Friday, May 28, 2010

Fran Merida Has Left The Building

by Rachid

Fran Mérida has opted not to renew his contract at Arsenal and decided to sign for Atlético Madrid on a Bosman's. It is believed that he agreed terms to a 4 year deal at Estadio Vicente Calderón.

A quote from the club's official site says:
The Club Atlético de Madrid have closed the signing of midfielder Fran Mérida from Arsenal, whose contract expired with the London club on June 30.
The Catalan midfielder has been committed to the institution for the next four Red and White seasons and will be officially launched on Friday 28 May at 12:30. The event will take place in the VIP room of the Vicente Calder
ón Stadium and the player will be joined by Don Enrique Cerezo, President of Club Atlético de Madrid.
Now some of you reading this might think this is just sour grapes when I say this but I genuinely don't believe Mérida is a more talented footballer than Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere. He's quite skilled but they're better than him. With that said, I think his reason for leaving is because he felt first team opportunities were not coming his way and he felt frustrated seeing others such as Ramsey and Wilshere get into the first team ahead of him.

I understand why he wants to leave but he's being too hasty. He's only 20. He can't expect to be a regular starter already. Our problem in this team is that we don't have enough leadership and experience. It's axiomatic that he's not ready for the first team yet. He should've sat and waited for his turn. Ramsey did and it was paying dividends until Shawcross' vicious assault. He would've had his chance if he waited. He's immature and he's gonna find out that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence.

Atlético Madrid struggled this season. Sure they won the Europa League but aside from that their season mirrored Liverpool's in so many ways. If he thinks his career will be better there than it promised to be here then he's joking. I hope he gets what he wants when he makes the signing official, that is to get into the first team straight away and play regularly but I just have a feeling it won't pan out exactly as he has it in mind. I'll be watching his progress at Atlético to see what becomes of his career.

Good luck Fran, don't let the doorknob hit you on the way out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cesc Finally Speaks...Well Kinda

by Rachid

I've stayed away from the Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona rumours for as long as I could but today I saw something that forced me into giving my two cents on the matter. It was this video interview I found here on Sky Sports.

As I watched a few thoughts came to my mind which I'm now gonna share:

  • In the past Cesc would've just categorically denied any claims about him wanting to go to Barcelona within hours of the rumours coming out in the press yet today he's saying he doesn't want to say much about it. It's just like when a celebrity's asked about their sexuality. If they're not gay they'd just be frank about it and say "No I'm not." but when they are, they beat around the bush because of the controversy it creates. It's the same thing here. Cesc wants to leave and it's pretty obvious. He would've shot this rumour down when it started two weeks ago if he didn't want to.
  • I don't get why he wants to leave now. I mean, if he had said this last year it would've made more sense given the poor season we had then. Why now? Why now when we had a better season this year than last? Although the season didn't pan out how we hoped it would, there were definite positives to take from it. Wenger clearly has more money at his disposal this summer to spend on quality players to improve us. If we the fans know this then shouldn't the captain of the team know it as well? Why the impatience now?
  • He knows there are fans who are gonna turn on him if he goes. In fact, there are some who already have. He's trying to be gracious and diplomatic as to not piss the fans off. As such he's sugarcoating the interview by saying how much he feels at home here and how much he respects Arsene Wenger. To me it sounds like a man who's in two minds and he wants to play it safe just in case he does leave.
  • Cesc saying he had the most important conversation of his life with Wenger is a bit ambiguous. It could mean that he told him how important it is for him to leave and go back to Spain, confirming all the stuff Guillem Balague had been bleating about for weeks or it could mean he gave Wenger an ultimatum to improve the quality of the squad or he's gone.
  • If Cesc wants to leave we still call the shots. He's still contracted to us and we can either hold him hostage here or demand a hefty price tag for him. If he goes we get quite a lot of cash to replace him with a player of equal calibre. On the other hand, if he stays we have an unhappy player on our roster who we might not get the most out of because he'd rather be playing elsewhere. It has the potential to be a lose/lose situation.
  • Why is it that we seem to be changing captains every 2 years? We need some sustainability to the captaincy and if Cesc goes then Arsene Wenger needs to make sure we have a proper captain to replace Fabregas and make sure we don't have another Gallas situation on our hands.
Watch the video for yourself and tell me what you think in the comments section below. Be sure to click the follow button to the right of the page and follow the blog for updates on new posts. Until next time, take care fellow Gooners.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Marouane Chamakh Is Finally An Arsenal Player

by Rachid

He's heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere!

In typical Arsenal fashion, the signing of Marouane Chamakh was drawn out and became an uneventful matter but it finally took place today.

Chamakh signs for us on what refers to as a "long term deal", which I'm guessing is 4 years. He'll be wearing the number 29.

About the deal, Arsene Wenger says: 
"We are delighted that Marouane Chamakh has joined us. He is a player we have admired for some time now and I know he will provide our squad with great quality. Chamakh has proved he is a great player with his performances for Bordeaux and Morocco in recent seasons and we’re all looking forward to him joining us.
"Chamakh is a striker of real quality and has all the attributes suited to come to England and do very well. He is also a fighter, not only a good football player, but a fighter as well. He is very good in the air and also a good team player. He is a great addition to our squad.”
Chamakh had a few words to say too:
“This is a dream come true and a great joy to be joining Arsenal. My goal was always to play in the Premier League and Arsenal was the choice of my heart.

“Without any hesitation, Arsenal was my preferred club. The team and history of Arsenal, they make me dream. My goal was to join Arsenal out of the all the English clubs because it is a club that makes me dream and I have been a fan since I was a child.

“I’m very excited about playing at Emirates Stadium in front of the Arsenal supporters. I have heard many great things about the stadium and I cannot wait to be playing there in an Arsenal shirt.

“I will give my best to this Club, the Club that I used to support. We have many great players at Arsenal and I will be giving everything to help the team win trophies next season.”
Now while I'm obviously delighted we've signed a player this soon and we're showing early intent for next season I'm curious about the role Chamakh will play. I've seen him play for Bordeaux in a 5-4-1 formation in two different roles. He can be employed as a wide right or left striker, much like Cristiano Ronaldo but he can also be used in a target man role in the center of attack. It means he's a very versatile player and I look forward to that.

I hope Arsene Wenger doesn't use him as a target man unless necessary. By that, I mean I don't want to see him competing with the likes of Bendtner and van Persie for the target man role and he should play it those players are unavailable. Chamakh is a lot like Nicklas Bendtner as a target man. He even misses sitters just like he does. What I'm saying is that we need to add to this team - add things the team doesn't already have.

We need more consistent wide players as the likes of Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin have days where they perform and days where they go silent. Chamakh's pace and technique on the wings would be very useful to us because his crafty footwork makes him a bit of an unpredictable entity in our team. Do I think he has all the technical abilities of Thierry Henry? No I don't. I don't think we can bring back the flair to the team Henry has for a while but I think Chamakh can go a long way to provide that 'something out of nothing' to our football that it's lacked since Henry left. This is of course, if he's allowed to play a wide role where he's free to roam the pitch a bit. He's very energetic and I believe his work rate will allow him to be more consistent than Walcott and Arshavin have been for us over the course of the season. I'll even go out on a limb and say if used correctly in a wide role, he could do for us what Ronaldo did for Manchester United.

I'm very excited about this signing and I can't wait til the preseason matches start to see exactly what role he'll be playing in this team.

Are you excited too? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below and follow the blog by hitting the 'follow' button to the right of the page. Until next time, dust!

Time To Separate The Men From The Boys (Part 4)

So now that we've wrapped up the individual ratings how 'bout we look at the team as a whole?

With all the cash splashed around by Manchester City in the summer, which saw them sign Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure from us for a combined total of approximately £40M coupled with the fact that we only signed Thomas Vermaelen in the summer transfer window, many pundits believed that Man City would break into the top 4 at our expense. There were even a few who suggested we'd be lucky to even place 5th.

Arsene Wenger had a plan to ensure this wasn't the case. He decided that this season we'll switch from playing the 4-4-2 formation, for a more Total Football approach, opting for a 4-3-3 instead. It seemed to work wonders as on opening day we gave Everton a nightmare start with a 6-1 drubbing at Goodison Park. Something notable about that victory was that 5 of the 6 goals came from midfield.

Our attack took a few games to get going under the new formation but once it clicked we became the best attacking team in the Premiership, scoring the most goals. That was until October when Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner both got injured and our strike force weakened.

While our attack flourished, our defence suffered. We had a serious problem defending set pieces, especially corner kicks and we also had a problem defending balls coming from counter attacks down our left side. It caused us to drop a lot of points and fall 11 points behind leaders Chelsea and Manchester United in the title race.

If there's one word that was relevant to this season's performance it's 'fortitude'. The team showed a lot of fortitude to claw their way back from an 11 point deficit to actually lead the Premiership early in the second half of the season. We fell away again, this time to an 8 point deficit, after losses to Manchester United and Chelsea and points dropped in a draw with Aston Villa at Villa Park. It was fortitude (and Nicklas Bendtner) that saw the team come back from such a huge gap to be in the title race once more up until mid April.

Our title dreams ended when we played Tottenham at White Hart Lane and lost 2-1. We just didn't play with any heart or desire. The absolute craven performances weren't over yet as days later we played Wigan away and were up 2-0 but with 10 minutes to go we somehow found a way to snatch defeat from the hands of victory and ended up losing 3-2. Another week later we found ourselves on the wrong end of another 2-1 scoreline away at Blackburn. The lousy performances continued that day and we found ourselves on the final day in a fight for 3rd place with Tottenham. We won our match convincingly against Fulham but it's upsetting to know that we let things get to that point.

Overall though, the team has improved in terms of our fluidity in front of goal but there are two main things which Arsene Wenger needs to address in preparation for next season. We need to work on our set plays and counter attacking tactics and we also need to do something about those players in the team who can't really seem to motivate themselves when they need to most.

It's a bit tricky to give this team a rating as there are improvements which are noticeable but there seem to be problems lingering from seasons past that we still haven't overcome. I'd say a 6.5/10 seems fair though.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Well thanks for reading, until next time. Bye!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Time To Separate The Men From The Boys (Part 3)

Theo Walcott: Theo didn't play much at the start of the season due to injury. When he did play however his performances were very hot and cold. He'd have a good game here, then two or three mediocre games before he had another game where he was brilliant. Theo had his critics on his back but with arguably his best performance of the season coming against Burnley at home, they seemed to ease off and gained a little bit of patience, waiting to see how his season would pick up. Sadly, it didn't really change. Theo's inconsistency continued and after the loss to Tottenham his desire looked to be gone and all he seemed to care about was getting ready for the World Cup. Theo Walcott earns a 6/10 from me.

Eduardo: Eduardo had an absolutely terrible season. It begun mired in controversy because of what happened in the second leg of our Champions League qualifier against Celtic. He went after a 50/50 ball with Artur Boruc and went to ground after Boruc seemed to bring him down. We got a penalty and after the game Eduardo received a 3 match ban from UEFA for diving. It turned out in the end that he didn't dive and the decision to ban him was overturned. Eduardo was unfairly labeled a diver in the time that the fiasco happened. What really happened though was Eduardo expected the collision and in backing off lost his balance and fell to ground. There are some that say he was actually fouled but it's up for debate. Eduardo backed off because of that nasty challenge which injured him in February 08. It's given him a mental block and made him very timid when going into tackles. It is what affected him this season. With only 6 goals to his name he's no longer the player he was. In many games this season he's hardly had even 10 touches of the ball because he's too scared to get himself into a position where he'll be a threat to goal as he fears lightning striking him twice. Arsene Wenger seems to have lost faith in him too as he's left him out of the squad for many games towards the end of the season. It's sad to say it but Eduardo's now damaged goods and I believe it's in his best interest to start fresh in another league which is more technical and doesn't have the physicality of the Premiership. La Liga or Serie A would be better for him. Eduardo scores a 4.5/10.

Carlos Vela: He made most of his appearances this season in cameos off the bench. He had only 1 start in the Premiership which was in the penultimate game of the season away at Blackburn. A problem Vela faced was that he traveled across the pond a lot to play for Mexico and when he came back to London to get ready for Arsenal matches he had a problem with jet lag and missed many chances to stake a claim for a first team place. There was also the issue of the injuries he picked up in international matches. When he did play he showed flashes of brilliance but there were times when his work rate just wasn't high enough. I think we should probably cut our losses and sell him to a Spanish club this summer. Everyone wins that way. He clearly isn't adjusting to life and the climate in England and the pace of the game is too quick for him so perhaps a slower league like La Liga is more his cup of tea. He's already proven himself there with the time he spent on loan at Salamanca and Osasuna. 5/10.

Robin van Persie: Here's another player injury totally screwed over this season. He started the season a bit slower than the other attackers as he was still getting the hang of the new formation but when he started scoring he did it very consistently. Like Cesc, he put in game winning performances week in, week out. There's no doubt in my mind he would've had a 20 goal season if not for the wreckless challenge on him by Giorgio Chiellini in his international match for The Netherlands against Italy. Many people give van Persie stick for his injury record, saying he's always getting injured as if he has control over it. Really, if someone could determine when they're gonna get injured would they let it happen to them? What kind of masochist do they take him for? Robin van Persie is no doubt a world class striker. If he can stay fit he'll be up there with the best strikers in the world such as Ibrahimovic, Drogba, Rooney and even Messi. He can't however. He's always on the wrong end of really bad tackles. It comes with the territory though. He's such a good player that this is what his opponents resort to to take him off the ball. We had a lot of players out injured during the course of the season but we missed none like we missed van Persie. In his absence we had no out and out target man figure in attack. This was because Nicklas Bendtner was also out recovering from a groin surgery. It was left up to Andrey Arshavin to play the role of target man and his size left him disadvantaged. We struggled to find goals in many games and slipped behind Chelsea, who were leading the Premiership, by 11 points. Robin made his return to action late in the season in the loss to Tottenham but his brilliance shone through. He had an amazing performance and we looked a different team in the second half with him on the field. His performances thereafter were always high quality and he got himself 2 goals from the three games that followed. If he's not unlucky to have another bad injury like he did over the last few months, I can see him rivaling the likes of Rooney, Drogba and Torres (if he's still at Liverpool) next season for the golden boot. Robin gets an 8.5/10.

Nicklas Bendtner: There's no one in this Arsenal team that's as confident, and some would say narcissistic, as Nicklas Bendtner. For a couple of seasons I didn't like his attitude as I felt his bark was definitely bigger than his bite. He did a lot more to back up all his claims of how good he is this season by scoring 12 goals and assisting 7. You might say "Pfft 12's not that much" but live van Persie he spent a big chunk of the season out due to groin surgery. Something else about Bendtner is that in quite a few matches this season he's missed some glorious sitters that in seasons past would've pissed off the Arsenal fans but he made up for it with the goals he's scored. So many of his goals were crucial, many of them eventual  match winners as well. Who can forget his strike against Hull to essentially send Phil Brown to the unemployment office the following Monday or his last gasp header against Mick McCarthy's Wolves at home? He's done enough to earn my respect this season and I'm excited to see how he'll build on it next season. I give him 8.5/10.

And so we've come to the end of the individual player ratings. There'll be 1 more part to this review (I promise) sometime soon but before you go enjoy the video package down below and leave your comments on what I've said.
(Special thanks to RVPSSARS23 for the video)

Oh, remember to click the 'follow' button to subscribe to this blog. Catch you next time.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Time To Separate The Men From The Boys (Part 2)

Okay now where were we?

Abou Diaby: I've never really been a fan of Diaby and I always found it ridiculous to compare him to Patrick Vieira. That being said, I think he had patches this season where he showed improvement. He's gotten on the scoresheet a bit more and managed to stay fit for longer periods this season. However, he's had games where he seemed to just be getting in the way this season. The game at Old Trafford comes to mind when I say that. There are a few players in this Arsenal team who have been criticised for not putting out enough effort, especially towards the latter part of the season when our title chase fizzled out. Diaby is one of these players. He could be doing a lot better and I hope to see him with a better attitude next season. 5/10

Alex Song: Alex has developed tremendously over the season. His self confidence has risen and so have his performance levels. Alex was the ideal defensive midfielder for us. His positioning was excellent. He stayed back and made sure the defence line wasn't too pressured and in doing so he took a lot of pressure off his captain, Cesc Fabregas, to help out with defensive duties. I am of the view that if not for Song, Fabregas wouldn't have had 19 goals to his name this season. Many believe Alex is the most improved player over this campaign and it's a fair argument. Song scores an 8/10 for me.

Tomas Rosicky: There are a few who believe Thomas had a poor season but I disagree. Sure he had the niggling injury here and there but you have to remember that he was out of action for 18 months. I like the new role he has in the team playing as a wide striker. It suits him perfectly. He wasn't really among the goals or assists this season as he had 3 and 5 respectively but I commend him for the tenacity he showed in front of goal. Whenever he played he was a constant threat to goal, always shooting and always getting into dangerous positions. His work level was very high and I'd like to see him build on his performances in the coming season, scoring and assisting more goals. 7/10.

Samir Nasri: Samir's season started in October due to a broken leg he picked up in a collision in training with Abou Diaby in preseasons. He struggled at first to find form because he wasn't really used to the new 4-3-3 formation the team was playing though as the season progressed he started to find his footing. The injury to Cesc Fabregas meant Nasri found himself in a central midfield role which he is familiar with from his days at Olympic Marseille. In my opinion he played his best football here. One particular game where he shone in this position was our return leg in the Champions League against Porto where he scored arguably our best goal of the season with a remarkable solo effort. We went on to win that game 5-0. 7/10

Denilson: The Brazilian started the season promisingly with a stunning long range goal at Goodison Park in Arsenal's 6-1 opening day demolition of Everton. He found himself on the scoresheet 5 more times throughout the season with more goals from distance. He shooting from range has definitely improved but I'm not pleased with his performances in general. In the instances where Alex Song was missing from action due to the African Cup of Nations in January and injuries, Denilson was asked to deputise in the defensive midfield role and did a poor job. His performances were very lazy and he looked like he could've tried harder. He looked like he didn't really care to run hard to track his opponent when counter attacks were built against us. Two notable instances of this were in our FA Cup defeat to Stoke and the 3-1 home defeat in the Premiership at the hands of Manchester United. Denilson is one of the players I'd like to see on his way out during the summer. He scores a 5/10 for me.

Aaron Ramsey: One word comes to mind when trying to sum up Ramsey's season - tragic. Aaron had gotten off to a flying start. He found himself getting regular playing time, mostly off the bench and scoring three times in the Premiership. Two of those 3 goals came against Portsmouth in both fixtures. He also scored a vital FA Cup goal against West Ham at The Boleyn Ground. Then there was that infamous Stoke City game. That total neanderthal Ryan Shawcross, with the most wreckless of tackles you'll ever see, slid in on poor Aaron two footed and left his leg shattered and dangling. Season over for the young Welshman. A promising season comes to a horrific end. Ramsey had been getting his chances and started taking them and then that had to happen. The positive from it however was that it seemed to solidify the team and a siege mentality had developed in the club. It was a them vs. us attitude that developed that saw us push on in the title race til late March when we played Tottenham. The team wanted to win the title for Ramsey. There's no word yet on when he returns but I just hope the injury doesn't have the same effect on him as Eduardo's had on him. Ramsey gets a very deserving 8/10.

Cesc Fabregas: With 19 goals and 19 assists Cesc Fabregas' season speaks for itself. There was nothing more you could ask of the Spaniard this season. He was clearly one of the best players in the league and perhaps the way he played is responsible for the lack of effort and desire shown by some of his teammates. The way he picked the team up and carried them on his back seemed to make certain players rely on him to always deliver a performance. Cesc being so Cescy though never failed. What stood out to me most about him though was how determined he was to pull the team over the line to success this season. A 30 minute cameo at home against Aston Villa saw him return from injury to come off the bench and score two goals, one of which was a breath taking free kick, and had to be subbed off due to flaring up his hamstring injury while scoring the second goal. He also played with a broken leg and scored a penalty with said leg, just to keep us in the tie with Barcelona going into the second leg of the fixture. If there's one word to sum up his performances this season, it's 'heroic'. Cesc gets a 10/10 and who dares disagree?

Andrey Arshavin: I remember at the end of the 08/09 season Arshavin said that he had more to offer us than he did in his first six months at the club. He claimed that this is because he hadn't fully settled into London and was still adjusting to Arsene Wenger's training regimen. Unfortunately the pint sized Russian didn't live up to his words. He managed to bag 12 goals and 9 assists but many expected more of him. He had many games where he squandered a lot of chances but I believe criticism was unfairly levied at him as he spent the period of late October to early February as our target man. This was due to injuries to both Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner. His height (or lack thereof) worked to his disadvantage while he played this role. Journalists had a lot to do with the heavy criticism he came in for. He is known for his outspoken nature and journalists used interviews with him this season distastefully, rehashing old quotes from him at times in the season when things weren't going right. Hearing things said like he said [at a previous time] only stirred up bad reactions from fans. As such many felt he mouthed off too much and wasn't putting in the work to back it up. Anyway, I give Andrey a 6.5/10

Emmanuel Eboue: The man who used to put the boo in Eboue gets my vote for most improved player of the season. After that infamous Wigan game where he was booed off the pitch by his own fans many thought we wouldn't be seeing him in an Arsenal shirt this season. During last summer rumours strongly linked him with a move away to Fiorentina but he stayed and had become one of Arsenal's most consistent players this season. Eboue has been employed in a variety of roles. He's played at right back, right midfield, center midfield and even as a wide right forward in a couple games. He hasn't had a poor game this season in my opinion. He may not always give sterling performances like Cesc Fabregas does game after game but he has always been consistent. Kudos goes to him as well for the mental strength and character he showed to get over his depression after the Wigan game in 08 and to come back and show such fight and desire in his performances. He's now become a definite fan favourite at Arsenal Football Club. Eboue earns himself an 8/10 on this blog.

Fran Merida: Fran started the season with 2 appearances in the Carling Cup and he bagged a great goal against Liverpool there. He featured in the Premiership coming off the bench and he got 1 goal in 4 appearances there. The goal coming against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium. He also had an appearance a piece in the FA Cup against West Ham and in the Champions League away in Greece at Olympiakos. In these few games that he's played he's had decent performances and both of his goals this season were well taken. It's rumoured that he's rejected a contract renewal from us in favour of a move back to his homeland to play for Atletico Madrid. I hope we see him in an Arsenal shirt next season and I hope he features more too. 6/10.

Okay that's enough for now and Part 3 will be published sometime in the near future with my assessment of our attackers.

Have a look at some more key moments in our season:
(Special thanks to RVPSSARS23 for the video)

Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section and click the follow button on the right if you haven't already done so. That's it for now. Dust!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Time To Separate The Men From The Boys (Part 1)

by Rachid

I'll start today with my individual ratings for each player's performances over the course of the season.

Manuel Almunia: Had a shaky start to the season. It was so shaky that Arsene Wenger even had to drop him under the guise of a fake chest infection which he claimed lasted for 6 weeks. He eventually made his way back into the first team due to the failings and lack of experience showed by his understudies. He's had some games where he's come up big for us, such as the home leg against Barcelona but for the most part his performances had been found wanting this season. He's made errors in goalkeeping that have cost us important points. It's also worth noting that his defence in front of him at times doesn't seem to really trust him. He has a knack of miscommunicating with his defenders and found himself challenging them for balls in many matches throughout the season. In other words, his command of the area was very poor. Many are calling for his departure but I believe some more experienced competition for his place will do him some good and he should be reduced to the backup keeper role. Almunia gets a 5.5/10 from me.

Lukasz Fabianski: What can I say? Lukasz Loosehands found his way into the first team via the Carling Cup at first and gave some decent performances there. Unfortunately his form has gotten progressively worse as the season went along. As mentioned earlier, Almunia was dropped by Wenger and Mannone took his place in goal until Fabianski returned from injury. When he did, he took on the starting role and he had a torrid time in goal throughout the season. There were many occasions where his nerves got the better of him and his poor command of area allowed him to ship cheap goals. These goals cost us very important games, the first leg against Porto and away at Wigan are two of his worst games of the season. It's said Arsene Wenger still holds the Pole in high regard so many doubt he'll be leaving the club anytime soon. I don't believe he has the expertise needed to cut it at our level and he should be sold. Fabianski gets a 3/10.

Vito Mannone: We saw little of the young Italian goalkeeper this season but he managed to leave a good impression on us. He had a simply astounding performance against Fulham at Craven Cottage which saw him named Man of The Match in a 1-0 victory for us. He's only 22 years old though and that inexperience showed in a match against West Ham at The Boleyn Ground where we surrendered a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2. He was benched ever since and never saw playing time again. He shows a lot of promise and I'd rather see him in the team than Fabianski next season. I give Mannone a 7/10. 

Bacary Sagna: Didn't have as good a season as in the past. There were questions to be asked about his attacking, especially his crosses as many of them failed to hit the target. He is a defender however and his defending was pretty decent as a whole although he was found wanting in some of our significant games this season, particularly the 3-0 loss to Chelsea at home and the 3-1 loss to Manchester United, also at home. I think Sagna deserves a 6.

Thomas Vermaelen: For many he's our signing of the season. It's not hard to see why. He has been a stalwart in our defence and he deserves massive credit for how he's come into the Premiership and adjusted so quickly. There's a certain confidence about him and the way he goes into tackles that shows why he's played every single Premiership game he's been fit for this season. Many doubted him when we signed him, some questioning his height. It didn't matter at all as he's shown how good he is in the aerial challenges and he's also been very useful to us in front of goal as well as the Belgian snatched 8 goals in the campaign. Not bad for a center back, huh? Vermaelen gets an 8.5/10 from me and I don't think many will dispute that.

William Gallas: William has had his fair share of critics for his outspoken nature in the past in his time as Arsenal skipper. Ever since being stripped of the captaincy he's turned his Arsenal career around. He's had a very good season partnered with Vermaelen at the back. His tackling has been a lot better this season and it's not far fetched to wonder if our season capitulated because of his injury. It seemed to go downhill at just about the same time. Big Bill gets a 7.5/10 from me. I hope we replace him adequately this summer.

Mikael Silvestre: Didn't get much playing time this season as he was always just a bit player in our team who got into the starting eleven when a defender got injured. Most of his playing time came towards the end of the season when Gallas got injured and quite frankly he's been very poor. He hasn't done much to merit a contract extension and he, like Gallas, is on his way out of the club. 5/10

Johan Djourou: This is a guy Wenger has a lot of patience for but like Robin van Persie he's always finding himself injured. Unfortunately for the Swiss center back he picked up a knee injury which ruled him out for all games this season except the Fulham game on the final day. I hope he stays fit next season and push the new defender(s) coming in for a regular starting place. Rating not applicable here.

Gael Clichy: He's struggled this season. While there's no doubting his passion, heart and commitment to Arsenal Football Club his game was riddled with costly defensive mistakes. He's put a bit more pressure on Vermaelen to work harder too. I don't want him to leave but I hope he improves for next season. I'd give him a 6.

Kieran Gibbs: Much like Djourou, injury has been the downfall of young Kieran Gibbs this season. He made only 7 appearances and was pretty solid until he had troubles with his back. He shows a lot of promise and I hope things go better for him next season. 6.5/10 from me.

Armand Traore: Armand was rumoured to be on his way to Birmingham at the start of the season but he quickly rubbished those rumours saying he wants to stay and fight for a place in the Arsenal team. He had 12 appearances and while he wasn't exactly stellar he wasn't really bad either. He had an indifferent season. To be fair to him however, he's not a natural defender, but a left midfielder who's being played at the back by Arsene Wenger to learn more about the defensive side of the game. Whether he'll still be here next season remains to be seen. Armand gets a 6/10.

Sol Campbell: When the rumours swirled about his return to Arsenal I was pretty vocal about being unsure that we should be taking a gamble like that. He's 35 years old and I questioned his ability to keep up with football at this level. Man did he prove me wrong! This is one of those cases where humble pie couldn't be any tastier to me. In my opinion, he's been our best signing this season. He's been very active, more so than you'd expect of someone his age and he's been very solid and consistent since signing for us in January and you can see the leadership he brings to the team while playing. He'll definitely be around next season and I'm happy we have his leadership at our disposal. Sol Campbell gets a 9/10 for me.

I just hit preview and realised that this will be a really long blog post if I continue. I'll let you rest your eyes a bit and you can check back later for part 2 with the midfield and attack ratings. Before you go, have a look back at the season that was:
(Special thanks to radioactivesound for the video)

Leave your thoughts on the ratings, what you agree/disagree with as well as your own ratings in the comment section below. Also give your thoughts on the video.

One more thing, please hit the follow button on the right before you go. Take care and have a good one!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Honour or Appreciation?

by Rachid

It's customary for teams playing at home on the final day of the season to take a lap around their pitch and greet their fans. It's become known as the Lap of Honour. In recent times at Arsenal it's been known as the Lap of Appreciation.

For some fans there seems to be a bit of ambiguity in the terms and I've noticed that our lap of appreciation yesterday was met by some Arsenal fans with negativity. I've come across people calling it an "embarrassing parade" as well as other similar terms. The real embarrassment is how people have misunderstood this whole custom.

Many people who have an opinion on this see it as the fans honouring the Arsenal players for their achievements. This is why they view it with such negativity, because they believe there's nothing there to honour. Perhaps if we'd won a cup or had a much better season where perhaps we reached a cup final and/or stayed in the title race until the final day then it would've been the players taking a lap of honour for the fans to thank them for their accomplishment. This is when it's a lap of honour. It's not though, for a reason I'm about to discuss.

As there was no silverware gained this season and things began to peter out at the end, it's actually a lap of appreciation. They're actually thanking the fans for sticking with them through thick and thin this season. It's also for acknowledging that they could've done better but didn't and it's their way of making ammends for how the season panned out, saying "We could've done more this season but we fell short and we're thankful that you're putting up with us".

Looking at the crowd on hand after the match leads me to the conclusion that it doesn't matter what people who are offended by the lap of appreciation think. Think about it. Those who truly appreciate their efforts would have stayed and it's their opinion that counts, not the fair-weather fans who only support their team when everything's going right. Not the fans who leave before the final whistle or the fans who boo the players because their performance hasn't exactly been up to par and it definitely doesn't matter what those who call themselves fans yet want Spurs to finish above us think. Those who stayed behind yesterday for it are the truly appreciative ones and they're the ones who see something worth appreciating in the players, given the fact that we've actually stayed in the title race longer this season, while having to cope with so many unfortunate injuries as well. It's these fans that the players should take a lap to thank, not the ones who don't truly appreciate what this team has gone through this season. If the non-fans had stayed around they wouldn't have been deserving of a thank you from the players.

It must've been a poignant event for those who were there because seeing some of the players walk around with their children served to remind us that they actually have a life off the pitch and they're humans like us. It reminds us that they must have put the season into perspective and realised what they could've done better throughout the course of it. They too must've been affected by the season taking the bad turn it took towards the end. Lets also note that many of those players who were out there were out injured for quite some time. It helps us to put things into perspective and realise that given our injury difficulties, to finish third and stay in the title race for as long as we did deserves some level of praise and appreciation.

Another thing I've noticed about this is that there was no William Gallas there. Why's that? Apparently he's off in France receiving therapy for his knee injury. There's word Arsene Wenger's going to meet him there to talk about signing a new deal. I'm a fan of Gallas' efforts this season but I know I'm only one of a minority of fans who want him to stick around.

Anyway, I've babbled on long enough now. Here's a video of the lap of appreciation:

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Arsenal 4-0 Fulham: Third place secured, frustrating season put to bed

by Rachid

The performance we've been looking for since losing the Barcelona game in March finally came yesterday. You could say we went up against a makeshift Fulham side that couldn't care less about playing yesterday because their focus was squarely on Wednesday's Europa League final but it's the result that's important. A win was needed to secure third place and a solid 4-0 win is what we got. It was a game where we still missed important faces but managed to put on a performance that you'd expect from us at full strength.

We started the match pretty gung ho and apart from an error on Fabianski's part early on where he came out to claim a loose ball and dropped it in the area, the first half was all about Arsenal attacking the Fulham goal. The opener came in the 21st minute when Mark Schwarzer uncharacteristically left his goal to collect a backpass but was beaten to it by Andrey Arshavin. The Russian skipped over him, went down by the byline and saw van Persie begging for the ball just in front of the goal mouth. He decided to ignore him and continued from the tight angle and slammed the ball into the net after a deflection off John Pantsil. If he'd missed that chance van Persie would've had every right to be pissed off but it just goes to show how sure Arshavin is of his ability. You could even argue that that was perhaps an intent to silence his critics who have labeled him as lazy lately. There was certainly no laziness about that goal and the effort he put into keeping the ball in play as it almost crossed over the byline, and all the power he put into the shot to ensure that it would hit the back of the net even if a defender had gotten a touch - as Panstil did.

We doubled our lead not long after as in the 26th minute Sagna played Walcott through into space. Theo looked up and saw van Persie waiting in the box and played the ball square to him. It took him two bites of the cherry to score as the first shot was tipped by Schwarzer unto the underside of the bar but the Dutchman made no mistake in converting the rebound.

Eleven minutes later we were three up. Walcott played the ball in from the right and it went to Eboue. He flicked it on but it bobbled between Pantsil's legs and Chris Baird's unfortunate touch took the ball into his own net.

In the 39th minute van Persie, playing deep, found Eboue. The Ivorian made a simply sublime flick off the back of his heel to find Walcott on the edge of the area. Theo left his marker standing and went through on goal from an angle but only had Schwarzer to beat and put the ball wide of the far post. It would've been an absolutely breath taking goal had he finished it. He won't receive a more perfect pass in his whole career. That would've definitely been one of the Arsenal goals of the season, a definite highlight reel moment missed.

The second half saw Arsenal attacking much like they did in the first half. The final goal came in the 84 minute when Carlos Vela made his way into the box and produced a sublime chip over Schwarzer for his second goal of the season. While watching him celebrate I had mixed emotions. I was happy he scored such an awesome goal but at the same time I was a bit frustrated. Vela has so much technical ability but to be honest, he's failed to take his chances when they've been granted to him this season. I've argued in the past that it's partly due to him not settling in England but after the uninterested performance he gave at Blackburn last week I'm beginning to think the amount of passion needed for him to make it in this team just isn't there. I also wondered if that was to be his last goal in an Arsenal shirt.

The victory meant we secured 3rd place as Tottenham stubbed their toes at Turf Moor against Burnley, losing 4-2. You have to say though that it shouldn't have come down to this. It would've been unthinkable for Spurs to finish ahead of us and the fact that we found ourselves in a situation where we were in a battle with them for who'd finish higher on the final day makes me a bit disappointed, even though the danger was averted.

The players went on their lap of appreciation but unlike in previous seasons many fans left before it took place and it sends a message to show how displeased Arsenal fans are in general with the way the season ended. It also went a long way in showing the growing skepticism surrounding Arsene Wenger and his ability to lead this team to victory. He'll no doubt have noticed the scantiness of the crowd and realised that he'll be under intense scrutiny this summer to improve the team in all the areas needed.

It means there'll be countless transfer rumours for us to wade through as the summer rolls along and I'll be back on here blogging about the rumours that have some ounce of credibility in them. Also, expect an in depth rundown of the season that was in the coming days.

Oh, one more thing: for all you cunts hoping for Spurs to finish above us...put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Until next time, fellow Gooners, have a good one!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Arsenal vs Fulham: Last Throw of the Dice

And so it is that by the unmerciful hands of both fate and our own undoing, the Gunners find themselves scrapping for a third spot that really should have been all but wrapped up three weeks ago. Not the end to the season that we would have hoped for, but hey, we’re here now and there’s very little we can do but look forward.

This is a game for pride on so many levels; to demonstrate that we’re still a good team, give the fans something to be proud of, and, of course, ensure that all important final blow that keeps us afloat above the Spurs.
To be brutally frank, the majority of our players have been totally spineless in recent weeks. We’ve thrown away a two-nil lead against Wigan and lost, been battered and bullied by Blackburn’s ogres like a bunch of fucking cowards, and ultimately shown a total lack of grit in almost every department.

All we as the fans can ask for in this game is that please...PLEASE could the players pick their cojones up off the ground and play like men. Give the semblance that you want to be here at least. Vela, whose had such little time on the pitch all season, jogged around like he didn’t give two sh*ts last game; spurning chances and generally giving nothing. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was his last game in an Arsenal shirt. I used him as an example but really, so many of the guys have played with their heads totally down over the last month. Show a bit of pride and some appreciation for the fans; give it your all is what we ask, because at the moment, it’s not just that you’re playing poorly, it’s that you boys really don’t seem to care.

The idea that Fulham have nothing to play for in this game is being tossed around, but I don’t really agree. Certainly, they have their eyes on their upcoming Europa final, but there are a lot of guys in this team who will be hoping that a good performance might book them a spot in that squad. We would be unwise to think this is going to be a cake-walk, especially considering recent form.

Arsene, give Eduardo a chance. Again, he’s another guy who may be playing his last match, so give him a chance to get a good send off from the fans. His is a sad story; a chance at Arsenal destroyed by injuries. I’d like to see has give this 4-5-1 the boot for this last game and really go at them; give the fans something to feel proud of.
In terms of injuries, Arshavin is available to start and Clichy is a possibility. Everybody else, including Almunia, is still a casualty.

Most likely, I would think this will be the squad/formation:
-----van Persie--------------------------Arshavin

Personally, I'd like to see a more attacking line-up, with Eboue at right-back, Diaby defensive midfield and maybe Rosicky on the right. But I doubt it will happen; especially when Sagna has been a consistant part of the team all season and deserves a send off. Maybe Nasri will play on the left and Eboue right. We'll wait and see.

If I had to stick my neck out I'd say 2-0 to the Gunners, but I hope its a thrashing! Just a win will do though, and a show of effort in appreciation of the fans who have given a lot of support this season. there have been times when I have been unbelievably proud this season, especially with performances and determination of players like Fabregas and Vermaelen, and Campbell too. We need this win, badly. We need to end on a high note; anything less will be a deep, deep low to end the season in. Come on you Gunners.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

And The Rumours Keep Coming...

by Rachid

There's not much happening in the world of Arsenal today so it led to me trawling NewsNow for Arsenal content and I came across this:
"I have always dreamed about going to Spain and playing for the best team in the world.
''They were unsure about me when I was playing in Russia but I have shown them that I'm the real deal and I know they are ready to talk to me.
"I want to play for the top team and be trying to win every competition, I don't think you can rate one better than the other, it is all about winning. I want to play for them and that is never going to change.
"I know Gael Clichy would love to play out there as well, and he would work well in their team.
"It would be tough trying to compete with Xavi and Iniesta but that is the competition I want, I don't want to walk into a team."
 Maybe I just don't want to believe this because I really like Arshavin as a player and as a character but I can't understand why he'd say something like this, especially so soon after Wenger warned him to watch his mouth after the whole Russian interview controversy. I also don't get why he'd be making these statements when Barcelona, or no other club for that matter, have made an offer for him and it would mean that he'd have to stay at Arsenal another season after saying that to face the vitriol the fans will obviously dole out to him. It's not as if it's never happened before.

Something else I've been thinking about is why is it that these things only seem to happen with Arsenal players. Why is it that whenever a transfer window nears, it's always some controversy surrounding our players leaving? Why don't we hear United or Chelsea players flirting with other clubs to come get them? I might seem paranoid but I truly believe it's just another attempt by the media to settle our team. It seems Arsenal's the easiest team in England for the media to target to start witch hunts against the manager and player so time and time again we see stupid little stories and rumours like this.

The fans are to be blamed as well. Many times things like this come out the fans immediately believe it, no matter how far fetched it sounds and no matter how little logic there seems to be behind it. Why is that though? Why is it so easy for fans to believe made up stories involving our players but when the players come out and categorically deny them on it's harder for the fans to believe those quotes that have come directly from the horses mouth.

It also seems now that the whole 'Cesc To Barca' drama (and I really hate using that D word) has gone dormant, the media needs a new target to unsettle and it seems the two players being focused on this season are Clichy and Arshavin. I don't think it's much of a coincidence that both players are linked to Barcelona again. Whenever these rumours come up, Barcelona's always the team we hear showing an interest in them. It's getting ridiculous now. Ridiculously boring.

Anyway leave your thoughts in the comments section.