Sunday, 16 December 2012

Arsenal to sign Messi - I'll believe it when I see it

In his press conference on Friday Arsene Wenger boldly predicted that Arsenal would sign Lionel Messi from Barcelona in the January transfer window:
"We will buy Lionel Messi in January and we will surprise you."
You can find the full transcript of the press conference on the Daily Mirror website.

Frankly, I will believe it when I see it and not before. Arsene and the board have made promises to the fans for years now and they always break them. Every transfer window we are told that we have £XX million to spend and it never happens. The current Arsenal board are just in it for the profits and Arsene Wenger is a curmudgeon who would rather make fat profits for the board than make Arsenal successful.

We drastically need to improve our defence. When Stoke City have conceded less goals than you (as this Premier League table proves), it's obvious that you're in trouble. We need to sign some good defenders and dictator Wenger needs to let Steve Bould do his job and sort the defending out.

Arsene Wenger is finished at Arsenal. The players no longer trust him and neither do the MAJORITY of the fans. He is a spent force who believes that finishing fourth is a trophy.

All we do is sell our best players (Fabregas, Nasri, van Persie, Clichy, and soon Sagna and Walcott) and replace them with crap like Gervinho, Chamakh and Squillaci. We will sign no-one in January. FACT!!

You know it's true and I know it's true. That's why I wrote 'fact' in capital letters and used three exclamation marks to emphasise my point and prove that I am right. And I hope we lose tomorrow night against Wigan to prove me correct cos I'm a REAL Arsenal fan who only started supporting the club when they were doing well and winning Premier League championships. To be honest, if things don't improve soon, I will probably start supporting Man City or United instead.

Now I'm just off to repeatedly post this article in the comments sections of all the other Arsenal blogs to impress everyone with my incredible insights. Those Arsenal fans who still believe in Arsene Wenger and the club will soon see the light when they read what I've written. And if they don't they can go f*** themselves, the bunch of deluded fools.

Take care!

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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Reading 5-7 Arsenal - Video and some brief thoughts on a crazy night

I'm still feeling a bit traumatised after last night's match against Reading. It was just a crazy night. Reality was definitely on the blink there for a while.

After 20 minutes, when we went 3-0 down, I said On Twitter:
"Reading won't have expected to be 3-0 up after 20 minutes. Their game plan will have gone to pot. Wenger's secret ploy:-) #AFC"
Then, after 37 minutes, we were 4-0 down. The pre-Halloween horror show was complete (as it turned out).

Normally I would be distraught if we were 4-0 down in a game but for some reason that I can't put my finger on, I still felt that we could get back into it. Insane thought though that was.

I did think briefly about turning off the TV, but then I kept thinking: "If they do come back and I turn off, I will have missed the greatest comeback of all time."

So I stuck with it even though it was like torture.* In fact, I thought about having a bet on it. I didn't only because I haven't got a betting app on my phone and the computer was in the other room and I'm lazy. Besides, I was just being crazy, wasn't I? It wasn't really going to happen.

As it turned out, it was probably a very expensive mistake. The odds must have been phenomenal. Probably 500-1 or something, I expect. I should have trusted my instincts more.

But then, equally, I could easily have been sitting here now typing away after Arsenal failed to make a comeback and I had just wasted ten quid on a hunch.

Now, after reliving my trauma, I'm off for a quick lie down. And possibly a large vodka.


* In the unlikely event that anyone reading this has actually been tortured or knows someone who has, I apologies. I realise it is only football – I don't wish to make light of your plight!

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Friday, 26 October 2012

Poor preseason or Steve Bould to blame for Arsenal's slump?

On the face of it things couldn't really get much worse for Arsenal at the moment. Everyone seems to be having a go at us. The latest piece of bad news comes from TalkSport who report that former player Stewart Robson says he has heard there is a 'rift' between Arsene Wenger and his new assistant Steve Bould. If that is true, it's very worrying to say the least.
'I hoped that [when Steve Bould was appointed] he would do more with the defence but I’m not sure whether he’s being allowed to do that by Arsene Wenger.
'I think there might be a rift in the camp between those two from what I’ve heard.'
I'm not sure if rift is too strong a word a word, but there may be a clash of footballing ideologies. Events on the pitch would seem to bear this out. Earlier in the season Bould was rightly being praised for the work he had done with the defence as we looked more solid at the back, but has his influence on the side become too great? When Wenger has been in the stands this season for Champions League matches, we have lacked a bit of creativity going forward. Against Norwich this seemed to have crept into our Premier League play. Is this because Bouldy places too much emphasis on defence and that as players are working harder and getting into positions defensively they taking away too much from their attacking play? Possibly.

At the end of the day, it will take time for the new partnership to flourish. It is too early yet to say 'Come back Pat Rice, we still need you'.

I disagree with the majority view that if you keep Cazorla quiet you stop Arsenal from scoring. That is not the problem in my opinion. The problem as I see it is that no one is making the runs for Cazorla to pass to them in dangerous positions.

We seem to lack sharpness and confidence at the moment and already look tired at a very early stage of the season, which is worrying. I personally put that down to our poorly planned preseason. We went on a tour of the Far East and seemed to spend more time doing publicity than getting practice matches in. By the start of the season I think Podolski, for example, had only played one half of one match. That simply isn't enough. It isn't good for player fitness and it isn't good for team cohesion. It showed at the start of the season against Sunderland and Stoke when we struggled to score and it's showing again now, big time.

And then there was the AGM yesterday at which many fans voiced there concerns and frustrations to the extent that, by all reports, it almost turned into a free-for-all. Arsene Wenger came under fire for repeating the mantra that qualification for the Champions League is like winning a trophy. To some extent it is possible to see where he's coming from - qualifying for the Champions League can be looked at as being like a promotion that you have to achieve every year. If a Championship club could sacrifice their chances of promotion to the Premier League to win the FA Cup, would they? I don't know. Fans want trophies. No one ever says 'do you remember where you were when we qualified for the Champions League in 2011'?

One blog that I read was titled 'Are Arsenal biding their time or wasting their time'. I think this sums things up pretty well. We are on a solid financial footing and things look good for the long-term future, but will the club ever fulfil it's potential or will we continue to loose our best players every season and have to start all over again? Only time will tell.

There are a few things that offer some crumbs of comfort. Wilshere and Sagna are in contention to be in the squad this weekend, though we still have quite a long injury list (don't we always?) including The Ox, Szczesny, Fabianski, Walcott, Gibbs, and the apparently perennially injured Diaby and Rosicky.

After Santos' dire performance against Shalke 04, I wonder if it might be prudent to bring Sagna in at left back. He certainly couldn't do any worse than the Brazilian who had probably the worst performance I have ever seen from an Arsenal player in over thirty years as a fan. Even worse than Brian Sparrow's performances in 83/84. He was more use for the opposition than he was for Arsenal!

Arsene Wenger says that Jack Wilshere will return a better player after his injury. We could certainly do with a fit and fully functioning Wilshere at the minute. We could also do with having Chesney back. Mannone has done okay, but he is prone to the occasional error and doesn't inspire confidence in the defence as Szczesny does.

The emergence of Serge Gnabry has also been a bright spot. He only had a few minutes to impress in each of the matches against Norwich and Shalke, but he looked sharp and I think he will be 'the biz' in the years to come. But the fact that we have had to call upon an inexperienced 17-year-old says a lot.

And we are also on the brink of signing a new shirt sponsorship deal with Adidas, which would be worth £25 million pounds per season, as opposed to the £13 million we currently get from Nike, which should boost the transfer coffers still further.

Arsene Wenger has said: "what is important for us now is to bounce back and have a good result in the Premier League". I seem to remember him saying something similar about bouncing back after our result against Norwich. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

Some Arsenal blogs such as Arsenal Arsenal are questioning whether fourth place is achievable. I think, however, that that is excessively pessimistic.

It is always worth remembering one thing: When things are looking their best, they probably aren't as good as you think they are and when things are looking their worst, everything probably isn't as bad as it seems.

Mark Hughes will no doubt instruct his players to 'get amongst them' (i.e. kick them off the park) on Saturday, but I still expect us to beat QPR and I still expect us to qualify for the Champion's League. Eternally optimistic? Maybe.

As they say, however, things can only get better.

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Monday, 8 October 2012

Riccardo Vaz Te - instant karma

I don't normally enjoy seeing people get hurt, even my worst enemies, but did anyone else feel a bit smug and satisfied when Riccardo Vaz Te dislocated his shoulder against Arsenal on Saturday?

I quite like Vaz Te as a player, but like all West Ham players he is clearly under instructions from his manager to put the boot in and give the opposition players a good kicking whenever he thinks he can get away with it.

And so it came to pass that RVT gave Vito Mannone a nice little 'reminder that he was there' by kicking him in the head after he had come out to collect the ball. Then, to make sure that he didn't get booked, he threw himself to the floor to feign injury, just like Big Spam had told him to. Good boy!

Unfortunately for Vaz Te, he miscalculated and landed badly, dislocating his shoulder in the process, and had to be substituted. Poor bloke, my heart bleeds for him. (Did you catch the lack of sincerity there or was it too subtle?)

The FA may be too weak to take action against thugs such as Vaz Te (it's all part of the English game) but, as he is finding out, karma can be a real b**** sometimes.

Update: Riccardo Vaz Te will be out for three months.

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Friday, 5 October 2012

Oh, I do love a nice big Per

Last season Per Mertesacker was widely criticised due to his lack of pace and his perceived inability to adapt to the Premier League.

I always thought the BFG was underrated. After one particular slating on Match of the Day, I remember saying to a colleague at work at the time, 'it's hard to see what he does for the team but look at the amount of goals Arsenal concede when he's playing and then at how many they concede when he isn't.'

A lot of the comments seemed to me to stem from xenophobia in the British press and on TV, where his every mistake was highlighted and criticised in detail. without taking account of the fact that he had not played many matches and needed to adapt. Meanwhile all the good stuff that he did (such as those great interceptions he does so often or the way he seems to organise and bring a calmness to the defence) were overlooked or denigrated.

This negativity was passed on to the fans, many of whom for some reason seem to believe the twaddle that the so called expert analysts spout on the BBC, Sky and in the press.

This season everything has changed. He has missed two matches and the defence has looked decidedly less confident in his absence. Many fans are beginning to see what he brings to the team and most will be disappointed if he is not restored to the team this week at West Ham after being left out if favour of previous fans favourite Koscielny at Chelsea.

So here's to a great big Per.

Picture courtesy Ronnie Macdonald.

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Friday, 17 August 2012

Bank Robin van Purse Snatcher joins ManUre

Well, He Who From This Point Onwards Shall Not Be Named has finally gone and left us and joined our fierce rivals up in Manchester.

Arsene Wenger must be fuming, but has done well to keep calm about the situation. As happened with Fabregas and Na$sri before him, his young protege, who he developed from a wee unknown nipper to one of (if not the) best strikers in the world and stood by during countless injuries when he did nothing to earn the rediculous salary he is paid, has not only flown the nest but also landed in the welcoming garden of one of our biggest rivals.

"Van Persie is a great player so it’s always sad to lose such a player. But we must consider the economic reality and the will of the player," said Wenger.

"When you can’t succeed in extending the contract of a player who is in their last year there is no other way but to let him go.

"It's sad because he played for us for eight years. He’s 29 now. He was 21 when he came and it's another bitter pill to swallow."

You can almost hear the frustration if you listen between the lines.

Van Persie himself has said nothing about the situation since his infamous 'update for the fans' on 4 July in which he stabbed the collective metaphorical backs of the fans, players and club officials who had supported him for many years. Not that I'm bitter!

No doubt we will be hearing in the next few days how he is very sad to leave Arsenal and the fans who he loves so much before going on to say that the chance to join a world class team like ManUre (and 'earn' £200,000 per week) was just too good to turn down. It makes me feel slightly nauseous just thinking about it.

The only plus side is that we got a very good price for someone who is an ageing injury prone player who was in the last year of his contract.

So, good look Robin. I'm sure all Arsenal fans will join me in wishing you the best for the future, and that you break your leg in your first training session.

So that's what loyalty means nowadays? Cheers for nothing!

PS - I was surprised to see Kyle Bartley leave for Swansea as: (a) he had been promoted to the first team squad for this season and I expected him to plan a few games, and (b) there was no inkling in the press beforehand that a move was in the offing.

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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Video proof that Steve Bould played with AOC's dad

Stoke City v West Ham, March 1983

I was browsing on itvPlayer earlier this evening and found this little gem: The Big Match Revisited Stoke City v West Ham from March 1983.

Why is this match so intersting to Arsenal fans, you ask? Well, the match was remarkable because it featured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's dad, Mark Chamberlain, and an inexperienced 19 year-old right back by the name of Stephen Bould. With hair!

I love watching these old matches. Not just because I enjoy watching football but also from a sort of social commentary perspective. I like to see the way that fashions and attitudes have changed in football and the world in general. From the dodgy moustaches and hairdos of the players to the products advertised around the grounds (but not on the players shirts) to the attitudes of the players and commentators (for instance, there was no rolling around and feigning injuries and the players didn't kick the ball out of play when someone was injured).

One thing which hasn't changed in the intervening years though is Stoke City's style of play. Even back then they relied on long balls and long throw-ins. Indeed, it was Ox's dad Mark Chamberlain who was Stoke's long throw expert in those days. And a pretty good one at that judging by the long throw ball he hurled into the box in the second half, which almost went directly into the net.

Watching this video, I could see where Oxlade-Chamberlain gets his skills. It was quite uncanny watching Chamberlain senior dribbling around and passing with an with assurance belying his young age. It was just like watching AOC.

Unfortunately, the match did not go entirely well for Bouldy. Gooners of many years may remember another former Stoke player who signed for Arsenal, Lee Dixon (who sadly did not play in this match), chipping his own goalkeeper David Seaman from about 35 yards out, leaving his keeper stranded as the ball flew into the back of his own net. Well, young Stephen Bould produced a similar effort in this match. Not quite as good as Dicko's, but one to be proud of nonetheless.

This weekend in March 1983 was also remarkable for a couple of other reasons. Firstly, it saw Tony Woodcock score his first hat-trick for the Gunners and it was also the first time that Tottenham captain Steve Perryman was sent off.

Sadly, of course, we don't get to see either of those two things because this was in the days when the ITV cameras only went to three matches out of the whole four divisions per weekend and you just had to hope that the Arsenal were playing in one of those matches so that you could witness your heroes in action on the little silver screen.

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Thursday, 5 July 2012

Wenger stabbed in the back again. Walcott next to leave?

So, Robin van Persie has finally spoken about his future and it very much looks as if he is off to grasses greener. Gutted!

He scores when he wants. He leaves when he wants.

It must be even more frustrating for Arsene Wenger than it is for us fans. Every time it looks as if he's getting close to a squad that might have a good chance of winning the league, one of his best players -- players that he has nurtured, developed and stuck with through thick and thin -- decides to leave.

Arsene Wenger has stuck with van Persie through some tough times. When he joined Arsenal in May 2004, he was very raw and had a bit of a bad temper about him, but Wenger helped him mature. He also stuck with him when he was accused of rape (later disproved) and through seemingly endless years when we didn't see the best of him because of his constant injuries. There were many Arsenal fans (I wasn't one of them) who even called for RvP to be sold, despite his obvious talent, because he spent more time in the treatment room than on the pitch. But Arsene Wenger stood by him, giving him with a new contract in 2009 with much improved terms.

And how did Robin repay him? By leaving the club just when he's finally coming good. Just when it looked as if we had a squad that was nearing the quality to win the league, our best player leaves. Just like last year when two of our top players left after being nurtured for years. When they finally came good, they left in search of the lucre. Et tu, Brute?

RvP has of course dressed it up as a desire to win trophies and definitely, definitely not in any way whatsosever anything to do with the alleged £220,000 that he was offered when he was tapped up by Man Citeh/Juventus.

In a statement on his website, the former Arsenal fans' hero said:
"As announced earlier this year I had a meeting with the boss and Mr Gazidis after the season. This was a meeting about the club's future strategy and their policy. Financial terms or a contract have not been discussed, since that is not my priority at all.

"I personally have had a great season but my goal has been to win trophies with the team and to bring the club back to its glory days.

"Out of my huge respect for Mr Wenger, the players and the fans I don't want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward.

"I've thought long and hard about it, but I have decided not to extend my contract."
Even assuming that we take what RvP says at face value, what right does any player -- however good and however well meaning -- have to dictate how the club should be run?

He did of course came out with the usual platitudes about loving the fans and the club, etc., etc. ad nauseum, but I'm sure the words sounded kind of hollow to most Arsenal fans, as they did to me, after he'd stabbed the club, manager and his beloved fans that he loved so much in the back.

He did leave the door slightly ajar by saying that further talks will take place with the club, but I would expect these talks to be about his exit rather than anything else, even if for no other reason than that the fans will no longer accept him as a player at their club after what he has said.

I really felt that we had a good chance of winning the league this season with RvP in the side. We're still in with an outside chance without him, but a lot will depend on whether we can further strenghten the squad, whether the new signings settle quickly and how the rest of the players feel about their captain leaving for the second consecutive season. At the moment I feel kind of deflated and I'm sure the players will too.

Now we must make sure that we sign Theo Walcott on a new contract or else he'll be off too. Like van Persie he's been nurtured as a player by Arsenal for many years and now that he finally seems to be maturing into the player we all hoped he would it's time for him to repay the faith that the club has shown in him. Of course we know how that situation ended with Fabregas, Na$ri and van Persie, don't we?

There have been reports in the press that Theo was waiting to see what van Persie did before making up his own mind whether to re-sign. Let's hope that these rumours were wide of the mark.

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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Arsenal Heroes: Pat Rice

A video tribute to Pat Rice who retired from his role of Assistant Manager of Arsenal last weekend...

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Monday, 26 March 2012

Video highlights: Arsenal v Aston Villa

Watch highlights of Arsenal's 3-0 win over Villa...


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Sunday, 12 February 2012

Van Persie has lost it and should be sold

Robin van Persie's head has clearly been turned by the interest from Real Madrid as his performance in yesterday's match against Sunderland and it is time for Arsenal to cut their losses and sell him to the highest bidder.

No? Not with me on this one? Well, how about this...

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has shown some flashes of brilliance in the few matches he's played for Arsenal so far but yesterday against Sunderland he was poor. He's looked promising but yesterday's inept performance showed that he's inconsistent and we'd do well to sell him now while his stock is high.

Still not with me? How about this...

Theo Walcott was outstanding last week against Blackburn but yesterday against Sunderland he showed his real 'quality' and it's time he went.

I bet that last one has got a few more people agreeing with me. I'm not a Theo apologist - I'm as aware of his strengths and weaknesses as anyone else - but give the guy a chance. The truth is that all of Arsenal's front three were ineffective against Sunderland. Despite playing 120 minutes in midweek, they were fired up and full of confidence thanks to an excellent run of results and ran like demons for 65 minutes, closing Arsenal's attacking players down with superhuman effort. So why pick on Theo? Arsenal fans should support their players. Getting on their backs won't help them play better.

Now that I've got that off my chest, it's time to talk about Thierry Henry - one player no Arsenal fan surely wants to see leave. A few fans questioned the decision to bring him back (never go back, etc., blah, blah, blah), but Arsene Wenger's decision to bring him back to the club he loves has been full justified.

In his short second spell he has made six substitute appearance and scored three goals - a pretty impressive return for someone who is supposedly past it. And what important goals...

His first was the winner against Leeds in the FA Cup; his second was a seemingly unimportant one against Blackburn when were already 6-1 up (but we are now in the top four on goals scored and who knows how important goal difference will be at the end of the season); and his third won us the Premier League match against Sunderland in the last minute.

A lot of fans have said on Twitter and on blogs that they were in tears when he scored, and I was close to that myself. I will be very sad to see him go to say the least.

Au revoir Thierry. You've proved again that class is permanent. It's time that bronze statute of you outside the ground was upgraded to a gold one!

(Picture courtesy Ronnie McDonald)

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Thursday, 9 February 2012

Sink or swim time for Theo

Theo Walcott must be a slightly worried man at the moment. He always looks to me as if he's carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, but right now he will be feeling under more pressure than usual.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has emerged as a competitor, not only for his place in the Arsenal team, but in the England team as well.

With Gervinho due to return from the African Cup of Nations shortly and Oxlade-Chamberlain impressing everyone with his performances in the Ivorian's absence, who will Arsene Wenger select out of Gervinho, Theo and Ox?

And with Fabio Capello resigning as England manager and Harry Redknapp looking the most likely bloke to take over, it is possible that the new manager will have different ideas than the old one.

If Radknapp does get the job, will Aaron Lennon be given more games? If you were England manager who would you pick for the wide positions out of Walcott, Young, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Johnson, Lennon and a much improved Stuart Downing?

Theo and Young are probably in pole position at the moment. Capello has stuck by Theo when his form has not been the greatest simply because he can see the potential in him, but with tough competitive matches coming up in the European Championship finals, will Redknapp (or whoever else gets the job) pick more on form?

Theo can still be a top class player. He is still young (people forget that) and, despite regularly frustrating the fans who see him continually struggling to fulfil his potential, he has shown steady improvement each season since he has been at Arsenal.

There are two ways that this can go for Walcott. He can go into his shell and loose confidence like we have seen from him on occasions in the past, or he can either knuckle down, see the competition as a good thing and come out a better player.

Personally, I think the competition will be good for the player. Arsene Wenger has a habit of mollycodling his young players and protecting them from too much competition as he believes this is what is best for their development.

Alex Ferguson has a different approach – it's either sink or swim. If a young player isn't playing well enough to get into the team, he will be dropped. Occasionally, this means that young players fall by the wayside, but that probably means that they were never good enough in the first place.

And I believe it gives players a competitive edge – if a player isn't used to fighting for his place in the team then it seems logical that he is less well equipped to fight for his team when the going gets tough.

So, Theo, it's time to sink or swim.

(Picture courtesy Ronnie McDonald)

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