Friday, April 30, 2010

Leave Andrey Alone!!! (Sob Sob)

by Rachid

There hasn't been much football to sink our teeth into and as a result Arsenal fans worldwide have been scraping the barrel for Arsenal related content on the internet. As such, many were up in arms when they came across some comments about Arshavin wanting to play for Barcelona. According to claims by majority of the press, this is what Arshavin said:
 “Even playing just one season for Barcelona would make a pinnacle of my whole career,” the Arsenal midfielder said.
“Barca are the best team in the world and I enjoy their style of play so much,
“But after watching them against Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-finals the enjoyment has quickly turned into sorrow. They are so much better than anybody else at the moment.”
According to what I've read, these words came from an interview Arshavin did while in Russia. The first thing I thought when I saw this was "oh here we go again". Everyone's gonna get on his back about this just like they did with what he said in January (while the transfer window was open) about us needing new players, which was rehashed after the window closed to make it just seem like he's complaining idly. It's obvious that this whole nonsense came to being to not only try to unsettle the player but also to turn us against him. He's been pretty inconsistent this season and it makes him an easy target for the ire of Arsenal fans. It wouldn't be far fetched to think that the contents of the interview were changed during translation to create controversy. It doesn't seem to have crossed many Arsenal fans' minds though. Arsene Wenger, while not pleased with the whole issue, seems to be taking it with a pinch of salt though:
"Yes, I’m very disappointed [by this story] because he shows a completely different attitude [to me]. He wants to extend his contract with us and stay with us so the noise coming out of Russia is very difficult to explain. He looks to be very happy here.

"You should ask him where it comes from. Usually you have direct access to him, you can ask him where that comes from. I don’t forbid you to talk to him. But I take with a little bit of distance what comes back translated sometimes with the help of some agents who want to move the players.

"I think everybody has the freedom to speak but you want to make sure first of all that you respect your club. I just put a question mark on the things that come back translated.”
I think what Wenger's saying is that he's skeptical to believe that Arshavin really said this but at the same time he seems pretty annoyed at how often this is happening with him. He's known as a very frank individual and he should know better than to trust these journalists who look to create shitstorms from his comments.

There's a lot of vitriol directed at him from Arsenal fans on the internet too. Many are now criticising him for his on and off performances throughout the course of the season and some are even saying we should sell him to Barcelona. What most people are on his back about though is that he's lazy. People are making it seem as though he didn't contribute this season. He's scored 11 goals this season and had 9 assists. We couldn't possibly ask more of him when he got two significant injuries this season and also was being played in a position where his height (or lack thereof) put him at a major disadvantage. There's no need to single him out for criticism. There are far lazier people in this Arsenal team and if you're gonna talk about laziness, their names should be called first. Names such as Almunia, Denilson, Diaby and Sagna to some extent.

Apart from all that though, there's not much else happening with the club this week. Arsene Wenger revealed a little more of his transfer plans yesterday. He says we'll be signing a player before June 11th (when the World Cup kicks off). He says:
“We have a basic squad and I believe in the squad I have,” he said. “But if I can make an addition – two or three maximum – then we will do it.

“I will try to do what I want to do as quickly as possible but I am not the only decider. It doesn’t only depend on me.

“Ideally, you would want to do the job before the World Cup. It is difficult to give yourself the right timing.

“Certainly, we will announce one player before the World Cup. After that we will see.”
 It's obvious the player he's talking about here is Marouane Chamakh. I think the only reason we're so hush hush about it is that we can't announce anything about him coming here until his season with Bordeaux is over. What concerns me though is that he claims we are gonna make two signings, three tops. Most agree that our current squad needs a new goalkeeper, maybe two center backs, a defensive midfielder and a striker to get that improvement that will put us over the top and make us truly competitive with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona next season. If we're gonna sign only 3 players, at most, it leaves you a bit anxious about whether we're going into next season with the same depth issues we faced throughout this season.

A factor in Wenger's decision might be the new regulations set by the EFA though. It's now been made official that next season we're supposed to register 8 home grown players and 25 total for the Premiership. In seasons past that number was 30. It obviously means that our current Premiership first team squad of 30 players will have to be cut by 5.

At first I was a bit upset about what Wenger said about spending because this is something he says at the start of every transfer window - that he's looking to sign just two or three players maximum. Where it might be different this season however is that we need to trim the fat from our team. It means that he's probably looking to just make 3 additions maximum to the team and replace whoever else is leaving. It doesn't mean we're getting rid of 8 players and signing 3 in their place. It just means that Wenger now knows what areas of the team are lacking and he's probably gonna sell those players that are the weak links in the chain that's the Arsenal team. He's gonna sell them and probably replace them with like players but players who possess the qualities those other players didn't.

Also, the 25 registered player restriction doesn't necessarily mean we can only have 25 players in our squad. We can have as many as we like and if we have players who are underperforming or injured we can always deregister them and replace them with other players who are fit(ter) and performing better in training. We could always do this during the January transfer window.

A player that is a doubt to be in the team next season however is William Gallas.

Of Gallas Wenger says:
"There is a cut off point for Gallas. It doesn't depend only on me. Gallas can come and say 'Boss we will stop the talks because I signed somewhere and that's it'.

"I could set a deadline for us and that will certainly be before the end of May because we then have to look for someone else. We have more talks planned."
Many want Gallas to leave but I believe he's had very good performances when he's managed to stay fit this season. He and Vermaelen have forged a solid partnership at the heart of our defence. Many claim his constant bitching has been a blight on the team but ever since he was stripped of the captaincy he's been very professional and his game has turned around significantly. I'd rather not see him go but I'd like to see us sign another center back regardless of whether he's in the team next season.

What do you think? Let me know in a comment below. That's it for today. Dust!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Breaking Down The Clichy To Barca Rumour

by Rachid

I'm not one to believe or even pay attention to most transfer rumours I see circling around the net but according to Barcelona want to offer us Bojan Krkic plus cash for Gael Clichy. I'm not sure how true this rumour is but we all know that Barcelona have some unwritten code they have to abide by where they try to unsettle an Arsenal player every summer. Now they want Clichy. If this rumour is true however then is it that it's a bit too good to be true? There are some things we need to take into consideration though.

If we're gonna be frank, Gael Clichy's form has taken a decline over the last two seasons. It has been noticeable since that 2-2 draw away to Birmingham in 2008 where he was caught ball watching and gave up a stupid penalty to let the Brummies back into the game. He's been caught out of position a lot this season as well and many of the important goals we've conceded, especially against Man Utd and Chelsea were because of flaws in his positioning. Many would like to see Clichy sold this summer, with some even proposing that Wenger replace him with a center back and move Thomas Vermaelen out to the left back position. The problem with this though is that Gael is one of the players who actually loves being at the club and plays for more than just a pay cheque. His performances might not be up to par but the effort and heart are definitely there. Effort and heart are two characteristics every Arsenal fan wants to see exhibited by the players. If a player isn't playing his best but actually shows an effort to do the best he can and shows that he's passionate about the club then he deserves at least some credit for trying, even if he doesn't always excel at what he does. Clichy is reluctant to leave Arsenal anyway. He's spent a lot of time in England and he feels fully adapted there. He said so himself:
"It is great that these teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid are looking at me. 'They are great teams as everyone knows but all I want to say is that I am focused on the end of the season. I want to win something here.
"I have two years left on my contract so it is not a question to answer.
"I wouldn’t say I feel English because some people will be upset with this. But I feel really at home here."
"Whenever I go home and see my family for two weeks, even if I feel really good there, I have to come back to London."
What that says is that just because this rumour is circulating, it doesn't mean he'll actually go or that a deal will actually be made. Yes if Arsene Wenger has no plans for him he'll welcome the idea of selling him but if the player doesn't want to go then the deal can't be done unless he agrees a contract with Barcelona.

There's no doubt that Bojan Krkic is a good player. He's highly technical and a very good finisher. The question though is whether we actually need him. Arsenal clearly need another striker but there's word that Marouane Chamakh is on his way in. Not only that but Jay Simpson, who had a very good season out on loan at Queens Park Rangers, will be returning this summer and I believe he now deserves a fair chance to prove himself in the first team. I don't think we could bring both Chamakh and Krkic in with Simpson coming back as well. Don't forget we also have Carlos Vela who struggles to get into the first team. Would we then sell Vela in order to make room for him, with Eduardo leaving as well to make room for Chamakh?

Something which influences the way Arsenal plays is the strong team unity that usually exists in the dressing room. With too many players on board we risk disrupting that unity as players would start showing envy towards each other, especially those who are keeping them out of a starting role in the team. If we are interested in signing Krkic, as well as Chamakh, we'd definitely need to let a couple players go.

I believe the reason Carlos Vela can't get into the first team goes beyond the general consensus that he just isn't good enough. I think the climate in England has a lot to do with it - transitioning from such a warm climate as the Mexican climate to the very cold climate of England. If we signed Krkic wouldn't we be taking the same risk with him as well? The climate in Spain is very similar to the climate in Mexico.

Vela and Krkic are very similar players. They both like running with the ball and both like using their trickery to get beyond defenders. Would Krkic face the same difficulties adapting to the English game that Vela does? Jose Antonio Reyes is another player that came over from Spain years ago and struggled to adapt in England. Would we be taking the same gamble on a player like Krkic, who plays in the same position as Vela and Reyes do? What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Before I end though, have a look at this really cool video montage of our matches in the month of March made by my friend donDeMoNius. Enjoy:

Well that's it for now. Until next time, Dust!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Arsenal 0-0 Manchester City: Yawn!

by Rachid

Football games don't get anymore boring than what we saw yesterday. Talk about a cure for insomnia! This blog entry will most likely be a short one since there was not much happening in the match to report on. This was arguably our most uneventful match this season.

The first item of note in the match took place 23 minutes in when Vincent Kompany hacked down Theo Walcott on the right hand side in a challenge for the ball which saw Walcott left in a heap for the physios to attend to. Shay Given had his first save of the game to make 16 minutes later when Robin van Persie played in Samir Nasri who took a shot and Given parried it behind for a corner. That was all there really was to the first half. Yawn!

Not much happened in the second half of note either except in the 52nd minute Paddy Vieira was subbed off for Emmanuel Adebayor and it was a little funny to hear a loud applause and cheer for the former Arsenal skipper turn to resounding boos and whistles for the former Arsenal crybaby.

Given's second save of note came from Abou Diaby's shot from about 23 yards out from goal in the 69th minute. He had to dive to his left to make the save and landed badly on his left shoulder and unfortunately dislocated it. The injury means he's out for their remaining 3 games of the season. Credit must be given to the Arsenal fans who applauded him for his efforts while being stretchered away for medical attention.

Before the game, I expected Lukasz Fabianski to make another customary game costing howler but surprisingly it wasn't the case. Then again, I shouldn't be surprised as Man City didn't seem to care to play either and it's really no question why he didn't have much to do. The only real save of note I can remember from him came in the 86th minute off a shot outside the area from Craig Bellamy. Thankfully that's all he had to deal with and I don't have to be sitting here right now textually tearing him apart.

We laid an egg at the DW Stadium a week ago and needed a big performance yesterday and they didn't deliver it. A win yesterday would've secured 3rd for us and automatic qualification for the group stages of next season's Champions League but we decided to drag it out some more. It's the Arsenal way. No one really seemed to care to win yesterday. They all seemed as though they were just going through the motions. Since it's now a foregone conclusion that we won't win the title perhaps our players have switched off and have decided to just coast through the rest of the season. If that's the case then maybe it's now time for Arsene Wenger to start blooding some of the younger, hungrier talent in the team to get them ready for next season. I'm not saying throw them all in at once but we could definitely introduce a couple names here and there. They'll no doubt be up for it as the season's drawing to a close and they'll want to grab Wenger's attention in order to be considered for a first team role next season. Anyway, whatever. I really couldn't care any less today.

This is the part of the blog where I'd normally do a player rating but why bother? The Arsenal players couldn't give a rat's ass about getting a win yesterday so I can't give a rat's ass about giving them each a rating today.

Team rating: 5/10
Entertainment value rating: 3/10 - I might as well have watched paint dry.

And that's that for today. Talk to you again some other time. Dust!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Arsenal v Manchester City: The Boys Are Back In Town

by Rachid

If you're an Arsenal fan planning on watching the match later today against Man City you must be a masochist, like myself. After a completely dour performance against Wigan last Sunday we have to dust ourselves off and regain focus as continuing our poor form which has seen us gain only 1 win in our last 6 games in all competition could mean we may well slip into a fight for third place with the likes of Tottenham and Man City. As I type this the match between Man United and Tottenham is locked at 1 and should the score remain the same after 90 minutes a win today could take us to within 3 points of United and we could still push to finish 2nd in the league.

After losing our last 3 games, to Barcelona, Tottenham and Wigan respectively we need all the help we can get to restore some confidence to the team. Arsene Wenger has revealed that he's expecting Eduardo and Alex Song back though so we should expect to see the latter of the two in the starting line up with the former on the bench. Andrey Arshavin remains a doubt though.

Wenger however wouldn't be drawn on his choice to man the goal today as Manuel Almunia is still out with a wrist injury. Many have been doubting the truth behind whether Almunia's really injured but after Lukasz Fabianski's flapping around against Wigan last Sunday it would only make sense to believe that Almunia is really injured as I can't see why Arsene Wenger would keep him sidelined with such a walking calamity in our goal. Wenger always backs his players when they come in for heavy scrutiny from the media and he did just that yesterday when speaking about Fabianski. According to Wenger:
"I think he will be a great keeper. If you ask how many mistakes you can afford [at this level], I would say zero. But it is also part of the game.
"I believe Fabianski has total talents, with a great quality and spirit. Now he has a good opportunity to show how good he is.
"Of course, he was disappointed on Sunday [after the Wigan game], but I believe he was not the only one involved in our defeat."
Many would wonder if Wenger did that interview while having a round of vodka shots but I can understand why he says that. I'm pretty sure he doesn't actually believe Fabianski will be a great keeper at Arsenal in the future but given the fact that he isn't sure who he'll start in goal today he wants to build the Pole's confidence just in case he decides to put him in to flap around at the ball some more.

Apart from all that though, we have 4 Ex Gooners returning to The Emirates today. Hopefully Kolo Toure, Sylvinho and Paddy Vieira return to a rapturous applause while Emmanuel Adebayor returns to nothing but the sound of 60,000 strong booing him for 90 minutes. Wenger has urged the Emirates faithful to not be desrespectful to Adebayor but after his disgraceful display in the last Premiership meeting it's hard to see how the fans will heed Wenger's words.
"I am stubborn, but not stupid - sometimes in the heat of the moment you can do things that are not right," admitted Wenger.
"It is not only Adebayor, but also Patrick Vieira and Kolo Toure - we will welcome them all back.
"We have always had the same line of conduct - to respect what they have done for us and we want our fans to respect that as well and encourage our team."
Arsenal should use Adebayor's behaviour as a reason to be fired up for this game. Robin van Persie will no doubt remember Adebayor's stamp in his face and Song should remember his stamp on his shin as well. We should definitely use the reminder and embarrassment of that game as a motivator for a win today. Now is as good a time as ever to prove to the doubters and the naysayers of this team that we do have heart, despite the craven performance shown against Wigan last Sunday.

It's important to note that of all the teams in the Premiership this season, Man City is the team who has scored the most points after coming back from losing positions. This is not good news for us after how we allowed Wigan to score 3 goals and snatch a win from defeat with only 10 minutes to go against us last Sunday.

I'm predicting that the result won't be pleasing for us in the least bit. I expect Tevez and Adebayor to give us a warm time on the pitch and I can see the match ending 3-1 with us taking no points.

Predicted line up:

Sagna     Campbell     Silvestre    Clichy
           Diaby                   Nasri
Walcott           van Persie            Rosicky

Predicted score: Arsenal 1-3 Manchester City

Key man: Lukasz Fabianski - The Pole to provide various goal scoring opportunities for our opponents today.

We need to make sure we don't see one more of these moments but with Fabianski likely to start it's very much a possibility.

Can't say I'm expecting much today but I'll watch and see. I'll be back later with post game thoughts. Until then, dust!