Thursday, May 20, 2010

Annoyed with Wenger, Annoyed with Barca, Good Luck to Cesc

This situation is solely the fault of Arsene Wenger. He has consistently failed to strengthen the squad, and a 23 year old is being asked to carry it. I'm quite sure that if Wenger managed the situation better, Cesc would not have his heart set on a move back home at this still early point in his career.

At the same time, you have to wonder about the ethics of what Barca are doing. Between themselves and Real, a monopoly seems to be forming on the best players in the world. People like to see Barca as the good guys to Madrid's evil empire, but their reaction to Real's renewed galactico policy has been to begin throwing equally obscene money around.

Last summer, there was the ridiculous deal for Zlatan. They already seem to be effectively replacing him, with the deal for David Villa just concluded. And now they chase Fabregas, when they already have Xavi and Iniesta to pull the strings in midfield. One would have thought the thing for them to do would be wait until Xavi is ready to step aside a little, and then make their move for Fabregas, meanwhile perhaps saving that money to spend on their ridiculous defence. Still, you get know-nothing arseholes on Revista de la Liga, suggesting that they just play Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc across the midfield and three strikers in front. Do these people even understand football? Admittedly, it is possible that Iniesta will move into a front three with Messi and Villa, but I don't think that's his best position. And what does that do to Pedro, who's just had an amazing season?

It just seems Barca are being a bit greedy.

As for Fabregas, you can't really blame him for wanting to go now as the manager has turned into either a devious bullshitter who wants the boy to piss away most of his career being "patient" and playing with morons, or simply a delusional mad man. My thoughts on the matter had been that Fabregas would stay because he knew he could not yet dislodge Xavi as the main man, but it seems the realisation that Arsenal are going nowhere in the immediate future has been enough to send him home. Well done Arsene, and good luck Cesc.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's been coming...

"But the single biggest worry for me, bigger than the mullering that may await, is that Fabregas may really see a battering from Barca as the final straw for him at Arsenal." - 19th March.

"The trouble with a philosophy like Wenger's is that one can never wholly dismiss it, because it is all about "the future". But people are slowly coming to realise that this future may never come about." - 2nd February.

"But I still have the nagging feeling that the manager could be doing more to surround cesc with the teammates he deserves..." - 21st January.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Prophet of Doom says: Apocalypse Soon

A lot of people think things have reached some kind of nadir. I thought so after Wigan. I thought so at different points in the season just past, on account of the manager's oversights, the crap players that play on a frequent basis, the embarrassing defeats to once close rivals.

A couple of days ago I agreed with Mourinho. That never used to happen, but he basically said, Arsenal used to win one way, but they're trying it another, and it'll never work. He's right. Arsene's Arsenal used to have winners and warriors. Now he puts out pampered pansies. That is far too much alliteration for one paragraph.

He has prioritised profits over success (fair enough perhaps, in the short term), but on the playing side, principles over pragmatism. A cut-price team needs a strategy to match, at times. Like when playing against clearly superior teams. Manchester United and Chelsea, in a sub-par season for both, remained totally, achingly superior. And when Arsenal played those teams, the Gunners performed the tactical equivalent of bending over.

One must look for progress, so it is worrying that said trope was carried over from 08/09. Overall, 2010's team is better than 2009's, but don't forget that it is easily worse than 2008's, never mind 2004's. The whole 2004 team was quickly dismantled, and it's not like we've been building since then. We've been building, dismantling, and then building. The team improves, then some of the better players are sold or move on, so we go backwards.

Thus this Summer becomes one of unbearable importance. First piece of bad news is that William Gallas is as good as gone. Some see him as a disruptive influence- and that's just amongst the squad! A lot of fans resent his status as a) an ex- Chelsea player and b) a sulky cry-baby. Sometimes it can pay off to rid yourself of a good player. It did to a great extent with Henry, for instance. But the benefit depends on Wenger repeating his trick from last summer of signing a very, very good defender, because Gallas is after all a very, very good defender.

Other bad news, is only prospective, but we await it in bitter expectation every summer: more high-profile departures. Fabregas, Clichy, Van Persie would fall into this category. Arshavin also, despite his strange and underwhelming performances of late. It is time to consolidate what's good in the squad. There is, perhaps, some dead wood to be cut adrift, but I think Wenger will stand by the douche bags in whom he constantly professes his faith.

With Chamakh on the way for free, and Gallas to depart, he should, quite clearly, sign a goalkeeper and a centre-back of some repute. That is at a minimum.

Another piece of business that should be done is to get another combative midfielder, because to have only one in your squad is suicidal. I will not hold out too much hope for this. But those three signings, and no more major departures, would certainly constitute progress before a ball was kicked next season.

Wenger may be about to leave. I have never experienced such mixed feelings about something. Frankly, I don't think he's the manager he once was. He performs an infuriating, paradoxical double act of hiding behind his project, and simultaneously refusing to lower our supposed targets while this project hinders the team.

Assuming he opts for more "3rd place is a trophy" bullshit, and doesn't aim high this summer (he always will in his words, but it's action and the results that follow that count) what will it mean for Arsenal? If the supporter disgruntlement leads him to call it a day? Who will be in charge in the boardroom at that point? Will there be a lot of money to spend for his replacement? Will Arsenal appoint the right man? Will the players, all of whom were brought here by Wenger, want to stay and play for someone else? Will there be anyone left in the playing staff with a true affinity for the club?

I just want the old Wenger back.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Things I Got Wrong This Season

So, Chelsea rounded off their first ever double today... Remember the Sky Sports mantra, this is the best league in the world, and yet what seems to me an underwhelming Chelsea side have plundered both Premiership and Cup. But then, what do I know? Very little it seems. Here is a selection of some of my great predictions from the past season.

* Chelsea will not win the league.
* Chelsea will win the Champions League.
* LIVERPOOL will win the league. LIVERPOOL!
* Man City for 4th.
* Arsenal to fall out of the top four.

The prophet of doom will return tomorrow to cast cynical shadows of doubt over this summer.

Is The Arse Really Falling Out of Arsenal?


People are easily led. The headlines become the stories. Punchlines substitute for content.

Fabregas says he's staying, the papers say he's going, and the people believe the latter, when the player's quotes only support the former.

So it seems likely he'll stay... But the question should be, SHOULD HE???

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spurs Win Fourth(?) Place Play-Off

Mancini's Manchester City, as they showed in the recent game at the Emirates, are too negative to go and win a big game, as they had to lastnight. They need urgency, but from the opposition, so that spaces are opened up for fast breaks, and their quick forwards can exploit that. With Stephen Ireland injured- and even before that, neither in form nor favour- City are bereft of creativity in the centre of the park. Spurs comfortbaly repelled their predictable attacks. Andy Gray remarked fairly early that Tevez was dropping very deep just to get involved- the result of Nigel De Jong and the pointless Gareth Barry lacking the ability to make any kind of telling pass. Maybe I'm being harsh on Barry, because it was with his enforced withdrawal, making way for Patrick the Passenger Vieira, that Spurs decided to make their superiority tell. They battered City for the remainder, and should have scored on a couple of occasions before Crouch finally bundled in the winner.

Harry Redknapp was rewarded for the kind of positivity even managers like Wenger rarely exhibit: in a big game, he put out a 4-4-2, without a recognised "holding" player (Palacios was benched), entrusting the leisurely Huddlestone and the diminutive but wonderful Luka Modric to win the midfield battle. It should not be forgotten that Modric was long linked with Arsenal before he moved to Spurs, and Wenger ratherly sourly stated since that the Croat was too lightweight to play in the Premiership. You'd hope he doesn't really believe that. I'm not sure where Modric would fit into Arsenal's team right now, but he's certainly a better player than Nasri, or it seems Arshavin, or any number of equally lightweight players on our books.

Note also that Spurs are clearly capable of performing with a discipline that has long since deserted their North London neighbours. Entertaining football is well and good, and in fact Spurs have arguably played the best football in England this season, but games like lastnight's are tight and tense, and Arsenal consistently fail in those battles, where in bygone days, they would produce a performance to fit the occasion.

Third place and, vitally, automatic Champions League qualification should still be ours, provided the team wakes from its collective stupor long enough to at least draw against a distracted Fulham side on Sunday. In light of my recent rantings, it's worth pointing out the Sky Sports statistics shown lastnight, with the net spending figures of the big clubs. Arsenal are the only one who have made a profit from transfers in recent years. City have spent a grotesque amount on largely average players who are only good enough for fifth. Spurs are a distant second, having spent heavily to get where they are today. But they have got there.

Perhaps some day the critics will all be made look foolish as Wenger is replaced by another great manager who gets the benefit of his predecessor's frugal nature. We will all marvel at how Arsene Knew all along. Still, I can't help feeling that there have been missed opportunities, because Wenger failed to find a middle ground between stability and maintaining a squad worthy of the name Arsenal. Those figures are a victory for idealism but that victory is hollow without a good team on the pitch. So let's hope that those figures are not an end in themselves, but a means to put us where we are this summer, in a position to spend some fucking money on some fucking proper players.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I'll Be The Asshole Saying "I Told You So"

Approaching my 100th post, and still saying the same things as the first one.

I know that this blog is almost always preaching negativity, but I think that a lot of this has proven to be justified negativity. Perhaps the more relevant issue is whether it is misdirected, because much of my ire has been aimed at the manager, who many still seem to see as an untouchable figure. To put him on such a lofty pedestal is foolish. George Graham had almost comparable success (albeit without the nice football) but Arsenal had descended into something of a shambles by the time he was sacked- less than a year after winning the European Cup Winners Cup. So surely it is time to question Wenger, as we look back on five years without a trophy. True, George Graham's Arsenal team were more erratic in the league, with mid-table finishes in 93 and the season in which he was sacked, 95, but back then, third or fourth did not mean Champions League football, and at least they were still winning silverware consistently.

With Wenger, things are admittedly a little more complex. He is the man who has revolutionised the club, on and off the pitch. We have a reputation, which I frankly now believe to be half bullshit, for playing nice football, and for being run the right way. Arsenal now exist as a different entity. Dennis Bergkamp was the starting point, but Arsene Wenger is clearly the most important figure in that. It is tempting to think that if Wenger went, a lot of the French players, Fabregas, and others would follow. For them, he is the club.

But let's rewind thirteen years or so. This club did NOT start with Arsene Wenger. It change into something more attractive for a lot of people, and became more successful, but a winning mentality was already there in the playing staff. While the manager is credited with prolonging the top-flight careers of Adams, Bould, Keown, Dixon and Winterburn, they provided him with the platform for success. Watching Arsenal today, does anyone believe that Arsene Wenger could ever have constructed himself a defence that good?

Some other things to consider. Arsenal reached their only ever European Cup final in 2006 mainly through defensive solidity. In every knockout round before the final, Arsenal failed to score in one leg- at home to Real Madrid, away to Juventus, and away to Villareal, where they barely threatened a shot. They got through because they conceded precisely zero goals in those ties. Martin Keown was at this time a member of the coaching staff. Apparently, Arsene the Autocrat bristles at suggestions that this was of some importance. Arsene the Autocrat this season often stated a Keeganesque belief that Arsenal could triumph through scoring more than the opposition. At the season's depressing end, he is blaming the defence for our lack of success, and absolving the likes of Denilson and Diaby, because they apparently made enough chances at the other end. Do they have no obligation to protect the defence? A defence that had Vermaelen and Gallas, two of our outstanding players?

Maybe he was always like this. Maybe it is the lack of experience on the pitch that is costing us. I used to think that argument too black-and-white but I'm coming around to it now. If not experience, professionalism. Petit and Vieira were professional enough, and good enough, to transform their games in order to better protect the defence in 97/98. Maybe it's telling that this was not Wenger's idea but the result of a team meeting in which senior players aired their views. Where before Wenger had Vieira as liuetenant, the old back four, Bergkamp, Parlour et al, what does he have now? You may say that Vieira grew up in that Arsenal team, but that's the whole point. He grew up beside Adams, Keown and the rest. Fabregas should still be growing up beside experience, instead, he's being asked to lead. Lead a team of (and forgive me) WANKERS. There, I said it. I have a genuine dislike for a lot of Arsenal's players today. They don't care what shirt they're wearing. That Wigan game was the last straw for me. It was unseemly. Abou Diaby should not be allowed play again. Fabianski should be put out of his misery, and Almunia likewise. Denilson needs a kick up the ass, and nobody's around to swing a leg.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I'm Going On Strike: Blackburn 2-1 Arsenal

Will we even finish third?

Let's look for some positives... Wenger still sounds, in public remarks at least, as if he doesn't think we need a new goalkeeper. Fabianski provided yet more concrete evidence to the contrary. He is amazingly prolific in his mistake-making. So maybe some good will come out of another defeat, in a perverse way.

With all the first-choice players we're missing, I see the season's end as an audition for the squad players. Almost to a man, they're failing. Abou Diaby is, for me, a nothing player. Flashes of mercurial brilliance are not what's required from a central midfielder, although in a league in which Steven Gerrard has been lionised, you'd be forgiven for thinking so. Theo Walcott, I've said all I have to say. Eduardo looks a spent force thanks to the neanderthal ethic of the English game. Vela is the new Aliadieire. Nasri, though talented, shirks responsibility too often. Yes, we are missing good players, but what is a squad for?

Third place, assuming we still finish there: some will say it's no disgrace. If they've bought into Sky Sports bullshit, they may peddle a line about it being the best league in the world. This year, the league's relative poorness has covered up Arsenal's myriad deficiencies somewhat but nine defeats cannot be ignored. Something is rotten in the state of Arsenal. You can fall for the rhetoric and the ideals if you so please but as far as I'm concerned, the right man for the job is the man who does the right things; Arsene Wenger hasn't for quite some time and thus I suggest that the Summer and the season that follows become his audition.