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Time to rough up the refs, Dimitar Berbatov is up for grabs, anyone interested?

May 31, 2011

It seems Dimitar Berbatov’s days are numbered at Manchester United. Despite being Manchester United and the league’s top scorer last season he was left out of the Champions League team and didn’t even make their bench.

He’s suggested to be up for sale for just £7.5 Million.

I know he’s a bit of a sulk and often looks as if he’s not interested in playing the game but every now and again he wakes up and finds the back of the net. We once had a striker like that and look how many goals he scored for us in his Arsenal career. ;)

I am not comparing the quality of the two though – Berbatov is nowhere near the quality of Henry….

At thirty years old is his passed it or does anyone think he could be just what we need for a couple of seasons?

Aston Villa have slapped a £16 Million price tag on Ashley Young – With Liverpool and Manchester United in the chase to secure his signature, surely if we are going to show that we mean the business next season it’s time for Wenger to get in there first and sign him. That amount of money isn’t a rip off, he’s young, English and has a great future ahead of him and he’s an Arsenal fan so what other signing could be better?

Roma and Seville are interested in Denilson so the papers report – personally I am not fussed where he goes as long as we get a decent price for him.

Jack Wilshere has been talking about next season and how it would be a disaster if we don’t finally win a trophy. He reckons we are too soft and need to get tough, not just on the playing side of our game but with the referees. He was speaking ahead of the England game on Saturday:

We know that. The fans feel it. We feel it. We just need to win a trophy. Arsenal are a big club and we need to be winning trophies. We need to win them to keep our big players.

We must be more aware and have a bit more aggression. We’ve got some players that can do that but we have to go as a team.

It’s no use just Robin van Persie going because it looks like it’s just him having a go at the ref. If we all get round him…You just see the other teams do it and you think ‘we need to do it as well. Man United are the best at it. They get round the referee.

We have to be more of a team and be more aggressive and show more authority.

I’m not sure I agree with him about having a go at the referee, when I see other teams surround them and protest at decisions it looks awful. In fact I often think ‘If I was that ref, I’d send a few off’.

Surely the best way is for the Football Association to sort the standard of refereeing out, if they started to be more fair and dealt with every incident the same regardless of who is playing, there wouldn’t be the need to question so many decisions on a match day.

In any case, if we start doing that we all know what would happen don’t we?

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Clear Out Begins, Is the Premier League the best Football League in the World??

May 30, 2011

The English Premier League has been hailed as the best league in the world, the league that every player wants to play in. The Media tells us this at every given opportunity, managers say it and players also have been heard to boast about it.

Well I for one can’t see it.

Every time the English sides come face to face with the so-called best from other leagues in football, seldom do they come out on top.

There is no doubt in my mind that the EPL is not the best.

If you take the best team in our league, which at this point in time is Manchester United and see how they have fared this year, you have to agree that they only won the Premier league by others misfortunes.

In all honesty four to five teams could have won the league this season but mistake after mistake opened the door for United. Our own team, The Arsenal could so easily have won the league if only they hadn’t self destructed.

Chelsea had the same problems as us, they had injuries which resulted in bad games at times and bad results followed, the sacking of Wilkins didn’t help their cause either. Manchester City also had their chances but new players, which they acquired often need time to gel. That, coupled with silly slip ups saw their chance go.

So how in all honesty are we the best?

Manchester United may have reached the final in the Champions League but it has to be said they had the help of the draws throughout the rounds but in the final they were matched with what the media have hailed as the best team of all time. Great praise for a team who supposedly play in an inferior league to us.

Barcelona. I could write about Barcelona exploits all day long but at the end of the day they absolutely hammered our best team. To be fair they hammered us as well, yes I can say that we beat them at The Emirates but an honest fan would say that it really was against the run of play.

When we played the return leg at The Camp Nou, Barcelona overpowered us to the point of us not having many shots on target other than our goal. That was an absolute hiding for a team who are supposedly the fourth best team in the best league in the world. I could of course mention that we played almost the whole of the second half with only ten men, but that still wouldn’t detract from the point that we were battered.

In my eyes Manchester United have been the best team in the EPL for many years not forgetting Chelsea who have had their own successes as well, but Utd have been there all the time.

Utd were humbled in the final and this will ultimately affect them in the future, you only have to look at our own Arsenal who self destructed after their humiliated defeat against Barcelona. We plummeted from second in the best league in the world to a fortunate fourth.

We were fortunate that the season ended when it did as we could so easily been out in the cold had it continued for another couple of games but it didn’t and we secured fourth, just.

Manchester United have been fortunate that they played Barcelona in the last game of the season, they will now have the close season to try and build their confidence back up and make changes where needed. I have no doubts that the hammering they encountered will stay with the players for quite some time but I am sure Ferguson will endeavour to replace some of his players in the hope that this humiliating defeat will be diluted.

Of course we have to remember the other teams in the Premier league; the teams that make this league the best in the world. Birmingham must receive some acclaim, they beat us in the final of the Carling Cup but they will be playing their football next year in a lower division owing to their relegation from the best league in the world.

Manchester City winners of The FA Cup made a spirited surge at the end of the season to squeeze into third place they could be the dark horses of the Premier league for next season, although when they played us they shut up shop and were quite happy with a point. Next season should they get paired with Barcelona or Madrid a point will not help them much.

Our Old neighbour’s Totteringham made their début in The Champions League this season but after getting hammered by Real Madrid, they too will have to wait a few years before they reach these dizzy heights again.

So who has the best league in the world?

I just believe that when all our top teams have been well and truly humiliated surely it cannot be ours, can it?

Written by Steve Palmer

Bit of news re the squad, Mark Randall has been told his services are no longer required at the club. Young Guns report that he has been  released after the decision was made not to offer him a new contract – he is the third young gunner to be released this summer, George Brislen-Hall and Roarie Deacon being the other two.

I hope they all find new clubs and do well in the future….

Looks like the clear out of the youth/reserves has begun….

We are ‘Pathetic’!! Well done Barcelona…. Witsel on his way??

May 29, 2011

Had  Bendtner scored in the dying moments in Barcelona, we could have been at Wembley last night……

I hope the Media wake up this morning and report last night’s game the way they did our match at The Emirates. After we beat the Spanish side at home, every paper, reporter and anyone other than a Gooner said we were lucky, they said we were out played and struggled from start to finish but we won, didn’t we…..

The stats showed we didn’t have the majority of possession, we didn’t have all the shots on goal, we didn’t even have that many chances, but what we did do, was win!

Last night, the Premier League Champions were out played, had little possession, had one  shot on target and were second in every aspect of the game and they lost. Good!

Barca didn’t cheat and dive last night, in fact the bad boy was Valencia – how he stayed on the pitch I’ll never know.

Anyway, that’s enough praise for Barca….

On to the usual gossip, another player, well, his father has spoken about his sons so called dream. this one is Axel Witsel:

Axel is ready to play in one of Europe’s three major leagues: Serie A, Premier League or La Liga.

I personally hope that this was his last season with Standard as he needs to grow and to do it he needs to leave the country.

Fiorentina? They have been monitoring my son for a long time and I know there was a contact with their managers but the Italian club is the not the only one interested.

He spoke with Gillet, Mudingayi and also Anthony Vanden Borre. Where he wants to go? He doesn’t have a specific target but he has a dream and it’s called Arsenal, but this doesn’t mean that he’s not open to other clubs.

He’s only 22 but he was Belgium’s best player in 2008 and this season he arrived second.

Is this another player who is calling out to Wenger to sign him?

David Villa did that a few years ago didn’t he, boy did we miss out there……

If this player really wants to play for Arsenal, can we afford to miss out again?

Finally, Nigel Winterburn has had a ‘pop’ at our defending during an interview with The Daily Star:

Pathetic is the only word I can use to describe ­Arsenal’s ­defending.

He has questioned our squads stomach for a battle on matchdays, saying:

No matter what the situation is regarding the season, at a club like Arsenal you have to turn in a ­performance in every game. Given where Arsenal were a couple of months ago, to be left with just fourth place is hard to take.

The supporters were not happy and I don’t blame them – what they’ve seen in the last few months has been so ­disappointing.

Tell it as it is Nigel, I don’t think many fans would disagree……

Youth ‘Killing’ youth? Or is Wenger?

May 28, 2011

Over the last few days we have heard that Wenger has secured the signings of Carl Jenkinson, Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin. Jenkinson is 19 years old and the other two are still just 16 years old.

Arsene Wenger always talks about how signing ‘big named players’ will kill his youth/reserve players chances of a career with us but surely the more youth he buys, the more youth he ‘kills’ along the way doesn’t he?

Here is a list of our British youngsters and our overseas youngsters with their ‘job role’ described as it is on our clubs website…….

British Reserves, Youth and Scholar’s

Conor Henderson – 19 years old – A technically astute, ball-playing midfielder

Nicholas Yennaris – 18 year old talented footballer who is comfortable in central defence, right back or in midfield.

Chuks Aneke -  17 year old intelligent ball-playing midfielder

Thomas Cruise – 20 year old left back or central defender

Jamie Edge – 17 year old Powerful midfielder

Roarie Deacon – 19 year old left winger/striker

Daniel Boateng – 18 year old – can play anywhere in the defence

LukeFreeman 18 year old striker

Emmanuel Frimpong 19 year old central midfielder – Ghana or England.

Rhys Murphy – 20 year old striker

Gavin Hoyte – 20 year old right/centre back

George Brislen-Hall – 20 year old left footed defender

Jernade Meade – 18 year old highly talented left-sided player

Ben Glasgow – 16 year old right back

James Campbell – 17 year old defender

Samir Bihmoutine – 17 year old left back or left midfield

Jordan Wynter – 17 year old who can play across all positions in defence and midfield.

Steven Smith – 16 year old defender, left or central

Nigel Neita – 17 year old powerful striker

Jeffrey Monakana 17 year old pacey midfielder

Alban Bunjaku – 17 year old attacking midfielder

Zak Ansah – 17 year old striker

Philip Roberts 17 year old Irish centre forward

Callum Webb 17 year old Irish holding midfielder

Josh Rees -  17 year old box to box midfielder

Craig Eastmond – 20 year old holding midfielder

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas – 20 year old midfielder/striker

Henri Lansbury – 20 year old box to box midfielder

Mark Randall – 21 year old midfielder

Benik Afobe – 18 year old striker

Sanchez Watt – 20 year old striker

Kyle Bartley – 20 year old central defender

Oversea’s Reserves, Youth and Scholars.

Ignasi Miquel – 18 year old Spanish Centre Half

Ryo Miyaichi – 18 year old Japanese winger

Gilles Sunu – 20 year old French striker

Samuel Galindo – 19 year old Bolivian midfielder

Francis Coquelin – 20 year old French holding midfielder

Pedro Botelho – 21 year old Brazilian left back/left midfielder.

Wellington – 18 year old Brazilian striker

Elton Monteiro -  17 year old Swiss ball-playing centre-back

Oguzhan Ozyakup – 18 year old Dutch technical and astute central midfielder

Sead Hajrovic – 17 year old Swiss right back/centre back/midfielder

Kyle Ebecilio – 17 year old Dutch central midfielder

Martin Angha – 17 year old highly talented Swiss defender (Just signed pro contract)

When you look at numbers alone, the British players totally out number the overseas don’t they.

Also, look at how many over the age of 19 years old we have on our books that you and I know will probably never make it in the first team at Arsenal.

We all talk about selling players in the first team quad who never fail to disappoint all too often, surely it’s time to cull the reserves and youth in the same way?

Talent should determine whether they are good enough or not, BUT, if we keep buying overseas players, it will  destroy any chance of their English counter parts from getting a fair chance to prove they really have what it takes and surely it will destroy the chances of others in a similar age/standard group.

I’m not suggesting Wenger is against buying/playing the English players, but it does seem more difficult for them to make a break through, until this last season with Wilshere and Gibbs. Look how long it took Walcott to finally get more than 10 minutes in a game!

So who’s career will be ‘killed’ by Carl Jenkinson, Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin? The above list suggests it could be a few.

Then look at some of our players who have been on loan, surely one or two are ready to get their chance next season.

Would you rather see on the bench?

Denilson or Lansbury?

JET or Bendtner?

Bartley or Miquel?

I know my three answers, what is yours??

Arsene Wenger buys youth but he doesn’t play them does he? Then he buys more youth for the positions we already have young players earmarked to perform well in? What is the point?

Jack Wilshere is the first real young player to get his chance in the first team and he was 18 years old. Wenger sticks with his favourite players as if he is prepared to wait and wait, in hope they will come good one day.  Reality is, they won’t so why not just cast them aside and play another youth/reserve player?

Jack showed age doesn’t matter didn’t he? He’s  just won 41% of fans votes for Arsenal Player of the Season, maybe it’s time that other younger players actually got the chance to show they are ready too?

No more Arsene, No more.....

Some of our so-called kids are ready to fledge their ‘Wenger Nest’ – they need to be let go and show what they can do on the pitch for Arsenal! I’m not talking about the 16 & 17 year olds, I’m talking about the older ones who have come through and looking at out reserve/youth squad, we have quite a few. I’m not talking about throwing them into the starting eleven away to Stoke either!

If they are deemed not good enough, why do we keep them?

I think Wenger stifle’s youth instead of letting them progress so why does he bother in the first place?

After all, doesn’t he believe in ‘Project Youth’ ?

Wenger tables offer for Falcao, Kalou and Downing linked, One down, three to go….…..

May 27, 2011

Amongst all the will he won’t he stories surrounding Cesc Fabregas stories, yesterday AC Milan ruled them out of any chase saying he was too expensive. If my maths is right, that just leaves Real Madrid, Manchester City and Barcelona to go. City we all know will probably pay silly money for him but Cesc has already said he won’t play for another English club.

That story has a long long way to go yet until we find out whether he’ll be playing for us next season or not. What will be, will be….

According to The Metro, both Wenger and ‘Arry have tabled offers for Falcao. The Colombian striker has just had a pretty awesome season with Porto, scoring 39 goals in 41 games. That’s just the kind of goals to game ration we miss up front, let’s hope this rumour has legs. The story comes from the player’s agent so whether this is just one of many we have come to expect remains to be seen.

The player is still in talks about renewing his contract with Porto, so no doubt this is all spin in attempt to get a pay rise….

Another player, who the same paper suggest we and Liverpool are ‘On Alert’ for is Stewart Downing – the Villa midfielder won’t commit to a new contract with his current club and has suggested he is at a crossroads in his career. Champions League football is something he wants at this stage in life so we will have the edge over Liverpool should Wenger decide to put in an offer for him.

I would love us to sign an Aston Villa player, just not this one!

Finally there is the Chelsea player who seems to be on his way out of Stamford Bridge, no not Drogba, it’s Salomon Kalou. He’s waiting to see how he fits in when their new manager is appointed and if he doesn’t, he’ll leave.

Wenger was interested in Kalou a few years ago but Chelsea didn’t want to discuss any kind of deal, they wanted to keep him.

Well, all of the above is pure speculation but onto something that isn’t.

Yesterday it was confirmed that we had finally secured the services of two fantastic players from a Spanish club. Not just any old club I hasten to add, it was none other than Barcelona, the Catalan Giants. No finances behind the deal have been released but the ‘package’ did include diapers for free until no longer required!! The players, both 16 years old are Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin.

Come on Arsenal, I know you want to look to the future but please, give us all just a little bit of news to make us believe you want to look after the present too.

The window may not  technically be open yet but we can secure players from within the PL can’t we?

And lets not forget we need to secure one or two of our own either, especially those who have shone while out on loan.

Henri Lansbury has just completed a loan season at Norwich, helping them to secure Premier League football next season.
He’s one player I truly hope we don’t see move on, suggestion is he has been told ‘sign or be sold’ – all he wants to do is play for the club he loves. Denilson, Diaby and a few others have been given their chance and they have not failed to disappoint, Henri deserves his chance too.

Henri Lansbury won’t disappoint, certainly not in the heart, passion and commitment to his club department, you won’t see him being overtaken by a referee! Not unless it’s up the M4 of course. ;)

Arsenal need to do all they can to reassure him that his future is with us, be assured, many a club would love to have him in their side, just ask Delia….  ;)

'Henri - Let's be 'Avin Ya'......

That’s it for today, have a good Friday…..

Benzema and Cahill in? Or just another window of dissapointment?? Spill Arsene!!

May 26, 2011

Season over…

And what a shocking one it was in the end….

Let me highlight something which has been in the media, something which may be relevant at our club and the problems within…..

A couple of weeks ago, me and the Mrs was watching Piers Morgan’s programme on television, his  guest was John Prescott the ex deputy Prime Minister! I must admit, this man is not one of my favourite people but I started to watch regardless.

I was quite surprised to hear that this once powerful Politician had a ten-year eating disorder and after gorging himself, he used to make him self sick to relieve the bloated feeling he felt.

He also went on to talk about his affair with an aide in his office. He wanted to apologise to his wife publicly while she was sat in the audience.

He explained that his affair ‘just happened’ and slowly.

He admitted how stupid he had been and how he loved her today, he now realises what a fool he was and how much he appreciates her loyalty.

Strange, it took 3 years of liaisons before he felt guilty!

It may of not helped that the woman that he had been seeing had decided to sell her story and made it public.

Now this story made me think of the Arsenal, why I am not really sure.

But I feel that supporters have been kept in the dark for to long, we have been supportive, we turn up and do what we consider to be our duty, we support through thick and thin but, just like Prescott’s wife, we get s**t on.

Prescott, always being a staunch Labour man, is now in a job that a few years ago he would have scoffed at but when a position in the house of Lords was offered, he readily accepted the offer, that seems to be the way the man is!

Now I am not casting dispersion over our present manager but personally, I haven’t waited three years like Mrs Prescott, I’ve waited six years. Six years of empty of promises and I now feel our manager must come clean.

Surely it is time for Arsene Wenger to explain publicly what his game is?

Is he bigging up targets so that fans renew their season tickets, or his he really going to be ‘very active in the transfer market’ and finally add some experience to our squad in the areas we need?

Has he got a hidden agenda?

If he has, come out and tell us or maybe he should think about moving on, allow a new man to come in and endeavour to put his wrongs right. I for one can remember Arsenal in a better light than they are in at the moment and I want them back!

Six years in my opinion is too long to wait for success. The Emirates is a sixty thousand seater stadium with gate receipts of £3million for every home game and in my opinion, with that kind of income we should be able to afford better players than the present Manager is employing.

Supporters have started to stay at home, go to the pub or anywhere rather than attend The Emirates, empty seats were clear to see during our last home game against Aston Villa, surely if things don’t change for the better, this will just become the norm?

Arsenal and Arsene Wenger – please change your views, your policies and certainly the way you perform in the transfer window. I believe you have one transfer window left, either come clean and move on, or buy what we really need to progress…..

Just one transfer window, just one to prove that you do care about the fans, but more importantly, prove that you really do care about OUR club, the club we all support and love…..

Are the club really thinking of buying big, or is it just another game being played in the media by Wenger? He has deliberately not brought the quality players that we all believe we should have a few seasons ago why do some think he is about to change his ways?

He has talked about ‘the possibility of signing  Benzema’, we have heard things about Cahill and other good players, but will we just end up with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Squillaci the 2nd or similar?

If it’s the latter and a few other players we have never heard of, fans won’t be happy will they?

Everything at Arsenal seems to be increasing when it comes to cost but one thing that doesn’t look to be on the increase is quality and experience in our players. In fact, any quality and experience we do have are linked to a move away over the next few weeks.

At least they were cheaper back then, look what they cost now!!

So right now things look a bit grim and if it stays the same, it will cost a lot more money to watch a less attractive side and as Paul Merson said after the Aston Villa game….

If you had a dress shop and couldn’t sell your dresses, You wouldn’t put your prices up would you.

Precisely Paul………

Written by Steve Palmer.

Five steps Arsenal need to take to progress.

May 25, 2011

Number 1:

The first and most obvious step is, stop buying for the future for one season and buy experience and I don’t just mean older journey-men but battle hardened, top class 28-30 year olds. The kind of players who know what to do when things are going wrong. Players who the younger guys can go to and ask questions. Just like Van Persie had Bergkamp, who do our players have?

Number 2:

Buy one or two players from the top table. Not only for the obvious on field benefits but for the hidden benefits such as shirt selling and raising our ever falling world profile. Remember guys, the more shirts sold, the more we have the better we can buy. Seriously, who has Diaby, Denilson or Eboue on the back of their shirts? Who are our marquee players? In time gone we have had Ian Wright, Theirry Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Ljungberg, Limpar, even Adams and Keown. Who do we have today?

Number 3:

Make the youths actually have to fight. How many times do you hear that the academy is not about winning or results but creating players? What? You can not expect a player to come out of the closeted world of fluffy pillow football and straight into the shark infested waters of the premiership. I think a change is needed and that change is to get the U16′s, U17′s and Reserves into a winning mentality. We want to win those respective leagues and cups. If we are to continue with this youth project the young players need to know what pressure is. They need to fully understand there are consequences for losing and they need to have that winning mentality drilled into them. In short, they need to be toughened up.

Number 4:

This ties into number 3. ENOUGH WITH THE 20 LOANS A SEASON. If the players are not good enough and battle hardened by the time they reach the first team squad, they are not good enough. If the kids from 15 years of age have had the winning mentality drilled into them, they will fight to get into the first team and this (in my opinion) is better than any loan. They know what is needed to win, they know what happens when they lose and they should be ready to step up. I would rather have one player come through from the academy who is ready to step up and play than the scatter gun 20 “prospects” approach.

Number 5:

Be tougher with players. If after 2 seasons the player has not reached the level a title chasing team requires, sell them. No, “next season” bollocks. Football at first team level is not about next season, it is about this season and if after 80 games you have not shown you can compete with the teams around you, we don’t want you. This again ties in with the hardened “winning” mentality that all top players have. When we are under pressure, how many of our players do you see screaming at team-mates, diving into tackles, putting their bodies on the line in the name of the cause? We need to instil a winning mentality from 15 years of age, this is beyond dispute for me.

Written by Will.

Arsenal Fans deserve everything they get! Finally, A player who puts Club before Country!

May 24, 2011

That’s it then, season over – well apart from the Champions League Final and I’m interested in that as much as I am watching paint dry!

Yep, I’ll watch it, in hope that neither side win ;)

Six seasons have now gone by without winning anything and it’s far too long for a club like ours, we all know that.

Next season it will all begin again, ‘Arsenal, who haven’t won anything in six years’ comments every time we play, and how we bottled the Carling Cup, how if we had added a quality centre half and goalkeeper we would have done so much better, how we faded in the last third of the season, blah blah blah…..

Well, now it truly is time to stop all this, stop feeding the media the lines they love to spout and there is only one group of people who can do that and that is the Arsenal Board, starting with Arsene Wenger.

I don’t think any of us hope in reality for a 50M player signing, Torres has been a good example of why spending that kind of money doesn’t always work. Yes, he may come good again next season and score 30 goals but he was bought in January and was meant to be the man to get the goals to win the Champions League and the Premier League, it didn’t work and now the manager who ‘bought him’ is out of a job. Personally, I think he was a Roman purchase, one that backfired badly.

In fact I think the most some fans have asked Wenger to spend on one player is £25M and that is to get Benzema, the striker seems to be the one most fans want us to sign. If I could pick one player to be our first signing of many, it would be a tossup between Gary Cahill and Ashley Young, hopefully we will buy both, and very soon.

So, back to the six years – Arsenal fans have stood by the club they love and by the manager who has been at the helm during those last six unsuccessful seasons but many are beginning to get restless.

Now is the time for change, the manager needs to change his ways in the transfer market, no Cygans or Silvestres, no Denilsons or Bischoffs, real players please, that’s all we ask for!

Personally, I am not precious about the name of the player he buys as long as whoever they are have heart, passion and commitment to play for our club and with pride.

We don’t need to sign players who demand a big wage; we need players who are prepared to earn whatever wage they are offered, players who will play hard and until the final whistle of every game.

No sulkers, no shirkers and no big egos thanks Wenger….

No, you go out there into the transfer market and finally buy players that Arsenal Fans deserve to see wearing the Red and White of the club!

Do that Arsene and finally the fans might just get what they deserve rather than having to suffer all the bad press about how we haven’t won anything for so long and how we lack ‘what it takes’ to be winners..

After all, it’s been six years of waiting…….

Finally, how good is to know we have a player who is putting his club before his country?

He cared that we didn't win......

It was confirmed yesterday that Jack Wilshere will get a good rest during the summer. Pearce had this to say:

I spoke to Jack last week and he explained that while he told me in March that he wanted to be part of the squad, he now feels he is not in the best condition to take part in the finals.

That is based on the number of games he has played for Arsenal this season, sports science data which Jack was presented with last week and concerns he has for his fitness looking ahead to next season.

We already knew Mr Pearce, but thanks for confirming it!

Well done Jack, he’s listened to Wenger, he listened to others but most importantly, he has listened to his body and realised that if he played during the coming summer he would probably miss the beginning of next season for his club, a club that means so much to him!

That’s what you get from a proper Arsenal man Arsene, a player who puts his club before his country!…..

Pre-season will see us travel to Malaysia in July to play in two matches  – the first is against Malaysia XI at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, July 13, kick off 8.45pm local time.  The second fixture is to be confirmed.

Asia here we come then, has to be better than Austria……

Try Again Next Season…

May 23, 2011

Yesterday we saw the closing act of a season which promised so much up through the end of February but ultimately saw us finish empty-handed.

February saw us lose the Carling Cup final in calamitous circumstances, sending our side into a tailspin from which they never really recovered.

Exits from the European and FA Cup followed in quick order, as did our hope of the League. We should probably be grateful that the season ended today – another two matches may have seen us fall out of the top four, such was our end-of-season form…

One significant positive from this season is that coming into this afternoon’s match, we were the Prem’s best away team, leading the league in wins (8), points collected (30) and goals scored (37). If our away stats are so good, then it is quite obvious that our home stats are not: we lost as many matches at home (4) as away, gained only 7 more points at the Ems, and actually scored four more goals on the road.

No-hopers do not compile such strong away numbers, and I see this as evidence our squad has the capability to win things. The difference between the home and away form shows we still lack the necessary consistency, and I would say our players have yet to fully develop the “mental strength” and maturity to put it all together. When they accomplish this, trophies shall follow…

Throughout the season, there was much debate regarding the home support and the effect on our players. In our own Emirates version of the Chicken – Egg conundrum, some sections of support blamed the fans for creating an inherently negative home atmosphere, which stifled our players, sapped confidence, and inhibited play through fear of making mistakes.

Other sections felt the team’s underwhelming home form gave supporters little to cheer about, and directly led to an often toxic atmosphere in the stands. This section held up the wins over Chelsea, Barcelona and Man United as examples where the supporters drove the players on to signature wins. We can probably debate this endlessly with neither camp budging from their stated positions. What we shouldn’t debate is that a significant improvement in our home form is absolutely critical for next season.

If we are going to win anything, the Ems needs to well and truly become a fortress – not just for certain visiting teams, but all visitors.

We cannot afford, however to become roadkill in the process of making the Ems a fortress; we simply have to marry the two halves…

That will be an issue for the upcoming season…

We still had one more match to complete this season, a trip over the Craven Cottage to face Fulham. Flash back a year, and Fulham were our final day opponents: a year ago, the match was at the Ems, Roy Hodgson was Fulham manager, and they were focusing on the Europa Cup final versus Atletico Madrid. We were battling Spurs for Champions League seeding: in third place, we needed to win to ensure we held Spurs off. Then, we got the job done.

Yesterday we were fighting for third place, a win was needed and a bit of help from Bolton.

So we travelled across London knowing Cesc would be unavailable, with Samir, JD, Diaby, and Kos facing fitness tests. Of the latter four, only Kos did not make it.

We lined up:

Szczesny, Gibbs, Verm, JD, Sagna, Ramsey, Diaby, Jack, Samir, Robin, and Chamakh. Our bench was Jens, Squil, Miquel, Eboue, Denilson, Theo, and Arsh. Neither Song nor Nik made the squad, and Denilson’s inclusion may have been a surprise, taken in the context of his midweek interview when he emphatically stated he is done at our club.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we started slowly. Fulham got a couple of early hefty fouls in through Johnson and Hangeland, but we couldn’t do anything with the resulting free kicks. We made the first chance ten minutes in, Jack crossing for Samir, who could only weakly head straight at Schwarzer.

A few minutes later, the unlikely source of Gibbs got in a much better header, this time forcing Schwarzer into a more difficult save. Just as we looked like we were getting to grips with things, the opposition capitalized on a piece of poor defending. This time it was JD – who looks nothing like the composed, assured defender we saw for much of the season – who played Zamora onside.

The latter got away down the right and cut back for Sidwell – one of a seemingly endless procession of former Arsenal trainees who couldn’t make it here, yet have scored against us this season – to place his shot under Szczesny from a few yards out…

Fulham almost doubled the lead a minute later, with Zamora once again beating JD, but this time firing wide…

For once we mustered a quick response. Diaby won the ball in midfield, played a quick one-two with Chamakh, before putting Robin clear. Our number ten calmly beat Schwarzer with a low shot into the left hand corner for a quick equalizer, while extending his league record (now at 9) for scoring in consecutive away matches…

Instead of pressing on, we allowed Fulham to quickly put us under pressure. Verm had to clear off the line from Murphy, who placed his shot past Szczesny. We had a mini-surge in the final few minutes of the half, but did not carve any quality chances out.

There were no changes at the interval, as we looked to take the lead and hopefully overtake Man City to reclaim third place. The first significant event saw Robin booked for dissent. Off a foul on Robin, Samir produced an excellent free kick, forcing Schwarzer to tip wide for a corner (which we yet again wasted).

Then Samir was fouled and Robin sent his kick narrowly wide of the top right corner.

Yet again, we suffered a lapse in concentration, allowing Fulham to reclaim the lead. This time, Greening was given too much time and space on the edge of our box to cross for Zamora, who converted a simple header.

We tried to respond and had a chance when Schwarzer fumbled Robin’s cross. Chamakh was on hand, but wastefully poked the loose ball wide…

A couple of minutes later, Arsene made a triple sub, with Gibbs, Diaby, and Ramsey hauled off for Eboue, Arsh and Theo, Hughes responded by bringing Etuhu and Davies on for Greening and Murphy, respectively. He then made his third and final change with 18 minutes remaining, as Zamora limped off to be replaced by Gera.

The Hungarian’s first contribution was also his last, as he earned a straight red for a high, late, two-footed lunge on Verm. That was a definite sending off and Verm is lucky he was not seriously hurt. Sidwell then followed Gera into the book for bringing Chamakh down. A minute later, Robin was flagged for offside when he was clearly on.

With the extra man, we upped the pressure and forced Fulham further and further back into defence. Arsh then shot narrowly wide. It looked as though Fulham would hold out until a minute from time, when Theo cut inside and fired home off the inside of the post. We had three minutes of stoppage time, but did little and it ended all square.

Manchester City had won their game at Bolton,  meaning we had to settle for fourth place.

And so our season ends in all-too-familiar fashion: drawing a game that we really needed to win. A win would have sent us into the off-season feeling a bit better about things. Perhaps – in that context – not winning will serve the club and us better.

While I continue to maintain there are specific areas in which our team made progress, on the whole, it is difficult to say we have progressed overall. We finished with an underwhelming 68 points, dropped one place in the final standings and conceded more goals than last season.

While these can be somewhat balanced out by the emergence of certain players (Jack, Szczesny, and JD to name a few), three signature wins, and the best away record in the league, we still finished empty-handed despite being in the hunt for all four available trophies on the morning of February 27th.

In early April, we were neck-in-neck with Man United for the league title – the proverbial “two horse race” – today, we finish fourth, a massive 12 points behind the champions. With the pressure on, we were able to win only three of our final fourteen matches (from the start of March).

In an appropriate ignominy to the final eleven weeks of our season, we threw the Carling Cup away against a side which has just been relegated…

Much has been – and will probably continue to be – made of that final Sunday in February, as when everything fell apart for us. Certainly, Arsene and many of the players – the latest being Denilson – have stated we just never recovered from that loss. Post-Cup hangovers are not unique to us!

Our hangover has lasted three months – surely our players should be able to pick themselves up at some point. With the exception of the home win over Man United, they never did.

This belies Arsene’s continued claims of “mental strength” (thankfully muted as the season wound down) far more than words from any supporters could…

So now we head into what is bound to be an uncertain off-season.

I have to laugh when I see speculation regarding how much money Arsene will have to invest in the squad, who he will sign, what his strategy is, etc. As we all know by now, he gives NOTHING away – never has, never will. So he may radically alter the squad, or he may bring it back more or less intact. We won’t know for a while yet. I shall not get worked up over it only a couple of hours after this season’s final whistle; no point in it…

Friday evening saw sudden widespread speculation that Velez Sarsfield Argentine winger Ricky Alvarez had agreed to sign for us. Then it died down as suddenly as it started. Shortly after the final whistle today, reports emerged suggesting that he would be unveiled as an Arsenal signing once the Clausura finished. More on that if/when Alvarez’s signing is actually confirmed.

On the other hand, we know Denilson is gone – he said so himself. There are a few other members of the squad – some conspicuous by their absences today – who will probably depart. But until movement is confirmed, it remains speculation…

On the basis of the last several weeks, I think most of us can agree that there is lots of work to be done this summer. If not adding players, then certainly adding another dimension to our playing style; one that makes it harder for teams to nullify us as easily as they did at times during this season.

The players will be headed into their off-season now, and here is hoping they all do something they enjoy – something that will allow them to take their mind off football for a few weeks, rest, recharge, and come back ready for training and the upcoming season…

On the subject of breaks, I don’t think anyone needs one more than Arsene. For his sake – and the club’s – I hope he gets himself away from it all. He looked worse and worse as the season wound down: tired, stressed, discouraged, disillusioned. A walking melt-down, if you will…

There are no more matches to play for this season, so surely he can afford to get away from the thick of it all and stay in email (bring your crackberry this time) or phone contact? Surely there are competent people now at the club who can handle player transactions and any other squad-related issues that may arise?

If not, and he cannot afford to be away, then we have a very, very unhealthy situation, for both the club and Arsene personally. There is plenty of work to be done, but surely his hands-on involvement can wait for at least a couple of weeks while he recharges, can’t it?

I have my thoughts on what may help us get over the proverbial hump next season, as well as on certain players who were part of this season’s squad. I’ll save all that for another post. The season is over, and there is plenty of time to collect, formulate and express these specific thoughts.

For now, I head into the offseason disappointed for having so little to show for a fine first 2/3 of the season; but also knowing that time heals these sorts of disappointments and that the new season will bring new hope.

Let’s hope that Arsene and the players return rested, fit and ready to do four better this upcoming season…

Written by Oliver

Wilshere out! Great day for the Ladies and finally this painful season will soon be over!!

May 22, 2011

Well Done to Arsenal Ladies and of course to Laura Harvey, the  Arsenal manager for winning the FA Cup yesterday.

What a day it was and what a performance by our Ladies – they truly deserve the hangover they will all have this morning. :)

Another FA Cup Trophy in the bag and a massive confidence builder for the rest of their season in the WSL.

The game was all but over by half-time thanks to two wonderful goals scored by Kim Little and Julie Fleeting.

The first was scored within fifteen minutes; Kim Little weaved her way through the Bristol defence and finished with a clinical shot into the bottom left hand corner of the Bristol goal.

Were you watching Nikki B????

Then on the half an hour mark, Julie Fleeting saw a powerful header beat the Bristol keeper, Siobhan Chamberlain. Arsenal took their foot off the gas in the second half but remained comfortable until the end.

Laura Harvey was born just down the road from the Ricoh Arena in Bulkington and spent six years at Coventry City Ladies as a player, this triumph will hold even greater significance.

Victory gives the 31-year-old her second trophy since taking charge midway through last season and brings Arsenal’s tally of trophy’s to an incredible total of 33 since their formation in 1987.

Jemma Rose and Fleeting had chances early on and maybe both should have done better but nerves can be cruel. Little settled those nerves with a wonderful finish and Arsenal didn’t really look back from that moment.

Rachel Yankey burst down the left and then set up Jordan Nobbs, but Bristol’s defence blocked her chance. The same thing happened to prevent Fleeting from nicking a goal after some great work by Ellen White. Arsenal had finally settled and in the mood for this Final.

Fleeting then saw another effort hit the crossbar and only a wonderful one-handed save kept out White’s low header seconds later. It wasn’t long before Fleeting did score; she rose highest in the area to head home a quality cross from Niamh Fahey that only Gael Clichy could dream of delivering into the area – from six yards out, Chamberlain had no chance.

White and Fleeting again went close with headers and Bristol’s Helen Bleazard blasted a shot over the crossbar from 35 yards out.

Half Time and the game already seemed over!

The second half saw a Bleazard free kick brush the top of Emma Byrne’s cross-bar and that was pretty much it for the second half. Bristol enjoyed a tad more possession but never really looked like scoring one, let alone the three goals they need to win this final.
Arsenal looked comfortable after ten minutes into this game, would anyone dare write them off from winning the first WSL Trophy up for grabs??

Well Done, a good game of football and a great win for our girls….

On to today and our final game of the season.

Who knows what will happen, the way things have gone we could be looking at another battering couldn’t we…

But, something makes me think we won’t – I actually believe we will end the season with a win!

Whatever happens, it shouldn’t change Arsene Wengers plans for this transfer window should it?

I just hope the away fans get to see a great performance and a win to take home with them…..

Can’t let the day go by without the rumours:

Bayern Munich are to offer £10M for Sagna, Barca are to offer £50M for Fabregas but Man City will offer £58M – Clichy and Nasri have been told to sign new contracts of be sold, we are still after Samba and a whole load of players are leaving, incuding Vela, Bendtner, Eboue, Rosicky and Arshavin…

Don’t you just love this time of year ;)

Finally, The Sunday Mirror report that Stuart Pearce has at last seen sense and will not include Jack Wilshere in the under 21 squad, that is good news for Arsenal.

Have a good day all…..

I’ll be cheering on Ian Holloway’s boys – I really hope they do something special today and we see them in the EPL next season….


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