Wednesday 29 February 2012

International Friendlies - the return of stronger players!

Arsenal vs Manchester City - China cup - "Bird's Nest", Beiging

We have our regular dose of international friendlies again and as much as I would love the prospect of and England vs Holland match, I wish it would have been between seasons. Playing an international match, right in between two very important matches or more significantly ahead of such a crucial period in the season, is a bit worrying. You will keep reading about how important the next few months are, or about the March Madness, but it in fact is true. 13 of our first team players, even though the first team can be of 11-we have a stronger squad with 13 first teamers!, it's only obvious to worry about the state of the players returning from these matches.

I wish these all of them success in their respective matches but I hope they come through unhurt. Although, for the Holland vs England match, say if  Theo and RVP play, I am a bit confused where to put my support, he he RVP of course! There was some news that RVP might have some niggle and might be rested. Bert van Marwijk had yet to decide whether he'll playing him or not and he won't take any chances with him. The last thing we need is our skipper to return with an injury and it would be a big blow for the match against Liverpool. Even, TV and Rosicky were not fully fit having picked up minor injuries in last weekend's Rottenham massacre. Though it might be just superficial injuries, given our luck with  fitness of players, it would be a better idea to rest them. Although, I don't know how much their international managers would care about it.

Park will be playing against Kuwait and I hope he scores, he always does...against them at least. But I guess it would do him good, to get some playing time. Having scored against Norwich, for the Reserves, he must be itching to put his studs on the ball again. Not touching this issue again! Other than him, we have our other half of the 3 pronged strike force(!??), Chamakh due to face Burkina Faso. He had an injury too against Norwich, I don't know if his toe has gone back to normal. Like Park, I hope he scores too, if not for Morocco, at least for his sake. It's been a long time I have seen his Mohawk been unsettled because of headers. TV, against Greece is a doubtful starter.

Maybe Stuart Pearce needs a bit of time with the team and hoping to have a permanent job as England manager, but I really don't understand the sense of playing these friendlies. The managers are already watching these players in leagues, what reason could they have to play the internationals other than seeing if the freshly ordered kits suit their players? It is a big distraction from the situation at hand, which is their club's league run. Steven Gerrard just announced last week that he was willing to give up his international career for his beloved Liverpool. I am not suggesting that people give up on their international positions for sake of clubs, sure there is a duty towards your country, but the timing of these matches couldn't be more appropriate. If unfortunately a player gets injured and is kept off from club football for some time, it is the club who suffers and more so if the that club is Arsenal, where there are more players on the treatment table than in the squad.

There has been a lot of talk lately about RVP's contract, and though he has stated that he wouldn't be getting into any kind of deals until the end of the season, it gives the board some time to think over how exactly they can manage to keep him satisified. Is it money or is it the success of this season that would matter, it is partly in their hands to simplify things. Personally I feel he should be given be given anything that he desires, although he won't be demanding the stars for his personal collection. Ideally, he should be getting something that would keep him off the radars of other clubs. Though he doesn't look the kind of guy who would turn to ManC to pay all his debts and mortgages and all other materialistic things, it's only natural to be wanting to earn more. But there is more to club football than the money and Arsene has explained about the desires of top athletes,
I believe that any person in top sport must win 7-1 like we did [against Blackburn], go home and think 'what did I do wrong today?' That is also the same when you lose 3-0, I feel that the common denominator of people who are successful at the top level is that they have a fair, objective assessment of their performance. They can be more personal, detached, angry or happy but if they are at the top they analyse what they do well. Top-level sportsmen are even over-critical of themselves.
To put it in simpler terms, he means that any top footballer, unlike some who are happy to warm the benches at the Etihad stadium, cannot just be happy with money or even with whatever they have achieved. They will keep wanting more success and challenge themselves to stay on the top. Although, in football a lot depends on your team too and what exactly is their level of competitiveness. A team like Barcelona, where even the players on the bench can take on any team in the world, have to be on their toes and snatch at opportunities when they get it. Again, it is up to the board and Arsene to make sure that if everything goes well at the end of the season, there are players who are competitive enough and hungry for success, to surround RVP. With the figures put out in the financial results, I don't think it should be a problem.

We come to the matter of signing players and our media is always hardworking when it comes to rumours. There has been a cornucopia of rumours throughout the internet, this morning, about Lukasz Podolski having agreed terms with Arsenal to join them in the summer. Although, I would like the prospect of seeing him sign for Arsenal, the fact is that it is not happening till the transfer window opens and apparently for some people, this is a limbo. The window is still a far way away and there is lot to fight for this season and put our thoughts to a better use. I suggest we lay off such temptations and wait until summer to find out if it is real or just a mirage.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Still bragging.

First league goal in two years, could there be more?

Don't you love these weeks where you brag about almost everything right from being a superman to being the best team in London! No nauseating feelings, just plain bliss. Everyone is on the top of the world after beating "them" and what a battering that was. Sure Rottenham won't forget that in a hurry. Hope it tampers their season effectively and 7 points doesn't look that far enough.

If you have a quick look at our season, we have had some amazing victories, some that made you believe that we could be the next Barcelona. For instance the 5-3 at Stamford Bridge, another London rival. It just showed you that a team with the kind of mental strength that we showed and with the technically sound players, you could beat anyone. The 7-1ders against Blackburn and the amazing winners against Leeds and Sunderland. I know those were scored by TH14, but it still was a team effort. If we can keep up that kind of spirit and determination a bit longer then there is everyone reason to believe that this team can go the distance.

The only problems with those wins has been that we have not maintained that momentum in the forthcoming matches. It's almost as if everyone goes on a vacation and there seems a sense of leniency there on. Only till the the water is up to our heads and everyone is going for their necks, do they come to their senses and come out with something absolutely marvelous like on Sunday. Somebody needs to stand behind them with a stick and I really think that AW should protect his players a little less. Not that it's a bad thing. Just look at Walcott, who would believe that he could be such a calm finisher, apart from the games against Chelsea and Rottenham? You know, most of his goals have come across the post, from the wings. Most of his misses have been when he has been straight through the defense and face to face with the keeper. But it all comes back to this.
Szczesny has showed his support for Theo and says,
He works very hard every day, scores a lot of goals in training and just needs to get the goals in games. But we are very pleased for him and we hope he can do it all over again in the games from now.
Even when he scored his first goal on Sunday you could see RVP's reaction and he just looked so happy when Theo got that goal. For me he has been far too inconsistent for a player who has played regularly in this team. If he needs to succeed, and with the Euros coming up, he has to give that kind of performance regularly. We don't expect goals in every match he plays, but you can just imagine the frustration when a ball is taken off his legs.

Wenger has heaped praises on the left footed sledgehammer of RVPs,
I think he has an exceptional technique, I mean really exceptional. I have seen many great players over 30 years but Robin van Persie's first touch is just exceptional. After that he has the qualities of left-footed players; they are very quick to finish, have great movement in the box and are very intelligent.
Szczesny sounds excited than ever when talking about RVP,
 He's not bad is he? He only scored one goal today though, which is really disappointing for him! We are used to him scoring a hat-trick. But he set up a couple and he was great. He worked very hard defensively, headed a few balls away when we defended corners and scored a fantastic goal. That's what he is all about - he is the best player in the Premier League and we are very pleased to have him.
And after you have seen that goal on Sunday, you just can't stop watching it. The more you watch it, the more it becomes difficult for you to believe the finish at the end of that shot. I hope the Arsenal Board sees how critical it is to retain RVP and God forbid they don't rue the summer that was or even the winter for that matter.

The next seven days are absolutely crucial, and in every way, going to training, doing the right thing there and coming out of it unscathed, also if that wasn't enough, we have international friendlies this week, so really hoping that everyone returns one-piece. We know that we are living on the edge when it comes to injuries and anymore of those and we will be really tight in the size of the squad. We go to Anfield next, and it can be one of the most intimidation places to go to. Liverpool have just won the League Cup and have every reason to believe that they can come out on top this weekend. However, beating Rottenham in that manner isn't short of any League Cup. I might sound like AW's "Top four is a trophy" phrase, at least what I am saying sounds and feels real enough.

We still have some crucial games in the league to play and so do Chelsea and Rotteham. Who knows, if we can do the opposite of what we did after last season's Carling cup loss, we are looking at the 3rd position too! Hurray, no UCL qualifiers then! But there's still a lot to play this season and I suggest we take every match as it comes and like Arsene, "I believe we have what it takes and we will try hard to show that what it takes is duly taken! "

P.S.: Congratulations to Arseblog for completing 10 years yesterday, I hope I can make it that far!

-Image courtesy:

Monday 27 February 2012

Still the Kings of London!

Redknapp must have woken up yesterday thinking, YES, Rottenham are the only team in London and after just one season of so much success probably though he had achieved everything. Little did he know that by the end of the day he will carrying his sorry face back home after finding his and his teams true place in football world, and that is in the sewers of White Hart Lane. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on his part thinking that they were the better team in London after not even a season in the top four.

After two early goals against us, and the first one as early as 4 minutes, I never thought that we would make through and there would have been so many "There we go again...", and no one can blame them for saying so after our recent form. The way Walcott went about the first half, you were sure to predict a half time substitution and the Ox coming  to replace him. But that's the thing, when these things don't work, we have been murderous and immediately pounce on the manager, questioning his ability to make decisions. What a decision it was to leave Walcott on for some more time! If you have observed, this season, Walcott has been very effective in matches where Arsenal were doing really well offensively. His performance in the 3-5 against Chelsea, the assists against Blackburn and now yesterday. All in all he has done very well in most of the derbies. All he needs to do is maintain his consistency.

The match started as usual, we were put on the back foot and our defense looked all over the place. The first goal was down to such poor positional awarement, Adebayor just slipped through a pass to Saha and he struck it. TV was very unfortunate to get a deflection on the strike and the ball looped over Szczesny. The second one was not a penalty for me and I have seen those not being given in Arsenal's favor so many times. The fact that Mike Dean was monitoring, didn't make matters easier, Adebayor took the penalty and even though Szczesny went the right way, he just couldn't stop it. The co-ordination was not right and we were just not feeling cohesive enough. We were still looking to make inroads and there were a couple of chances that just didn't get converted. Walcott was looking too erratic and it looked like he would have to be substituted at half time.

Suddenly things started to fall into place and for some reason, Rottenham were not looking to capitalise on their fantastic start. We had a corner, and I know we have not done well on the set-piece front too often. Somehow Sagna lost his marker, surprisingly it was Bale marking Sagna, and got at the end of a decent corner kick and headed powerfully into Rottenhams net. Just before that Rosicky was denied a header by a very good block by Friedel, but Rosicky showed some positive signs early on a was looking to attack. Him and Benayoun exchanged positions continuously, and it was just too much for Kyle Walker to handle. Our second goal came just minutes later and I am sure the arguments about the world's best lone striker must have been put to rest after RVP's strike. Song just looked to lob the ball over the defense, but it was cleared by Assou-someone. It fell to RVP and he did very well to create some space and still many would have not shot from that kind of position, but the finish in the end was world class and just shows why the world's best teams are after him. The down slide had just begun for Rottenham after the equaliser.

Arsenal were on top at half time and Harry decided to strengthen his midfield at half time by sending
Van Der *aart and Sandro for Krancjar & Saha. Even they could not be any more constructive and were just spectators to the on coming avalanche. Walcott was, to the surprise of many, continued after half time and he did well to repay the faith AW showed in him. Rosicky was looking like his old self and got more dangerous as time went on. Finally he got his reward with a beautiful finish from a Sagna low cross. First goal in PL for two years and what a time to score it! Walcott looked more potent there on and had two great goals from two beautiful finishes. You almost didn't believe that this is the guy who missed a lollypop goal against the Wolves earlier in the season.

Everyone who had talked about how they wanted to win this derby, from RVP to Sagna, Rosicky and especially Wenger, would have said after the match "Told you..". It was just the perfect setting to beat our rivals and against such odds. I don't think many would have put there money on Arsenal to win it.
Before the match, when asked about predictions of the match, Nigel Winterburn replied,
Because it is the team I love, I have to support the fact that Arsenal will win, but looking at the current form, I don't know, I am not so sure.
Wouldn't he be glad to see his team come out on top with such remarkable feat. Wenger said after the match,
Arsenal are alive more than anybody thought before the game. Today we gave a performance that on the spirit side, the technical side, the drive of the whole team, on the style of the game we want to play everything was perfect despite a very bad start. I felt in the first five minutes Tottenham started well, after that it was all us for 85 minutes.
We complained about the nature of pitch against Milan and Sunderland, but back on home turf, it had to be Arsenal. Although, we need to start winning on all kinds of turfs if we have to get back on top.

Sagna mentioned that, on home ground and against "the enemy", Arsenal had no choice but to win it.
He added,
It might be the beginning of something. We lost quite heavily at AC Milan but we promised ourselves we would keep playing even if we kept losing. That is what we did. If we didn't keep fighting then we would have lost this game.
Even the manner of his return, after a horrific reverse fixture where he got injured, was outstanding.
Rejoicing his own opener, he said,
I wanted to score especially because the first game away was difficult for me. I am just very, very happy because this was a day to score.
Sure Arsenal must have their hopes quite high now, after such a huge win and still in the fourth position, after Chelsea scored 3 against Bolton on Saturday, we had to win this one and maybe keep our goal difference up. We travel to Anfield next week, which is always tough. Liverpool are in very good mood, after winning the Carling cup last evening. Last year, this cup final had triggered our downfall, but Liverpool managed to win it after a tough fight by Cardiff. Yes it is one of the tough games, but we should carry our momentum in that game too. The consistency has to be created and then maintained, maybe it would do us some good in our Champions League match too. And who knows, with the kind of game we played last night, nothing is impossible. I don't think anyone needs to remind Harry, who the Kings of London are!

Oh, meanwhile Arsenal have declared their interim financial results for this season, and even though I am not a commerce know-it-all, I think that we are in a pretty decent position..financially. It is just up to the management/Wenger where they opt to utilise these profits. As Wenger said,
We spend one pound if we make one and then people say 'what are they doing?

Sunday 26 February 2012

Derby day!

I decided to write this a bit late, for different reasons, one to be absolutely sure about the team news since there so little out there to predict anything and secondly my desktop has been giving me so many problems to get running that you would think he is Arshavin and you are pushing him to run, I would give it whatever it wants to run but I really don't know what it is that it wants!

So Arsene decides to keep Gervinho and the Ox, both on the bench. Walcott will continue his position while Rosicky on left. Interestingly, Benayoun starts behind RVP.
Whatever it is that went through Arsene's mind while deciding the team strategy, frankly I don't think the shape is right. Gervinho would have been pretty troublesome down the left and would have done alright to keep Kyle Walker occupied.

Also, keeping Ox on bench and starting Walcott shows nothing has been learned from past matches. Yes Walcott does have more experience but Ox has looked more potent than him. We also have Kos back in the squad, which will give a much needed stability to the defense. Whether this combination is able enough to keep the ball away from the goal is another debate. Arsene has been putting his faith in Walcott so much this season that it makes you wonder if Arsene really trusts him or he is just out of position. I don't think there are lack of options given the wingers on the bench, who are definitely better in quality than the current two. Rosicky might be starting on the wing but he and Benayoun might switch positions during the match, just to create something. Their collective experience might be a positive factor in Arsene choosing them above others.

This derby, for me, will be the decider whether Arsenal are good enough to win the "top four" trophy or not. RVP's contribution will be crucial for the match and there is no doubt that he won't give anything below 100% for the team, till the end of the season. He will make sure that he does everything in his power till the end of the season before he makes the big decision. Arsenal have been trying to get RVP to sign a new contract, however, he has put any contract talks on hold.
He says,
There have been a lot of stories, generally contradictory ones, about my contract situation recently so I’d like to make it clear. There’s nothing complicated or sinister - the Club and I have both agreed to speak at the end of the season and see how things stand. The boss, Ivan Gazidis and I are all comfortable with it. I need all my focus to be on football - on captaining this team, improving every day, doing extra work on the training pitch and preparing for the very busy schedule of fixtures we have.
I think he is right in suggesting that the focus has to be on the current situation and that is sticking to the top four. Any talks about the contract renewal is just going to distract him from his duties.
He adds,
If I look down the list, there’s not much time to sit down and think about anything else! For me, this is a time to play football and not speak about personal things. All of my energy needs to go on getting this team where we want it to be this season.
And I completely agree with that. Arsenal, and I mean the team has to do everything to stay in the top four and ensure Champions League football for next season. RVP is a great player and already at the peak of his career, at 29. Surely, he will want to win something before he is past his best and till then, play in the flight of European football. Nobody can blame him to want to leave, if Arsenal falls out of the four, after having done so much for the team this season. My emphasis is on "this season" only because before this he has been plagued by injuries galore and hardly ever made it through a complete season. Arsenal have always put faith in him and stick by him through all that. Some might say that he has something to repay and give back to the team. But look at this season, I can't even imagine where Arsenal would have stood if it wasn't for RVP. It would also depend a lot on how Arsene does his business and it's absolutely vital that he strengthens the squad and brings real quality to the team.

But all those doubts will be laid to rest at the end of the season. Until then Arsenal has a job to do, the next 3 weeks are absolutely vital. A win tonight will go a long way in doing a world of good to the teams confidence and maybe Arsenal can declare themselves as Kings of London and leave no doubt about it!
Go Gunners!

Saturday 25 February 2012


Now, will he come back??
 I think we are pretty much accustomed to the fact that Arsenal quite capable of unveiling surprises on and off the pitch. Whether we like them or not, is a point of debate. Astonishingly enough, just when I, and I am assuming the Arsenal fans contingent too, were exercising our grey cells as to how can this current squad be utilised to maximum effect and with whatever resources we have, right then, Arsenal decide to loan Arshavin back to his old club! With whole of the transfer window gone with rumors and speculations surrounding Arshavin's future, whether he will be transferred to his old club and Arsene clarifying that he is going nowhere till summer, just to keep our squad quantified enough, this move has certainly raised some eyebrows.

Arshavin's contract is about to expire soon and he'll be staying with Zenit till the end of the season. I don't know what sense this deal should make and that too at such a crucial time ahead of a, once-in-a-lifetime, asteroid-hitting-earth type of derby! I mean, maybe my shallow thinking power has missed a trick here, but with all the injuries happening and our players getting dominoed now and then, the last thing we needed was a further depleted squad. If not the most effective, Arshavin was certainly a star prospect, one of the senior experienced member of the team and could be a valuable player coming of the bench, well at least some of the times. Like the time when he delivered a pin-point cross to TH14 which got our winner against Sunderland couple of weeks ago. There are not many players who produce that kind of moments of brilliance.

Clearly we are all baffled, at least I am. I won't be surprised if our squad is surprised by this decision too, and we don't need anymore distractions ahead of such an important match. I don't know the exact details of this switch, maybe Arshavin requested it for more playing time. The official site only managed to comment,
The Russia captain returns to his home city and former club, managed by Luciano Spalletti, in order to maximise his opportunities for regular first-team football ahead of Euro 2012 in June.
You might as well have sold him in the winter and make some money out of him while you can. I don't the monetary details of the deal, but it is understood that Zenit will Arshavin's wages and also a £1m loan fee. It might be to cut down on costs with the financial results to be declared or even maybe to have another million in that "transfer kitty". I was under the impression, after this weeks Reserves(?? more like first team benchers) vs Norwich match, that it was a chance to give the bench warmers a bit of football and keep their legs moving. After Arshavin having scored a brace in that match, this is simply inexplicable, at least for me.

Well, back to people at the club, there have been inspirational quotes sprayed throughout the official site by most of our players. All about the importance of the match ahead, and how they are ready for the challenge. Out of everyone, RVP sounds the most aggressive, and understandably, being the captain.
He says,
What better way to set things straight again than to beat Spurs?I’d rather be playing them now than on any other day, and we know that a win is absolutely vital. They’re above us for the first time in many years but it’s in our hands to change the way things are going, win the game and start moving closer to them. A  draw will not be a good result for us, either in our bid to catch up with Spurs or in our efforts to fight off our other challengers for a Champions League place.
And it's important for the team, to stay focused on the task at hand no matter what happens around. It looks like everyone is doing a fair job keeping the others on their toes and it is up to players like RVP, Song, TV, Szczesny maybe even Walcott , players who have been at Arsenal for quite some time now and know what this derby is all about. The anger, the hatred and the general despisement towards our rivals should be carried forward and these players are responsible to make sure that the next generation keeps up with this rivalry!

Sagna broke his leg in this year's reverse fixture and maybe he has a lot to prove tomorrow. He might well be aware of Bale and his pace and trickery.
He says,
The first game was a nightmare for me because I got injured and was four months out. Every game is important but the derby is the killer one. This is one of the biggest games of the season and we know we have to win it. It will give us even more power to move forward.
Talking about Bale he says,
He is a very good player, he was PFA Player of the Year last year and he deserved it. He is a great player, but every weekend we play against great wingers. He is extremely quick, that's why you have to stay close and make sure he does not come quickly at you.
Sagna has been one of Premier leagues most reliable and consistent full back and I suggest you keep your eyes on this mouth watering battle down our right flank, it is going to be a feisty one.

There is an interesting news in the Daily Mail about Gareth Bale. Apparently, Arsene tried to sign Bale when he was at Southampton but later chose Walcott over him preferring the more pacier one that time. Yes, we don't rue that at all! Maybe because Bale used to be a left back in those days, and sometimes still manages a game in that position, but we had enough LB's then with Cashley Cole and an upcoming Clichy.

As far as team news goes, there is no news about Kos, but he is expected to be fit and I am sure the medical is working very hard to get him to play to his maximum fitness. Gibbs, who had a minor problem, will go through a fitness test. Same is the case for Ramsey, who has an ankle injury but again, no news on him. Coquelin is definitely out for some time. It's surprising the Arsenal official site's homepage looks the same as I left saw it last night, no hint of news. Either that or the website team are taking the weekend off to celebrate Arshavin's loan deal!

Hope to see some more news before tomorrow's game, and we'll have a general prediction about our squad for tomorrow. Have a gunning Saturday!

Inspirational stuff from..

-Image courtesy:

Friday 24 February 2012

Only way up.

Some good news this morning for the fans. The club announced yesterday that the Gold Level season ticket prices would be frozen and there would be no change for the next season. Obviously that's understandable that the club wants to award their most loyal supporters, who have supported the club through highs and lows. That is 35,000 tickets at gold level. The Arsenal CEO, Ivan Gazidis, explained,
We understand the pressure fans are under in the current economic climate and hope this will go some way to helping them. Our season-ticket holders are the heart of our Club and we are recognising their loyalty by holding their ticket prices for next season. This is the fourth year out of six that we have held season-ticket prices flat against continuing pressure to keep pace with rising operational and player costs.
However, the club level season tickets, which are available to 7,000 supporters and are different to GA season tickets as they cover all first-team home fixtures, will go up by an average of two per cent. The General Admission match ticket prices are yet to be announced.

If you are someone who feeds on rumors and gossips, here's a good one for you. The Telegraph had a news mentioning,
"The club’s owner, Stan Kroenke, would be willing to make new funds, described as between “£50 million and £100 million”, available."
Hmmm, now that could mean £51 million and £99 million. Now we can go and buy all the Goetze's and Hazard's and maybe throw in a Ferrari to each one of them as a welcome gift! Well it's something that warms your heart and sounds too good to be true. Personally I suggest, laying off such rumors till the summer business actually happens. Even if that kind of money is available, will we actually use it? I mean, there have been rumors in the past that Wenger has been sitting on a treasure chest and still went for cheap buys, but there were also those who suggested that maybe Wenger is not allowed that kind of money. Sometime back, Wenger had stated that he is a fan of Neymar and he could have gone for him, IF he had the resources. You can take that in your own way.

Right now the focus turns to Sunday's derby and we will have to deal with that with whatever resources we have available. I cannot stress enough the importance of this match, or for that matter, any further matches this season. Whoever Arsene thinks decides physically and mentally fit enough to play, they'll have to bring out their best, and I certainly hope that the Sunderland match performance, where they gave "everything in their legs", is not their best, they'll have to do the job. Be it RVP or be it Arshavin, that is if Arsene deems him good enough to start the game.

TH14, who returned to MLS last week to prepare for the new season, has expressed his support for the club,
For years we have been used to being on top of Tottenham, by a mile, and now it is the opposite. But this is the derby, which you don't want to lose, and we need those three points massively. Hopefully it will be the derby that can spark the players, the fans, everybody at Arsenal Football Club. We'll see.
I just wish there would have been more like him with the team, to let the current crop of players know what it is like to play for the club and what a derby against the annoying neighbours means. Sure he would have done a lot of talking and inspirational activities during his loan period the last 6 weeks, but the rest is in the hands of the team right now. TH14 can go on an on with all the stories about Arsenal's successes in the past, but the present and future has to be handled by these guys. Nobody expects them to play like him, but they can at least come together as a team and play as a team, something which has been lacking in the recent performances.

There will be team news ahead of the match, and apparently no one looks to be critical enough to lose the match, except for Chamakh who hurt his toe during the Reserves match against Norwich. Now, that is a big blow!! Hope everyone stays healthy before the game. Still no news on Kos, more will be confirmed by tomorrow I guess. But without him, the defense sounds too light weight, even with TV in it.

Keeping it short today,...where's all the news!!??

Thursday 23 February 2012

Board games.

Still some time to go before Arsene unleashes his master plan on Rottenham, this Sunday. The tactics and strategies he applies will be a point of talking before the game is actually played. Most of the times that we have tried using any kind of strategy our plans have been encountered by the opposition and apparently our Plans B-Z have been very feeble to be of any effect. Some call this the aging of Arsene or maybe lack of quality personnel to actually see his blueprint come to life.

The major point of concern has been the service to RVP or the lack of it, which has made him drop back to carry the ball forward leaving a void in the poacher zone. There's only so much he can do, and that has made him our most critical  player this season. It is an achievement on his part, and I don't want to jinx it, that he has managed to go through this season without any injuries and along with that he has managed to accumulate a mountain of goals. I think we can safely say that most of success, whatever it has been, or the rise from 17th to 4th, the credit has to go to him. If the board decides to give him a renewed contract with a fat pay cheque, there's nothing wrong in it. But to keep him forcibly, until his contract expires, might hamper his performance. I don't doubt his heart, but he is only human. Even Cesc fell off a bit in his last season, when he was asked by Arsene to continue for one more season.

Although, there have been a lot of people who suggest that RVP should be sold this season and we should strengthen our squad with that money. However, I would like to remind all the fans that we have sold Cesc+Nasri+Clichy+Eboue last season, which is almost close to £65million and only half that amount was spent on recruiting new resources. Also, there is no reason to believe that if RVP was sold, all of the money would be utilised for recruiting stronger resources.

I would strongly recommend keeping RVP, or at least doing everything the board can do, except tying him with chains at the Emirates stadium, to keep him happy. If that means that we have to spend a bit extra on a quality resource then so be it. I don't think Arsene, who has bought some quality player in his time, is the only problem behind this. He should be allowed to recruit anyone and I mean anyone he thinks will be "super class" player and will bring success to the club. Obviously the financials have to be taken care of, and the club's financial results, for this year, are soon to be declared. The club has to be very clear in it's priorities and according to me, success HAS to be the number one priority.

At some point of time, surely the board has to take a look at it's wage structure. You can't expect players who are performing, to be paid almost similar wages as the players who are not. Then, when you look to sell these players, it just makes it difficult to find suitable clubs who can manage that kind of money. If you give Walcott a contract renewal according to his wishes which is close to £90,000 per week and give RVP £100,000 per week, how do you expect to keep the balance between a good wage structure with a perfect balance in the team? 

There is a very interesting article from Goonerboy, that focuses on the consequences of selling RVP. It also, compares this situation with the one we had with TH14 in his last season. My frank opinion is clear out the dead wood, keep RVP and recruit some quality players. Changing managers is not the right solution according to me, and like Cesc, just think if there is a better manager than Arsene right now. Not many. Even RVP, I might sound harsh, but given what the club has done for him, having stuck by him throughout his injury ridden career, he should also repay the club by sticking with it during it's difficult times.

If the board let's it's internal issues hamper the club's success then I am afraid we are looking at much tougher times.There's some movement regarding the club's shares and Alishair Usmanov is close to aquiring a 30% holding. The only thing that should affect is that according to the Premier League handbook, he is a entitled to be called a director. I don't know how much of that is going to effect the club's chances of succeeding in the future. 

The only point I am trying to make is, these are corporate issues and should be handled within the oak paneled walls of the board-rooms. The focus has to be on the future of the team and what could be done to improve and bring back the success this team has seen in the past.

-The modesty of economics!

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Shut up and get on with the game!

Norwich 0 - Arsenal 5

It has been a tough two weeks for English teams in Italy, with Chelsea losing out to Napoli last evening away from home. To be fair, they did score an away goal but the ease wit which Cavani and Lavezzi tore apart the make shift Chelsea defense was a treat to watch. Chelsea might still have chance in return leg, with the way Napoli defended. For an Italian team, who are mostly organised and disciplined at the back, Napoli were erred a lot. Though they are not as strong as Milan are, they have one of the most potent attacks in world football with Lavezzi+Hamsik+Cavani. If Chelsea manage to keep them quiet then they have a good chance to qualify for the quarter finals. On the other hand, Arsenal will be up against a Milan side, who might not be as strong as you expect them to be, but still fiercely competitive. No point in going over the game, it's still two weeks away. We still have major hurdles to clear before that.

Like I have mentioned before about giving our benched players some chance to get their feet back in motion, Arsenal had a reserve game against Norwich last evening and apparently did quite well. With half of our team derived from the first team, and Norwich playing pretty much with academy players, it was going to be easy. What it did though was to help our out-of-form/less-game-time players to spend some time on the pitch and work out their flaws facing weaker oppositions. Arsenal came out very good scoring 5 goals with Arshavin scoring a brace and Park, Afobe and Benayoun with one each. Park opened the scoring in the 6th minute, though off a shot from Benayoun that struck the post and landed at Park's feet. Though it's not a regular occurrence for a chunk of first team players to play together in a reserve game, it must have helped them with their orientation and maybe a couple more games with the reserves will help them realise their potential, mostly for Arshavin and Park. Although, Park hasn't been given much chance in the first team to display his potential. Afobe and Ozyakup impressed too and might come knocking at the first team door soon.

There isn't much movement or news floating about the first team, maybe because of mid-week or whatever. The biggest news that came out was about RVP and his contract, which apparently might spark another stretched and tiring transfer saga. Arsenal CEO, Ivan Gazidis, has reportedly let RVP know that he won't be allowed to leave Arsenal in the summer and if worse comes to worst, and RVP denies a contract extension, he can leave Arsenal next summer on a Bosman. Sounds a bit too familiar, given that they tried the same with Nasri last summer and in the end succumbed to the transfer amount. However, Nasri is a more replaceable player than RVP. I know people say that no one is irreplaceable and no one is above the team, but you look at our current team and take RVP out of the picture and you will see what I am talking about. According to me, RVP staying with Arsenal depends on two major factors, Arsenal's finishing spot in the league and the summer business we may or may not do. Even if the summer doesn't happen as every fan dreams of it, his decision will be largely based on whether Arsenal plays Champions League next season. If not, it will also be a very tough job attracting top talent to the club, not impossible, but very very tough. Rottenham didn't play Champions League this season, but you can see the desire to be there next season and they are well on their way to compete in Europe next season. But their persistence to keep Modric and not sell him at any cost has helped them a lot to progress this season. I just hope that we don't have to face the same summer they did, or more precisely, the way did.

There are all kinds of news floating about the size of Arsenal's pocket, as they will be this summer. While Arsenal have been lacking in their creative department, the media certainly shows it's skills. Frankly speaking nobody can predict what the financial situation is going to be at the end of the current financial year. If it was as easy to predict the amount Arsenal might have to spend in the summer, then no one would have hired those number crunching geeks to do that, since, apparently even a 10 year old can do the statistics. Still, this makes for an interesting read and has some pointers about the AST meeting to be held with the management. As I said yesterday, no one can force a club/organisation to disclose their confidential information, especially when it comes to finances, the supporters definitely would want to know where exactly the club is heading and about it's plans for future. Arsene's future with the club might well be a point of nervous discussion, but I think I can guess what the management's response to that will be.

Nasri, Mr. know-it-all, has opened up and expressed his opinion regarding Arsenal's current situation,
You have to accept that sometimes it’s good to win ugly. You don’t always have to play good football to win. Arsenal play good football, but after seven years they don’t win so that’s difficult for them. But the manager has a good philosophy. I know he will find a solution. I don’t want Arsenal to fall down. I want them to win things because I have respect for the players there and the manager. But I know from the start I made the right choice because we are top of the league and in the Europa League. After that, what Arsenal do doesn’t matter.
Quite diplomatic, but not very subtle. Only 6 months between all the money and he is the troubleshooting guide for football. I am sure Arsene will listen to his former player's saintly words and regain his senses, HAAH!. Although, if you look at it, where exactly is the pretty football gone? We are not exactly the fluent team that we were last year. Most of our passes are sideways, half of them go back to the keeper, we create very few chances. From being an annoying only-shoot-from-6yards team, we have gone to struggling-to-reach-penalty-box team, which brings us again to the lack of creativity. That leaves Arsene with 4 days to think over his tactics and his creative options.

Let the number crunching begin!

Tuesday 21 February 2012

It's not rocket science, is it?

So where is this week going? Are we on to something constructive or is it the same old same old? If we are following the same regime and the same tactics are replayed, then, why bother? Our recent losses have brought forth some apparent and very fatal flaws that we just can seem to overcome. If the trend is set that way, then it will be the same for any team playing against us. Which is why lot of people are blaming our one-dimensional approach to the game(Theo Walcott playing as a striker and RVP behind him, is not a new dimension, it is lack of options).

There are two very interesting articles, from Arseblog and The Guardian, the former referencing the latter, about the flaws in our current team, or to be more precise in our current strategies. Although they are quite apparent, there is some very interesting analysis in the Guardian about the way teams have taken advantage of these flaws. Point is, is there anyone, from the team staff, who has identified the way teams have exploited the obvious and virtual gaps in our tactics? We have had teams attacking us and climbing on us and pressurising us in the past too but we have always made through it.

Last year this time we were basking in the glory of our Champions League triumph over Barcelona, in the first leg, and Barca are one of the most pressing teams in the world and they do very well to get the ball back. Eventually, we overcame all the pressure and with two moments of brilliance, won the leg. Yes, some of the players are missing from that team this time around, but one thing, more importantly, that has not changed is Arsene Wenger. He is the glue that is supposed to hold the team together. We were a goal down at half time and came back from there when Barca was on top. Not only that, if it weren't for RVP's sending off in the second leg, in one of the most intimidating arenas, Camp Nou, there was every chance that we could have made it. If some people thought that the first leg was a fluke, surely those doubts were cleared in the second leg about our ability to counter Barca, whatever the end result.

The inability to force through any new tactics to encounter any aggressive opposition has led many to believe that maybe Arsene is running out of ideas now. Or, maybe, he doesn't have enough quality in his personnel to deploy the tactics assigned to them and I would like to believe it is the latter. It is quite apparent from the recent performances that we have been a bit impotent in the creative department which has resulted in the dearth of goals. A quick look at the table, more importantly, our competition with Chelsea for fourth place, will highlight the need for scoring more goals. That is clearly not going to happen the way we are attacking currently. No need to bring up the summer or the winter and no need to dig up graves. Our current resources is what we have to take our season through, minus some who are out injured for long term and hopefully no one joins them. Maybe AW needs to have a look at this.

The recent losses, Arsene's reluctance to spend, the summer+winter business has irated The Arsenal Supporters Trust. Seems, they are demanding from Arsene to explain his inability/reluctance to spend in the transfer market, when the ticket prices were raised by 6.5percent. According to me, The AST, as appreciable as their concerns are, might be a bit too harsh and crossing the line to ask about financials of the club. I am not aware, how authroised they are to demand that information. However, ill completely support them on their stance of the ticket prices. When a club increases their prices to that amount, evidently one of the most expensive in the world, it is only natural that the fans would want something in return of that value. They have been unable to bring any trophies, for the past two seasons it has gone from bad to worse not to mention this season, and to top that the ticket prices are raised and still the fans don't get the value for their money. Even though I have never been to England, let alone any Arsenal game, I can understand the frustration at this complete ignorance of the board towards this matter.

The news is that Arsenal might report a profit somewhere in the region of 40-50 million pounds from player sales.It's safe to say that those could be used to revise our current team and maybe their wages too.What do the fans have to gain? What if that money was not spent where it should be and the owners enjoy the profits and the club faces losing it's best players adding to the profit. Isn't that going to irate the fans more? Won't it cause a mass protest and lead to loss of attendance at matches? Add to that the possible loss of fourth place and subsequently the Champions League fund which comes with that and you are staring down the barrel of a gun.

In a world where the media is watching your every step, more so with Arsenal, it will be interesting to see how Arsene handles this situation, and the very first test will come this weekend against Rottenham who have been in a "once in a lifetime" form. A negative result there and it won't be any different than last season, which will kick-off our annual collapse.

-A heart warming memory.

Monday 20 February 2012

Plutus to smile on Scrooge?

You are walking through a sand desert, spread through eternity, limited resources to get you through. Lost in sense and direction, you try to keep all your hope on finding some semblance of life or at least a tiny oasis. If you don't find these things, chances are you might start hallucinating, you see mirages, start assuming things that are not there, your mind plays funny tricks. It's where you start losing your sanity.

It has been a seven year long search for that tiny bit of hope to hold on, the hope that at least this season might bring something to keep you alive for another year. Some people act like puppeteers and have taken advantage of this misery. The internet has blown out of proportions and is already predicting the summer activities. Half the world has already fired AW and is hell bent on seeing him out of Arsenal. One piece of news comes out in the press and it goes on increasing like a tumor.

AW has mentioned, on the official site, the importance of staying together,
We have to take the critics on board, stay together and face them. There is only one response in our job; stay united, fight and focus on the next game.
Which is right considering the situation, and the team needs to stick together, on and off the pitch. A popular newspaper site quoted some high ranked official from Arsenal,
Arsene Wenger has been assured his job is safe for another TWO YEARS. We are committed to Arsene and we expect him to see out his contract.  The only danger to Wenger remaining in charge is whether he walks away at the end of the season as he has already warned he would consider his future if he felt he could not take the club any further.
The name of this "high ranked official" was not given and its also not clear how this site got this information out of him before the official site did. I personally think that AW is still the right person to carry this club forward, but there are some gaps which need to be filled. You can't ignore what's going on around you or pretend you are living in a different galaxy. Sure the squad needs to be revamped, including the back room staff and specialized personnel.

There was some news that Stan will come out of his palace some where in US and will be flying his spaceship to UK to discuss current affairs at the club. Hopefully, he'll hand over a blank cheque to Wenger and give the green light to buy out ManC's squad. All jokes apart, I hope the news of him coming to discuss Arsenal matters of concern is at least true. Whether he approves of funds or not is another matter altogether. There was some fiery news that Wenger might be given a huge treasure to make his players the highest paid people on the planet and buy anyone he wants. Though it might be too good to be true, it's that mirage that will keep the masses going on for a while till the weekend.

Although I hardly doubt that even with the money, Wenger will be a spendthrift and blow away the money. His parsimonious management has ensured that, with the financial results to be declared soon, Arsenal might declare huge profits, where its competitors have thrown money down the drain. Even so, the need to spend cannot be denied when it stares in your face and we can't expect to be happy with being "top 4" watch season. Wenger's clichés have gone from being assuring to plainly irritating and oddly repetitive. His "fourth place is a trophy", might be true for this season, given that we are 7 points behind 3rd and will have to fight tooth and nail to get to third or at least stay in fourth.

What the summer brings to us is still a matter of future, however, the present is the most important thing currently. The fourth position could not be taken for granted and sure the team realises this after the efforts they have taken at the beginning of this season to qualify for group stages. Just imagine, if Arsenal finish outside of the four, Wenger will find it difficult to get through the summer even if had alla Arsenal's profit amount at his feet. Losing out on him would be a big blow, even more than losing RVP.  Hope he gets us where this club wants to go, and stays with the club through this.

-Image courtesy:

Sunday 19 February 2012

A broken record!

Will he leave?

 Long time back I had come across a novel of a young man who goes through a complete change over to avenge his brother's murder. Some kickass master he goes to tells him, "In order for you to rebuild, you have to break down to the last piece". I am hoping Arsene isn't following the same path to rebuild the team, as we know that in the professional world of football it is simply not acceptable.

20 minutes in the first half and it was a scene from "The Happening", players falling down like something mysterious in the air had struck them and just couldn't get on with it. In my last post I had mentioned that I had a crazy idea that Coquelin might start, and for some reason I was happy to see him there, but its still not clear to me that what was the problem with Gibbs that Arsene decided against starting him. Now, I know what the problem is with him, I just wasn't sure that it was visible to Arsene, for him, Gibbs is ready to take on the world. If any injury was there to him, it might have been right before the start of the match, or I might have missed the news. Even so, it was a very good option to pick him, but the poor guy was our first casualty of the match just when he was looking to create something. He looks a better left back to me than Gibbs is!

With Coquelin out, it was TV back to the place where it frustrates him the most, although he kept Larsson quiet for a large period of time, but that meant our defensive partnership was down to Djourou+Squillaci. Even the bluntest of attacks would have licked their lips at such a mouth watering prospect. As soon as Squillaci was brought on, we were pushed back and never able to move forward enough as though we had a sonic shield in front of us. Just what  Arsene was thinking when he signed Squillaci is beyond my imagination. Before the match, Djourou expressed his satisfaction at being back to his familiar role and assured that he'll put his best on display. I know he is playing in that position after a long time and might need time to settle down again, but it is simply not acceptable, and I mean acceptable in terms of the situation we are in currently. We just cannot afford to give a person time to settle down at a position and that too a crucial one. Coquelin has been all over the pitch and it doesn't take him more than a poof to settle down there.

I don't know quite what went wrong last evening, but to say the least, we were a bit unlucky. The goals came of unfortunate deflections, I don't blame Squillaci for that, and surely not Ox for the second one, out of all the players that went ahead before the counter attack began, he was the one who ran 70 yards back to defend and if he wasn't there then some one else might have gobbled up the goal. So not his fault at all, if anything, he might have been the one player who looked to create anything. Also maybe Rosicky who came on for Ramsey and immediately you could see the difference, his off the ball runs, the way he carried the ball forward not succumbing to any body climbing by the opposition.

I believe Howard Webb along with the referees of the world have decided against giving any penalties in Arsenal's favor, or maybe even simple visible fouls. There were 3 or 4 instances when Gardner was looking to play rugby(could easily have been a manchu player), no attempt to play the ball, he just kept handling the players. Not to mention, the Cattermoles, the Colbacks. How much more dirty does a player have to play before the referee gave it as a foul. Had it been manchu in place of us, the players would have trekked the referee and ganged up on him to get the culprit red carded. There was one instance, during a free kick, just outside Sunderland's box, Michael Turner just wrapped his arms around RVP without any intentions of defending, and inside the box too. If Webb wasn't able to see that, shouldn't the assistant have seen this being clearly in line? Being an assistant, can't one expect him to assist the referee??

For all the bad that happened against us, it was clear that there is lack of creativity and Ramsey clearly isn't suited for the role to play just behind RVP. Song did quite well towards the end, being asked to play as a defender in Squillaci's place who went off with an injury. He looked to create something towards the end. We had some thin chances and at such times and at such level, you expect them to be taken. But how much more can RVP do, we can't expect him to score 3 goals every match? He can't do it alone, where is the support? Gervinho looked a shadow of the player that was before the ACN. Maybe just tired legs. But the bottom line is there is clearly something missing in this team, its not the mental strength or the physique or anything else. The midfield clearly lacks the creativity. From having the best midfield in the PL last year, we have gone to big nobody's! The saddest part is when we had the chance to make things right, nothing was done. There is every chance he might leave at the end of the season.

Do we blame Arsene for this? Yes of course, he is in charge of the team, he might well have been the owner, CEO, MD, board, all-in-one of the club. He has built this team, he decides who is bought and who is sold. So its only imminent that he is blamed. Some are suggesting that he should leave. If you ask me, I wouldn't even think about giving him away, since he has brought so much to this club. Maybe the lack of finances has hampered the chances of big money signings. But some of his signings surely are questionable. Squillaci, Silvestre and don't even get me started on Park. He isn't there on the bench for a FA cup match? I don't think losing Wenger is a good idea. Maybe he needs to have a more concentrated role, there has to be some deregulation at the club. Specialized roles should and must have specialized personnel. It's not a family business, in fact its a billionaire club now! I wouldn't brag about me being an expert on economic matters, but that is a huge sum.

I don't know how much rock bottom we have to hit, before the only way for us is up, but surely this has to be reverted some where. We have Rottenham next Sunday at home and the team can't afford to lose their fans faith by losing the match at home. Rottenham have been on a very good run and excellent form but they are still Rottenham. After that there are some very crucial matches for us to stay in top four or at least the fourth. Milan is a slim chance of us progressing in the Champions League. If it isn't for that, Wenger might well be Robert Langdon in search of the grail, he says,
It is too early to say where it leaves us and what we will do. Let’s focus on the next game in the championship and fight, even if there is a small possibility, in the Champions League. We have a big game next Saturday, we lost three players today and we are starting to get very short.
We know that speech very well. All eyes on next Saturday then, not much to say around here!

-Heart warming rumors!

-Image courtesy: Bleacher Report

Saturday 18 February 2012

FAr from over!

Just a few hours to go before the Arsenal team shows that they can achieve something this season. We take on Sunderland at the Stadium of Lights, where the pitch looks like an aftermath of "2012". Although, it must be quite familiar to the team having played there just 2 weeks ago. For a PL side to have a pitch like this is pathetic and just below par! Sometimes I just think that this "pitch" thing happens quite often against Arsenal, given our style of football, just speculation. We can't have that as an excuse though, no way, not acceptable at all.

The team has to leave behind the massacre that was the Milan game, and look forward, isn't it what this 125th anniversary year is all about? Wouldn't it be good, to win a 140 year old competition in the 125 anniversary year? I know Arsene doesn't have much admiration for this competition, but I bet that he'll happily accept a domestic cup to another barren season. But even that is not a piece of cake, we have seen in the past the enthusiasm and zeal of the teams from lower leagues having defeated their PL counter parts in this competition. The Chelsea vs Birmingham game is already on and already Chelsea are a goal down in the middle of the 2nd half. I am sure the Arsenal team will want overcome this barrier with all their might and leniency is simply not acceptable.

As far as the team news is concerned, there is some definite bad news and I am sure will definitely impact our rest of the season even further. Mertesacker is almost certainly out for the season having had his ligaments reconstructed. AW says that,
Unfortunately he has had surgery and we have lost him for a while. How long I don’t know. He had reconstruction of his ligaments. So it will be long term.
Even though he mentions no time frame for his return, we do know enough what this means. Losing Per is going to be a heavy blow given the condition of our defense. I am struggling to recall the last time we had every member from our defensive Arsenal, completely fit. Which means we were back to Kos+TV at the back, with Gibbs back to his regular position and TV back to his. But again, Kos has had a small knee injury and Arsene has assured,
He had a scan yesterday and the news is quite good. He will be out for hopefully around a week. He will miss the Sunderland game. But he should be back for next week.
And I sincerely hope that he returns next week for the Rottenham game, because that's going to be another mental block to be cleared. That leaves us with Djourou for tonight's game. Frankly speaking, I am not a big fan of him, I would give him 5 out of 10 in defense, which is just not Arsenal's level. But Arsene's faith in him has seen him persist at the club and sign a new contract. Yes he did quite alright last season with TV out with injury, but the jitters I had when he face Ibrahimovic in Milan just make me go cold. No offense, I will take him over Squillaci any day!

The good news is Gervinho is back, and I hope he has recovered from his penalty miss in the final of the ACN. Last thing we need is another nervous player on the pitch. And if Arsene has learnt anything, anything at all this season, he'll start Ox straight away instead of Walcott. If anything, he could be called up for that "impact" in the last 15minutes or so, maybe even Arshavin.

There should be no other changes, even Gibbs is "physically" fit to play. I have just got some crazy feeling that maybe Arsene might play Coquelin at left back or maybe Miquel. Just a crazy thought!

Arsene talked about the Milan-choly, to Arsenal Player,
It never gets out of your system because you take it with you until the last day of your life.
I don't care if he never forgets, the damage is already done. What I care is how much is gained from that experience and if anything will be done to avoid such defeats. If that, then I am pretty sure that he'll have no qualms about it on his deathbed. #touchwood I hope he outlives Brad Freidel!

-Image Courtesy:

Friday 17 February 2012

The aftermath.

There is always hope.

It's amazing how often I have had this feeling when I wake up in the morning, no sense of direction, lethargy and basically just wanting to be another "SAW" victim, rip your arm off and throw it at someone. Slowly, the day proceeds and the feeling sinks in and feels a bit too familiar. I have no problem with it until we start adapting ourselves to that feeling and get used to it. If something is bothering in general, you must do something to avoid it. In order to get something you never had, you MUST do something you never did. If you keep trying to mix gravy and ice-cream together, and expect that in some point of the continuum it will create a delicious treat, then you have to call yourself a fool! There is a very old, but very interesting, clip from Dilbert.
Does this sound too familiar?

The three C's continue to haunt us, and there are no measures taken to rectify this. We had the chance in January and we just laid back thinking that we already have the world at our feet. We go to Milan with all kinds of plans, the talk about away goals, the talk about oh, maybe we'll score some or maybe just one would do. Had it been even remotely close to the prediction, I would have understood but 4 against and none for us?!

The net is scorching with scowls, right from people who think football is something to play with hands ti people who are formers of The AFC. Most notably, and most importantly it came from AW himself, a person we know to be generally very calm and who does everything to protect his players, making them look like Titans. Well, calling it a scowl would be an under-statement. They could well have been staring at the barrel of Arsene's shotgun. Although, when you think of it, how much is this through Arsene's own ignorance? I don't doubt his management skills or his vision at all. But he is a bit extra-stubborn at times and has overlooked a lot of gaps because of this. His persistence with players who are just not of Arsenal's quality has come back and hurt us. If you look at Walcott, for example, can you say the same thing about him as for Song. 3 years back Song was a completely different player, but he has established himself as a very good defensive player now and a regular starter. Emmanuel Petit has slammed Walcott's performance,
Certain young players haven't done enough to justify the confidence that Arsene has in them. Walcott - somehow he's going to have to reach the next stage. It's been years that he's been at the same level. 
Speaking about the other under performers at the club, he added,
We shouldn't hesitate to talk about the end of the cycle. Regardless of age, we have to look seriously at certain players. Right now. You have to send out a strong signal. You have to say to Arshavin, and to Rosicky: 'Gentlemen, thank you, but goodbye'. And soon.
I know that Emmanuel Petit might not have done enough for Arsenal himself, but still is someone who has been in the best of teams. Lee Dixon a former Arsenal great also had some words of caution,
There are not a lot of positives to be honest with you. It’ll be difficult for Arsene to pick the players up before a massive FA Cup tie at Sunderland this weekend. He’s got his work cut out.
Even Martin Keown, from the famous back four, has come out and criticised our defensive situation. Coming from a former Gunner who knows well what it is like to play for Arsenal and to be a very good defender, I think Arsene should certainly consult someone for our defensive problems. One giant German isn't going to solve it all. There were a lot of people suggesting that we need a defensive coach and Arsene could have done well to listen to those heeds. Steve Bould was an obvious choice have himself played in the Arsenal defense, but he is still stuck with the youth team.

I might be coming off as very negative, but in the end its all true. We have a very important game against Sunderland tomorrow and, like Milan, very crucial too. The FA cup is still in sights and a loss there is going to be dominoes story. It will sound a little too familiar to our last season collapse after the Carling cup final loss. I am sure that everyone will be aware of this, and there desire to prove and succeed not faded. I again insist that the Champions League run is by no means over, with the right team, if they want, they can still go ahead. Yes it is difficult, but who said it's a cakewalk?

The players are crying out to keep RVP for the next season, and I know it will be very important for our next season chances, but is everything been done enough to ensure that that won't happen? Frankly speaking, there's not even a single whisper from the upper management about the situation and it is just unacceptable. If the management doesn't assure the fans and the players about the direction this club is going, then other ill wishers will take it upon them to bring the downfall. The reason former players feel so much about the club is because they have lived through the legend of the club and hate what's happening to "their" team. Do the current crop of management/players/leaders have the same fire and same ambitions?

We'll just have to wait and watch, and I wish there was more I could do, but all I can do is be me, whoever that is.

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Thursday 16 February 2012

There's always a next time..

Down but not out.
 How do we begin to define the catastrophe that struck last night? Against a very non-Milan side, the mediocrity had to hit the team together. Although, it shows that when we win we lose as a team and when we lose, we lose as one. You can analyse that in your own way. Not a single player rose to the occasion yesterday, barring some few RVP shots on goal and The Ox later on. As we rightly predicted, Ox started on the bench, but came later on to show that bit of spark. If I can predict Arsene Wenger's tactics with minimal thought, just imagine the analysis from other professionals.

It was a bit too single dimensional. For me, Ramsey and Rosicky are too similar and very predictable playing together. The variety and the element of surprise is just not there. We had that element in Ox and Arsene decided not to start him. Immediately after he was brought on, the difference was visible, the defenders were doubling up on him, they were tracking him and were in general aware of what he could do. What is the use of the 12mill spent, if you don't play him in such a crucial match. I agree he is young, and no one would criticise him if he came off a bit low on his performance, at least we know he would try and not fade to anonymity like his Saints team-mate. n an interview with The Telegraph, Dennis Bergkamp had some very harsh words to say about Arsenal, although true. He criticises,
I feel there are a lot of similar players there at the moment, it needs to be more diverse.
You need a few strong characters who can get the team going, in training as well as matches. You also need a few players who can make a difference in terms of scoring goals. I don’t feel there are enough of them.
We could have thrown in Arshavin, who knows, might have added that bit of variety down the flank. But the midfield just isn't feeling cohesive enough. Dennis talks about the midfield from his playing days,
You look at the midfield and compare it with ours.We had Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Ray Parlour – when it wasn’t working for one of the big names, one of these could step up.
You can’t only depend on one or two players. When they’re having an off day, you need someone else.
And what a midfield that was, add to that list the name of Patrick Viera and its a demon with four hands waiting to just devour you. But do you really need a veteran like Bergkamp to be able to see these issues? Even a half-witted friend of mine, whose knows football as well as a fish knows the land, can see this. Wenger has blindly stuck to his beliefs for too long now. You know something is wrong when even the most  ardent AW supporter starts questioning the tactics.

I don't want to analyse the game too much, since it is crystal clear and anything I try to say would be criticism which has no meaning after the damage has been done. More than the players, it is for Wenger to decide how to react to this, how to design his tactics for the second leg. Clearly the 4-3-3 isn't working and we simply don't have the resources for that formation. I have no doubts about the mental strength or desire of this team, but it would definitely needs rearrangement. The full backs didn't get much chance to overlap, or more to be more precise, didn't have the drive to do that. That needs to change, and the wingers need to support them.

Walcott and Ox are very different when it comes to the wings. Ox has the ability to come in field, Walcott doesn't have that and he doesn't deserve the 80K per week that he is looking for in the new contract. Gervinho & Ox should be played on the flanks and when they come in, it'll give RVP a chance to come out and add to creating chances. We cannot afford a player like RVP to simply act as a poacher, maybe in the Eduardo days. Ramsey just doesn't look like an attacking midfielder, he is an excellent creator and should play just ahead of Arteta or alongside him. Arteta was clearly overwhelmed by the opposition last night and if we are to have any control over the second leg, he needs to get his bearings right. Song has to curb his attacking instincts(?), stick with the defense, since the defense is just not looking "together". Without Per that quality was missing, his communication with the players next to him and ahead of him is good. Walcott has to be used as an impact player and so does Arshavin.

Just because it is not realistic, I don't agree that we should give up on the hopes of coming up with a positive result. Forget the aggregate score and get on with the game. I am sure if it was Milan instead Blackburn, we would have at least managed 4, if not 7. Arsene says,
Let's be realistic, we don't play in dream world. Maybe two per cent or five per cent statistically. We have to show a completely different performance and you never know. But, you have to say, realistically, we are out of the competition.
I mean come on, he's lost it even before we have played. Realistic is just a fancy word for quitters and that attitude has to change, and Wenger has to change that. We have another important game this weekend, and another cup competition we have to do good in. Its definitely going to be difficult, but definitely not impossible. Only a fool would write off Arsenal at this stage, stranger things have happened!

Though this wasn't exactly how an Henry farewell should have been, but we still benefited  from his experience. His contribution in the past 6 weeks has been invaluable and it should have left a lasting impression on the team. Hope he comes back soon! Au revoir!

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Wednesday 15 February 2012

High temperatures in cold Milan.

A.C.Milan vs The Arsenal FC
Date: 16th August, 0115hrs IST
Venue: San Siro(Milan, Italy)

So, we play our first leg of the Champions league knock out stage, after Barcelona beat Bayern Leverkusen with 3 away goals and just one against them & Lyon got through their home leg with one goal against APOEL. No surprising results, some might have even predicted it. The real test is tonight, and no matter how much you predict, or speculate, in the end the team performances, their resilience will decide the result.

Lot of people have talked about the game and about being ready for the challenge. TV, Kos, AW have all laid the ground work. Sure you have your strategies against the opponent, you might try to look at their recent performances, which definitely helps, but the pitch is a completely different world.
Vermaelen assures about his knowledge about Ibrahimovic's qualities, having been teammates with him at Ajax, he says,
I know his qualities, like everybody does. I played against him a few times, like when he was at Barcelona, so I know he is a strong and technical player, one of their main players. It is up to us as defenders to keep him quiet tomorrow.
Arsenal would not have forgotten him so soon, having seen him during our Champions League match against Barcelona, last season. Arsene is a huge fan of him, and has heaped praises on his qualities, 
He is a great player, if you look at his record, at what he has won, he has his own personality based on a strong belief in himself.
Arsene's praise is not just in words, he has been a huge admirer of the player and tried to sign him, before he signed for Ajax and he further went on to be one of the most lethal strikers in the world.

Arsene has referenced Milan's loss against Rottenham, last year, for potential problems and weaknesses that Arsenal can take advantage of. Adding to that, Milan might be top of the Serie A, however, their recent performances have been poor. Their last league game against Udinese, where they came back from being a goal down to winning the game 2-1, almost identical to Arsenal's game against Sunderland, speaks about their mental strength and something Arsenal has to take note of.

An away goal can be a major confidence booster, and surely Arsenal won't hold back on attacking them, our focus can't deter from defending well. Any goal(s) against us will only add to the pressure on the second leg and might affect the performance. Although, the comeback against Sunderland suggests differently. Let's hope we keep the same mental strength.

As far as team news is concerned, apparently, Per had some surgery on his ankle, and there is still no confirmation regarding the seriousness of the injury. Arsene confirmed,
 He had reconstruction of his ankle in Germany before he joined us and the scan did not look too positive yesterday. Last night he went back to Germany to speak to the specialist and see where we go from there.
If he is out for as long as Santos, then his season might well be over. It will be such a huge blow for the team, considering our options in defense. Yes, I know I have been critical of him for his pace but he has had a calming influence at the back and the number of goals scored against us this season do not do justice to his performance. Still, we will have TV and Kos partnering the defense. Any more injuries and we will be looking at Djourou in defense, who looked good last season, but his injury record is still worrying, which means we will be left with Squillaci.

Arsene has said that Gibbs is ready physically and mentally to make a return, but there were reports that suggested that he had still to make a final decision on it. Frankly speaking, I think that if Gibbs has recovered from injury then there should be no reason why he shouldn't play. I don't think there are any problems with his fitness. Gervinho has not been named in the 18-man squad to face Milan, so either we play Arshavin or The Ox. If you ask me, we should start with The Ox, and he doesn't look like a player who is belittled by the occasion, however, like I said yesterday, knowing Arsene it would be very unlike him to start with the youngster. If Arshavin can make the same kind of impact,coming off the bench, he had against Sunderland then all the more good for us. Walcott will definitely start on the right. Apart from that, I think, we will be playing the same midfield that played in the last game. Rosicky has looked good with his performance so he should start. If Ramsey, like Arshavin, has the same impact he had against Sunderland then we look much stronger. How do we forget TH14, sure he will start on the bench, but you can always count on him to make the last 20-30 minutes very interesting and have a good go at the Milan defense.

The most important things to come out better from this leg would be:
-Clean sheet
-Away goal(s)
-No injuries/suspensions

You just have that feeling that with this being TH14's last game of this loan spell, this is going to be a very special night, and he would want to leave the team and the fans in good spirits and on a high.

-Arsene teases
-Some words of caution
-Jack to be back soon?
-Arteta raring to go
-Be careful what you wish for!

Tonight's matches:
Milan                      Italy vs England Arsenal
Zenit St. Petersburg Russia vs Portugal Benfica
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