from the sales of Nasri and Cesc (possible £50-60 million) should be spent IMMEDIATELY. We could have 5,6,7 decent signings with that money.

To compound the misery that has been an Arsenal summer, we draw Udinese in our champions league qualifier and the way things are, I cant see us winning the tie. If the worst comes to the worst and we end up on thursday nights on channel 5, it may well be time to relieve Arsene Wenger of his duties and replace him, or at least bring in a strong number two. Someone who is prepared to say no, there is another way. Or someone to make him take notice of our problems and go on to solve them. However, he is basically bulletproof at Arsenal so I cant see this happening.

So there we have it. One week away from the season curtain being raised and we have more questions than answers. I will be approaching the game with Newcastle with immense trepidation and I will not be surprised if we leave the game with nothing. However, who else could pull out an incredible performance against all the odds other than Arsenal FC?