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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Big Sol weighs it up

Sol Campbell had talks with Celtic yesterday over a possible 2 year deal. Sol has said that he still needs to talk to Arsenal before making his mind up. I will be really disappointed if he ends up anywhere other than Arsenal. Campbell was magnificent on his return last season and was the man mostly responsible for us hanging on to third spot. Of course, there is only a one year contract available with Arsenal, so the decision is straightforward - play one year at the top with Arsenal, or take a step in to mickey-mouse football with Celtic. Sol says he wants to know of Celtic's European ambitions - they will probably get just as far as last year - not qualifying for the Champions League. There you go, stay at Arsenal - you ran out on us once Sol, please don't do it again, this squad needs your leadership and experience to knock them in to shape.

Elsewhere, another centre-back, Luke Ayling, has completed his move to Yeovil Town. I wish him luck. Having won the Youth Double last year I thought he might have had a bit of a chance at Arsenal, but not to be.

Robin Van Persie has started the usual Dutch implosion at a tournament by complaining at being substituted in their second round match. RVP has said that Wesley Sneijder should have been replaced, not him. It never ceases to amaze me how Holland squads find a way to fight with each other. I just hope this is a fracture in the squad that can be mended quickly - they play the first quarter-final against Brazil on Friday.

Meanwhile, also at the World Cup, Cesc Fabregas continues to warm the Spanish bench. They're winning now so that's the way I think things will stay.

Finally, another England faux-pas. The players have been pictured, hours after a thrashing, drinking (nothing wrong with that, they lost, they needed to calm down and relax) and smoking. SMOKING. Professional athletes, SMOKING! How often does this happen? Perhaps that's partly why England's players seem light years behind the best - there is no way the England team could have played the keep-ball session that Spain did after going ahead last night - it was very Arsenalesque, and what do Arsenal not have a lot of? Englishmen, of course. Indiscipline of the English footballer, all wrapped up in a photograph.

No blog tomorrow, unless a signing is announced tomorrow morning - pesky work once more.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Koscielny by the weekend? RVP marches on

Youngguns Blog is reporting that Arsenal have been given permission to speak to Laurent Koscielny. It looks like a deal may be done by the weekend apparently. Youngguns, as I have said before, is just about the most trustworthy of the unofficial Arsenal websites, so if they say it's happening, then it's happening. An announcement of Arsenal's new number 6 tomorrow, just in time for the launch of the new home shirt on Thursday? Joe Cole's contract at Chelsea expires tomorrow - perhaps a new number 10 also? Time will tell, but with Arsenal's lack of marketing prowess I seriously doubt any announcement will be made before Friday at the earliest - but one can always dream.

On the subject of the new home shirt yet another "possible" is doing the rounds on some websites today. I'll wait until I see it Thursday thanks.

Robin Van Persie's Holland made it to the quarter final yesterday with a 2-1 win over Slovakia. Slovakia only really started to play when it was getting too late, but had it not been for some slack finishing and good Dutch goalkeeping, Holland may have been a shock casualty in the second round. They face the impressive Brazilians next and will have to seriously raise their game. Brazil romped past Chile 3-0. It was great to see Howard Webb reverting to type and missing a stick-on penalty for Brazil as Lucio nearly had his leg snapped. Frighteningly, having refereed the European Cup Final, Webb seems to be considered the number one man - God save us. I noticed that, for the third time in the tournament, the fourth official in that match was the referee who cocked up the quick free-kick against Arsenal in Porto last season - he hasn't actually been given a game to referee yet. I wonder why?

This morning Sepp Blatter is apologising to the FA for the goal that wasn't, and FIFA say goal-line technology will be spoken about in July - the World Cup started over 2 weeks ago. Red faces all round at FIFA, but I seriously still doubt they will bring it in.

Meanwhile the England team returned to London this morning, met by a fleet of chauffeured cars. Pampered to the very last. No wonder they don't try.

The Sun has stepped up its campaign to remove Fabio Capello and bring in Twitchy Harry, who has been quick to rule himself IN for the job, even though there is no job available. Classy Harry. I hope he's paying the appropriate taxes on all these interviews. Also in yesterdays Sun was a column including 12 Capello errors, number 10 of which was "failing to select Theo Walcott" - this is the same paper that led the applause for his omission. They also numbered "selecting unfit Ledley King" - again, this is the paper that ran a campaign to get him selected. Tabloid journalists - get back in the gutter.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

A NATIONAL DISGRACE. Good one to miss Theo.

Well, what do you make of that? For me it is noticeable that most England fans are not even blaming disgraceful officiating for England's defeat. That shows just how bad England were compared with the superb Germans.

A quick diversion: I've just seen a snippet from Fabio Capello's press conference where he is being questioned on his future by Shaun Custis and Sam Wallace. I really can't stand these tossers - where did they play their football? I must have missed their sparkling careers. Wallace, from The Independent, really gets on my nerves. This weaselly little twat looks about 12 years old and yet has the brass-neck to appear on telly on Sunday morning's in the season slagging Wenger, Ferguson, Ancelotti etc as though he was Bobby Robson reincarnated. One day, Mr Wallace, we will come face to face and I will tell you exactly what I think of your snotty little asides - you know nothing of football, so keep that hole in your face firmly closed you cretin.

Back to the matter in hand. England were comprehensively outplayed by a team with pace, power, vision and superior technique. But for David James England would have been gone long before getting back to 2-1. I have never before seen Ashley Cole get so ripped apart in his career. Mesut Ozil is the player of the tournament for me, so far, and I would love to see him on either wing for Arsenal.

I went to Dover Market Square to watch the game on the giant screen. There was a decent crowd there, largely made up of the town's GCSE students I think. The chants of "Rooney, Rooney" told me immediately that these youngsters watch all of their football on television. Unfortunately they turned up the commentary so we had to put up with Lawrenson and his inane one-liners. However, having the commentary allowed me to hear how the TV pundits are still completely deluded in their belief in the abilities of the England players. They talk and talk about how these players produce top quality in the Premier League. The fact is that they play alongside top-class foreign players every week. Lampard usually plays in a team with Drogba, Essien, Ballack etc, Gerrard with Torres, Mascherano and, previously, Alonso. Without genuinely World-Class players to make them look good they become what they really are - average. When Ray Parlour was at Arsenal he was made to look a better player than he really was, because he was alongside Vieira, Petit, Pires, Bergkamp, Henry etc - when he went to Middlesbrough Ray quickly began to struggle (and I love Ray Parlour).

What any player may lack in ability they can make up for in hard graft. Thanks to their exaltation in the press, the likes of Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney see no need to make that effort. Rooney was again a disgrace today. Not once did he show the desire to succeed that he does when playing for Manchester United. Steven Gerrard seemed to be having his own private game of football with the ball-boys, such was his propensity to hit the ball straight in to touch. Lampard, in his defence, had a decent game today for me - his best for England in a long time. His midfield partner, Gareth Barry, was shown up in a big way. His lack of pace on Germany's fourth goal, when he couldn't even get close enough to foul the attacker was frankly embarrassing. Matthew Upson was also found wanting, and John Terry looked like a man whose race is run in top-level football.

As bad as England were, and as good as Germany were, there will forever be a question asked about the officials. Frank Lampard's shot, one minute after Upson had scored for England, was so far over the line it was almost in a different city. An equaliser within a minute of getting one back would, perhaps, have seen Germany disintegrate - certainly I believe England would have scored again before half-time. Even though England were outplayed and ultimately thrashed, there is a genuine gripe to be had here - and let nobody go on about 1966 and compare the two incidents. I think we will not see the Uruguayan officials again in this World Cup. Sepp Blatter has said there will be no goal-line technology. Millions of pounds swilling around the game, billions of people watching the biggest match of the tournament so far, and football has been embarrassed by its failure to embrace TV replays in the way that other major sports have.

Incredibly, as I write, Mexico have just conceded a goal to Argntina where the scorer, Carlos Tevez, is a full 5 yards offside. Within seconds the goal was replayed on the screens in the stadium and the Mexican players went crazy - the officials saw the replay but the goal stands, because the use of technology is not allowed. This is the WORLD CUP for goodness sake.

Ultimately, England are not good enough to challenge on the World stage. The last good performance from an England team at a tournament, for me, was against Argentina in France 98. I think Capello is likely to leave his job now, after coming to some arrangement with the FA. From an Arsenal point of view, I am pleased that Theo Walcott was not part of this debacle, so can not take any of the blame - definitely a good one to miss for our flying forward.

Tomorrow sees Robin Van Persie's Holland in action again, but the Sky+ will need to be utilised again as I will be starting work just as the game kicks off. Before the World Cup started I predicted that England would go out in the second round and that the winners of the tournament would come from Argentina, Germany or Holland. Fingers crossed for the Oranje.

Late edit: Half-time in Mexico v Argentina and a huge punch-up - Argentinians fighting at a World Cup, surely not.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Butt out Twitchy

Harry Redknapp has announced that Tottenham have approached the agent of Joe Cole to express their interest, but that Cole does not want to talk to any clubs until after the World Cup. I find it hard to believe that his future is not already sorted, unless he was planning on being England's star of the World Cup and bolstering any signing-on fees from prospective buyers. If he has not sorted his future, and the rumours of Arsenal's interest are true then Redknapp can naff-off and get back to signing second-rate players for a decent sized tax dodge (allegedly).

Arsene Wenger made an earth-shattering announcement on www.arsenal.com yesterday where he told the Gooner masses that we "will sign someone soon". You can almost hear the cheers in North London revererating around the land. Seriously Arsene, if there is nothing worthwhile to announce, then don't just give soundbites to the website editor to fill Summer space.

I watched Brazil v Portugal yesterday as they put forward their contender for worst match in this World Cup. It made Holland v Japan look like a classic. I missed Spain last night as I was working, though I understand Cesc played the last 30 minutes and Torres dived to get a Chilean sent-off. Once again I doubt FIFA will spring in to action.

I enjoyed the game this afternoon and I thought South Korea were the better team. Luis Suarez produced a moment of real class to put Uruguay through. As I write Ghana are deservedly 2-1 up in extra-time against USA. This World Cup needs a successful African team to re-capture the imagination. Hopefully Ghana can carry the hopes of their entire continent and spark an incredibly dull tournament in to life.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

RVP scores, Bendtner out, "supporting" England

Generally, there is no Arsenal news about today. Late in the afternoon is a spurious rumour that Alex Song is being targetted by Galatassaray. I would be very, very surprised to see Song take such a step down.

On the BBC Sport website is a fine analysis of the Cesc Fabregas situation from a financial angle. There are some very surprising statistics regarding how much FC Barcelona owe to other clubs in terms of transfer fees outstanding - more than any of which is owed to a certain club in North London. You have to ask how it is that, with such figures owing, Barcelona are allowed to go signing such expensive players. It also shows, perhaps, why they are offering such a little fee for Fabregas.

At the World Cup today Slovakia thoroughly outplayed Italy to eliminate the World Champions. I have never seen an Italy (or Italian club side) moved around so easily in defence. That they managed to get within a goal of going through was quite amazing.

Robin Van Persie opened his account for the tournament with a lovely right-footed finish in Holland's 2-1 win over Cameroon. He was substituted later on. I got my wish for Alex Song in that he was left out by Paul Le Guen (who resigned as Cameroon manager after the game). Rest well Alex, we need you fresh come mid-August. Nicklas Bendtner played 90 minutes for Denmark as they crashed 3-1 to Japan. The big man cut a forlorn figure towards the end and had that disinterested look that is sometimes familiar. In defence of Bendtner he is clearly injured - a recurrence of the groin problem that affected him last season. Arsenal need a fit Nicklas Bendtner, as we saw at the end of the season when his goals kept us in the race up to the last few matches.

I have to pass proper comment on following England. I know it will be unpopular in many quarters, though I think most Arsenal fans that I know will understand exactly my sentiments. Before the game yesterday I must admit to being excited. I was looking forward to the game and hoping England would win. I was determined to be really behind the England team. Then the game began. I watched Lampard, Terry, Rooney, Gerrard, Defoe and Ashley Cole and remembered that these a footballers I detest. I find them all reprehensible for various reasons. Suddenly I was not excited anymore. I still wanted England to win, for the feel-good factor it gives everyone during a tournament. However, I was completely detached from the emotions of the game. During the frantic final minutes I felt no nerves, no worry. If that had been Arsenal I would not have been able to sit down, I'd have been screaming at the telly (or at the pitch if I was at the game). I was brought back to a statement I've uttered a few times over the past few years - "I'd rather see Arsenal Reserves win a third round League-Cup tie, than see England win the World Cup" - as it means far more to me to see any Arsenal team win (except Arsenal Ladies - I have no time for that rubbish). Ultimately, there are no Arsenal players in the England team, so I have no personal link to them, other than being English. I also dread that my children will be brought up with a lifetime of seeing those named above, posing with the World Cup, as England's most vaunted football stars, rather than seeing truly great men like Bobby Moore et al as the pinnacle of English football.

I'm not sorry if my views offend anyone, that's just how it is.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Joe Cole "latest", England through, France not

Yesterday, with much fanfare, The Sun reported that Joe Cole was on his way to Manchester United. Today, with somewhat less enthusiasm they have been forced to report that he is not going to Old Trafford, following United's denials of the story. This is, as far I am concerned, very good news for Arsenal. SkyBet now have Arsenal at odds of 4/5 to sign Cole. Fingers crossed. And anything that makes The Sun look silly is most welcome.

In other Arsenal news, the youngguns website reported on Monday that Arsenal had agreed a deal with Lorient for Koscielny. This website is, after the official site, the most reliable Arsenal informer on the web, so you can be fairly certain that this news is correct. Is he any good? Roll on August and we can find out.

At the World Cup, Cesc got a run-out for Spain and nearly scored with his first touch. Annoying commentary as he came on - "Xavi of Barcelona being replaced by Cesc Fabregas of...Barcelona?" - Obviously not, it's Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal. Clown.

I'll deal with England next. I think I watched a different game to the BBC panel. Apparently England's was a wonderful performance, full of creativity and chances. Early on in the match the commentator, Guy Mowbray, rightly pointed out that this was the equivalent of a Premier League side versus a Third Division outfit. I can only conclude, therefore, that a 1-0 win, secured by last-ditch interventions from Terry, Johnson and Upson, does not constitute a wonderful performance. If, as we are lead to believe, "that is more like it" then I fully expect England to lose to whomever they play on Sunday - especially if it's Germany or Serbia. England also benefitted from some of the most generous refereeing you will see in the World Cup - Johnson and Barry should both have been red-carded. As there are no players from Arsenal I won't dwell on England any further, though it would be wrong to sign-off from todays match without noting that Adebayor has been replaced by Harry Redknapp on the BBC sofa - I must be missing something. I thought at one point that I was getting picture interference, but it turned out that Harry was just twitching again.

So on to France. Oh dear. A defeat to South Africa. Awful. Disgraceful. I thought Diaby and Clichy combined superbly to set up the second goal for South Africa. Diaby had more success with Sagna as they helped to create the France goal. The debate over the problems in the France team will run and run. Can you imagine if they were English? Regardless of the Manager, if England's players behaved and performed in such a way they would not be allowed back in the country.

I have to say that Gael Clichy has been a disappointment for over a year now. I see him still making the same mistakes of 4 or 5 years back. He doesn't concentrate and he simply can not defend properly. He is also completely incapable to putting in a decent cross. I really would not be upset were Arsenal to cash in on him before the start of the season. There are increasing reports of interest from Barcelona and Juventus and I think Arsenal should take the money should it be offered. His only top performance this season was away to Barcelona where he was simply outstanding. One good game in a year is simply not enough. Time to give Gibbs the left-back role, with Traore as his back-up.

On a final World Cup note I want to pay tribute to two legendary Arsenal players who played their last part on the biggest stage yesterday. It was great to see Thierry Henry finishing his final game at a World Cup as captain of France, and buzzing around trying to put right the wrongs of the past few months. And also Kanu who played for Nigeria in their draw with South Korea - a fitting end to his World Cup career.

If the blog becomes a bit sporadic over the next few days it's because I am changing broadband supplier and I have yet to be impressed by their customer service. Hopefully more will follow tomorrow.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Arsene Wenger does a Barcelona, FIFA get the chance to stamp out cheating

I was quite shocked this morning to see that Arsene Wenger has gone all FC Barcelona on Lorient and stated his intention to sign Laurent Koscielny by saying "There has been an approach for Koscielny, and there still is one." Given that Arsenal never comment on this type of thing until a deal is done, this is quite a departure. I'm in two minds as to how I feel about this though. We are always criticising the Spanish clubs for tapping-up players through the press, and putting pressure on to sell. We don't like it when it happens with Cesc, or with Henry and Vieira in the past, so it really is quite hypocritical for Wenger to flex Arsenal's big club muscle like this. At the same time, if Barcelona and Real Madrid are allowed to get away with it, why shouldn't Arsenal act with similar arrogance? I am concerned that we will lose the moral high ground when it comes to rebuffing approaches from those who are above the laws that govern transfers - though morals count for little in modern day football (read on for my view of the nonsense in the World Cup last night).

On the subject of Barcelona, and their questionable behaviour, Joan Laporta's latest is to say that Arsenal will eventually "give in" and sell Fabregas to them. I don't doubt that's the case. However, it won't be for £30 million. As I've stated previously, I am not averse to Cesc being sold, but it has to be at the right price. If they value Yaya Toure at £25 million, then they will have to double their bid for Fabregas. Then, perhaps, there might be some business to do. In the meantime the door is in the corner, you may use it Senor Laporta (see what I did there?)

Shortly after posting my blog last night, the Brazil v Ivory Coast game got ugly. Blatant cheating was the order of the day and it saw one of the greats of modern football, Kaka, unjustly red-carded. I won't describe what happened as I could not do it justice, but I suspect Youtube will be awash with footage. What the incident has done, though, is give FIFA a chance to bring an end to the cheating and play-acting. Instead of being petty and giving yellow-cards to people who remove their shirt in celebration, FIFA should start doling out long suspensions to those who wish to con the referee. They must rescind Kaka's red card - this is the World Cup for goodness sake, people tune in to watch the best (and England) - and hand Keita a ban of at least 4 games. Back in 2002 FIFA failed to get to grips with it when they didn't ban Rivaldo following his nonsense in the semi-final. Similarly, in 1998, Laurent Blanc missed France's greatest day thanks to Bilic and his horrible, despicable cheating. They must get it right in 2010 - but I would be willing to stake a lot of money that they won't.

I've just caught the last 20 minutes of Portugal's 7-0 win over North Korea. Impressive. Will they win the World Cup? No - and bloody good too, as that means another cheat, Cristiano Ronaldo, will not get a winners medal on the biggest of all stages.

Unless there is some major Arsenal news to talk about tomorrow morning, there will be no blog thanks to work - we all have bills to pay. Off to watch Chile v Switzerland now. Cesc might get a game tonight, but the Sky+ will be utilised again as I'm off out for a Chinese.

More Wednesday.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Arsenal score at South Africa 2010!

It's quite possible that there would be more Arsenal news about today if there was no such thing as Arsenal Football Club. Such is the way of things when there is a World Cup on. Just about the only snippets I can glean are that Luke Freeman is off to Yeovil on loan, while Kerrea Gilbert is being released. Back in 2006 Gilbert was the man in possession at right-back and seemed to have a hell of a future. He picked up a back injury in the home loss to West Ham (the same night as Sol Campbell's meltdown) and wasn't seen again in the first-team until the Liverpool tie in the League Cup last season. A series of loan spells were undertaken in-between times, including good success at Leicester City. I wish him well.

I watched Holland yesterday in what was just about the worst game I've seen so far and, let's face it, that takes some doing. Robin Van Persie did little, but he stayed fit which is always a bonus where he's concerned.

In the other game Nicklas Bendtner was very good up front for Denmark, and provided the first Arsenal goal of the tournament. I was impressed, as usual, with Bendtner's hold-up play and he was also instrumental in the winning goal, setting up Rommedahl. Alex Song did, as reported, return to the Cameroon team and he was outstanding. I hope that, now they are out, he doesn't play in the final match, just to ensure no stupid injuries.

I've seen very little of today's action. Between Father's Day, a bit of Sunday worship and an excellent cricket match (a glorious victory for the brave boys of Tilmanstone Welfare) I haven't had time. I'm writing this while watching the second-half of Brazil v Ivory Coast. Eboue has just been replaced, Ivory Coast are 3-1 down. That guy Gilberto Silva looks like he could do a job at Arsenal - oh no, we let him go, that's right. Brazil's second goal, from Luis Fabiano, saw him control the ball twice with his arm - that sounds familiar doesn't it? I suspect, somehow, that a Brazillian will not get the same shellacking as Thierry Henry did.

Apparently the French team refused to train today following Anelka's expulsion. As meltdowns go, this one will take some beating. Evra is reported to have had a bit of a stand-up row with the physio this time, so don't be surprised if Gael Clichy gets a run-out against South Africa in their final game.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Wenger gets all defensive and England surprise nobody

Arsene Wenger yesterday told the press that he will be signing a defensive player before the World Cup finishes. Something tells me that this player is someone who is not involved in the World Cup - I wonder who it could be? It's good to see that he is acknowldeging the need to sign a defender, God knows with Senderos, Gallas, Silvestre and Campbell all seemingly surplus to requirements, Arsenal need to buy. I can only hope that he is about to bring in more than one player in this area - we only have Vermaelen and Djourou left as it stands. As I've said before, I know little of Laurent Koscielny. It seems pretty certain that he will be an Arsenal player next season, but I would definitely like to see a "proper" defender brought in as well - Cahill from Bolton, or Matthew Upson would do me. I'm not generally a fan of English players given that most of them have either a personality defect, or a lack of talent. However, I think that old-fashioned centre-halves have a big role in the Premier League, and Arsenal haven't had one since Sol was in his prime.
At the World Cup yesterday I thought Serbia and Germany played out the best game so far. The refereeing was largely awful, though Klose shouldn't really have any complaints about his red-card given that he made the same foul four times. Serbia may have won, but Germany were still extremely impressive and should really have still won the game. I only saw the first-half of Slovenia v USA as the barbeque was calling me, but having seen the highlights of the second-half, the USA can consider themselves robbed. You really have to question why a referee from Mali is being put in a posistion to officiate at a game on this level, of this importance. It is no coincidence that problems ensue. The counter to that argument is, of course, the referee from Uzbekistan who did the opening match, and England's game last night - he is the best referee I have seen in a long, long time.
So, on to England. I'm not surprised at their disappointing performances. There are too many over-rated players in the England team. Who in this side is genuinely World Class? I would suggest that Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney are the only ones that can lay a convincing claim. Rooney showed his true colours after the game, choosing to lash out at the people who've paid thousands of pounds, and travelled thousands of miles, because they dared to show their displeasure. Get this right Rooney - if you had put in half the effort of Emile Heskey, with your ability, you wouldn't have been jeered at all. I thought that Rooney (and Gerrard, and Lampard) put in the most insipid performances I have ever seen from England players in a World Cup. Who will be dropped though? Not any of them. Emile Heskey will be made the scapegoat, and possibly Aaron Lennon (though given the reasons Theo was left out, Lennon did a very passable impression of the Arsenal man last night). If Capello really wanted to make a statement of his authority he should drop Fat Frank and move Gerard inside, bringing in Joe Cole on the left in the hope of getting some craft in to the England set-up.
More important things see some more Arsenal involvement in South Africa today. I will have my Holland away shirt on for Robin Van Persie versus Japan. I doubt whether I'll see the Ghana v Australia game as I have to spend just a little time with the family, but I'll be safely perched in front of the telly for Denmark v Cameroon. With Alex Song expected to get a recall for the Indomitable Lions, I will be looking forward to Arsenal players on both sides, with Nicklas Bendtner up front for the Danes.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Rollercoaster built and waiting for launch time...

So the fixtures are out. Arsenal have been dealt a pretty shoddy hand for the first weekend (I very much doubt we'll get to play on Saturday) with a trip to Liverpool. Something tells me we won't be 3-0 up at half-time on Merseyside in the first game this season. I don't like going to sides with a new manager at the best of times, but especially not a big club on the first day of the new season with all the hope and expectation that brings. The first home game is Blackpool the following week. The other dates of note (provisionally) are Chelsea (a) on 2nd October, Spurs (h) on 20th November, Man Utd (a) on 11th December and Chelsea (h) on Boxing Day. No point in looking past Christmas at this stage, although it's worth noting the unusual occurence of playing away fromhome in the first and last games of the season.

In other news there's the usual transfer nonsense, which I will pay no attention to. We have also signed, apparently, a 16 year-old Dutch wonderkid - Kyle Ebicilio - so say www.skysports.com. You'll forgive me if I don't jump out of my seat.

I'm writing this while watching Argentina coolly dismantling South Korea. It's 2-0 as I write and the Koreans, who are not a bad side, don't look like getting in the game. Significant Arsenal interest later with France v Mexico, but I'll have to Sky+ it as work calls.

No blog tomorrow. Report on England and Arsenal's massive multi-million pound signing on Saturday.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Laurent Koscielny, Martin Hayes, Robbie Earle and Bavaria Beer

Laurent Koscielny, the Lorient centre-half, who has been strongly linked with a move to Arsenal, has today seen his agent go public. Koscielny's agent has apparently told Lorient that he wishes to go to Arsenal - well, who wouldn't? According to Wikipedia he is 6'1" tall, which gives something of a lie to the picture of him that was published in The Sun last week where he was being towered over by a couple of strikers. I Also remember the last French centre-back we got from Ligue 1, and Pascan Cygan was no Steve Bould, even if he was bald. It's the sort of deal we have come to expect from Arsene Wenger - little known Frenchman, modest fee - so I think you can expect it to happen. Let's hope he's more Patrick Vieira than Amaury Bischoff.
Martin Hayes has been appointed as Manager of my local club, Dover Athletic. I saw him play in some of his 15 matches as a player for Dover some years ago. They've had a very complicated close season so far with Andy Hessenthaler leaving to join Gillingham and being replaced by Ian Hendon, before poaching Hendon to be his assistant at Priestfield. When Hayesey played for Dover he was head and shoulders above those around him, and this meant he was playing on a different level to everyone else, often making him look like a man who gave the ball away all the time - the fact is that he had played with top players and still expected his team-mates to be making those same movements on the pitch. All the best Martin - I might make some rare visits to Crabble this season when Arsenal aren't playing - try to get a fixture with an Arsenal XI, please.
No point in talking about Cesc at the World Cup, as he didn't play. Maybe that's why Spain lost to Switzerland. Even Howard Webb couldn't steal the Swiss limelight. Whatever, it might just bring the tournament to life, especially if South Africa can pull a rabbit from the hat tonight.
While we're at the World Cup - Robbie Earle, what a prat. A dream job at ITV for an average footballer, with rare intelligence and the ability to string a few words together without a "you know" or an "I mean" and he throws it away. Berk.
For those who don't know, Robbie appears to have sold his complimentaries for the Holland v Denmark game to Bavaria Beer as they staged some "ambush marketing" during the game. Whoever their marketing manager is should get the biggest bonus in the history of business. At the last World Cup, they gave away orange lederhosen to Holland fans, which were confiscated from supporters entering the stadium. When these fans were pictured wearing only their pants at the matches, Bavaria Beer got Worldwide headlines. This time they chose to use women in orange mini-skirts (sitting in Robbie's seats) who grabbed the attention of the TV companies and were pictured on live TV around the World. FIFA had the women removed from the ground during the second-half which kicked off yet more publicity for Bavaria Beer. Apparently Budweiser are the official beer of the World Cup and, as such, have exclusive advertising rights. What the idiots at FIFA failed to realise is that, by making such an issue of the Bavaria stunt, the Dutch company has had more publicity for free than Budweiser could hope to have had for millions of pounds. I bet Bud are really happy with FIFA. If Bavaria want to make a donation to me for this further free advertising I will not be complaining. It perhaps says a lot about this World Cup so far that this has been just about the biggest story so far (at least until Switzerland this afternoon).
The Premier League fixtures are out tomorrow so we will know where we are playing on any given weekend, even if the exact dates won't be confirmed until Sky and ESPN have got their mitts on them. Early blog tomorrow as work calls in the evening.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

New Away Kit!!

First things first, apologies for the lateness of today's blog, but I've been at cricket meeting. Secondly, apologies for my unforgiveable use of written English yesterday - a friend has pointed out my use of the word "there" when I meant "their" - I promise it won't happen again.
Visitors to www.arsenal.com today could not have failed to notice that the Club has unveiled the new away kit for next season. The best that can be said is that at least it is yellow. I just don't see why the redcurrant is there. If this shirt was yellow with blue pinstripes, blue trim and blue shorts it would be an all-time classic. Will it stop me from buying it though? Of course it won't, because I'm as much a mug as thousands of others who will blindly buy it simply because it is Arsenal's shirt - even if it does look a bit more like a Bradford City kit. The home shirt is due to be unveiled in a couple of weeks - http://younggunsblog.co.uk has a link to the probable design, but I'll save an opinion until we know for certain.
Apart from that, not a lot of Arsenal about today. Some representative of Barcelona made a comment about the Fabregas saga, saying that Arsenal are the only party in the deal yet to express an opinion, after Cesc said he wanted to go, and they said they wanted to sign him. Hmmm. I thought Arsenal announce last week that they had rejected a bid and didn't intend to sell - I'd call that expressing an opinion. In short, people of FC Barcelona, stump up the reddies, or keep your comments to yourself. No moolah, no Cesc. Simples (if this was about Arshavin that would be very apt).
In the World Cup, Emmanuel Eboue flew the Arsenal flag today, playing in central midfield as Ivory Coast and Portugal played out another snooze fest. Eboue didn't do a lot, and was taken off before the end. I caught the first-half of New Zealand v Slovakia on Radio 5, but the whole game was very difficult to listen to - not just because it was an awful match, but because that woeful female commentator was calling the game. At no point did she create a picture in the mind of the listener as to where on the pitch the ball was. This is radio love, you need to tell us where the action is taking place. Sadly I missed Brazil v North Korea due to my meeting. Shame.
Tomorrow sees Cesc get his World Cup under way. It will be interesting to see if he starts for Spain and, if so, how things seem to be affecting him.
Until tomorrow...

Monday, 14 June 2010

It's quiet out there

There is such a lack of Arsenal news about today I thought about not bothering, but given my limited readership it would be rather foolhardy to leave you without a blog today. The only "news" I can gather is that one of our newspaper's today reported Arsenal are to release Silvestre, Gallas and Campbell - Earth shattering stuff. Given that all three will shortly be out of contract this is not what I would call a World Exclusive. I am surprised, however, that Arsenal have not tied up a deal for Big Sol. The great man was outstanding when he returned and carried the Team in the final weeks of the season. His performance at Tottenham, when he was insulted by not being given the captaincy, was an absolute model of the centre-half trade. If a youngster came to me and asked "how do I play at centre-back?" I would instruct them to buy the DVD from Spurs and watch the guy in the Arsenal number 31 shirt - that, my boy, is how you play at centre-back. Given our lack of cover in that area of the pitch (even before Senderos, Silvestre and Gallas have all been given the off) letting Campbell go appears negligent. Quite apart from our lack of centre-backs, Sol is an experienced head, a winner, and a leader. I would love to see him at Arsenal for one more season, helping along the likes of Bartley, Ayling and the injury-prone Djourou. Please Arsene, sign him up, before he goes and wastes his final year in a mickey-mouse outfit like Celtic.

In the World Cup, the Arsenal interest ended up being in the Holland v Denmark game only. Bendtner did okay up front for the Danes and provided their best moments (note to ITV commentary team - just because Nicklas Bendtner plays for Arsenal does not give you the right to slag him every time he goes near a football, you mugs). Robin Van Persie created the opening goal for the Dutch, before departing soon after the hour.

Alex Song was surprisingly left out by Cameroon. I don't understand that at all. For me, they have two top-quality performers, Song and the World-Class Eto'o. If someone can tell me why Song is left out, while Eto'o, one of the World's premier striker's, spends the match on the right-wing, perhaps they can let me know. No surprise when Cameroon failed to score and lost 1-0.

I particularly enjoyed watching Germany last night, some beautiful football. If there finishing was better, they would have doubled the four goals they put past the Aussies. They have five strikers, each of whom would be in the England squad - and that tells you all you need to know about England's weaknesses. I thought the referee in the match last night made the first big howler by an official when he sent off Tim Cahill - I hope FIFA show some sense and rescind the red card, though knowing them he will probably get an extended ban.

On the subject of officiating, I think it has been largely first-class. Obviously I have mentioned last night, and I also felt Milner and Carragher could easily have been dismissed on Saturday, but by and large every decision has been correct. Is it any coincidence that Howard Webb and co are yet to take charge of a match yet? I think not.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Almunia says "I'm staying at Arsenal"

Manuel Almunia has told The People that he is staying at Arsenal. There were some questions raised on at least one message board last Monday when a German website showed him as having been released by Arsenal - the veracity of this had to be in doubt given the lack of similar reports here in England. Almunia's comments would appear to give a lie to our Bavarian friends. I'm not disappointed to hear Almunia say will be at Arsenal next season, just so long as he is not the first choice goalkeeper. Almunia has, undoubtedly, made great strides since being at Arsenal, but still is not of the standard required in a Title winning team. I believe that Almunia as number 2, with Sczeszny breathing down his neck, behind a top class 'keeper is the way to go for Arsenal. This would mean Fabianski leaving, and also Mannone - possibly on loan for a year to see what improvements he can make to his game.

All of which brings me nicely to the guy Arsene apparently has tried to sign - Mark Schwarzer of Fulham. To say I would sceptical about such a move would be an understatement. Schwarzer is a decent goalkeeper, nothing more. He will also be 38 in October. Given that Jens Lehmann was bombed out around a similar age, despite being World Class, I find it amazing that Wenger would be looking to bring in someone of Schwarzer's standing. Clearly, Sczeszny has been identified as the long-term goalkeeper at the Club, but that doesn't mean bringing in a fairly average stop-gap. Spend the necessary money, bring in quality, if the young Pole is that good he will soon force his way to the number one spot. I have just watched Schwarzer criminally at fault for Germany's goals in the first 30 minutes at the World Cup - the second goal in particular saw him doing a very passable Almunia/Fabianski impression as the ball was crossed in.

I can't sign off without a word on England last night - that word being "awful".

Until tomorrow, with plenty of Arsenal interest at the World Cup in Van Persie and Alex Song - hope I can finish work in time to catch a bit of Cameroon, will have to Sky+ Holland.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Arsene on Pienaar, and Day One

Important stuff first, The Arsenal. Arsene has been speaking in South Africa again, this time about Stephen Pienaar. Wenger said that he has followed the career of the Everton man since he came to Ajax, and he would "definitely get in the Arsenal team". Something tells me that Le Boss may have been giving a diplomatic answer to a question from a local reporter - thought that's not to say I don't necessarily agree. I think Pienaar is a quality player, and his finish against Arsenal in the blizzard earlier this year was the mark of a class footballer, but I don't think for one minute that Wenger would consider bringing him to Arsenal. Unlike Joe Cole, who I spoke of yesterday, I am not sure Pienaar would be a huge improvement on what we have now. In the absence of much other Arsenal news I will have to move on to todays World Cup action...

South Africa v Mexico was a fine game of football, lit up by a quite magnificent South African goal. Arsenal interest was confined to Carlos Vela who looked just like the player we have become used to over the past couple of years - he was almost anonymous, though he did have a tap-in correctly ruled out for offside. I think South Africe not losing was a huge result for the tournament, but a win for them would have seen things really take off.

The late game was a real yawn-fest for me. France were largely awful, while Uruguay made little attempt to win. In defence of France I have to say that Raymond Domenech is an absolute mentallist. Remember, this is the man who wouldn't pick Robert Pires because he was the wrong star-sign! Apparently he rowed with Malouda last night and left him out, despite being in the form of his life - so Govou played instead. He also left out Thierry Henry. From an Arsenal perspective Diaby had a fine first half, dominating midfield, before disappearing after half-time. Sagna had a decent game for me, with some decent crosses in to the box and Gallas was as solid as usual. Overall, it was an abysmal match though and we can only hope things get more exciting than that.

On another note, between Radio 5 and BBC1 today I must have heard 15 different BBC reporters/pundits. What the hell is going on? Since when was the licence fee used for all these cretins to get a free holiday to South Africa?

Tomorrow sees England get under way, so no Arsenal interest there. In fact, no Arsenal interest in any of tomorrows matches, but that doesn't mean I won't be watching. I do have to play cricket though, but an early start should mean an early finish and back for a few beers and England v USA.

Might be here tomorrow, might not - depends a lot on any Arsenal news/rumour. Unil then...

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Arsene speaks...Fabregas, Walcott and Cole. Oh, and some tournament in South Africa.

I was very pleased to see Arsene Wenger on Sky this morning. When he was pictured with Chamakh a few weeks back he was looking tired and gaunt. On TV today he looked like he'd had a good couple of weeks rest, and looked fresh again. For those who didn't see it he spoke of his "strong determination" to keep hold of Cesc Fabregas. I am in two minds on the whole Fabregas issue. I want him to be an Arsenal player, but if his heart is not in it, then it is probably better he left. Certainly after his come and get me speech he can not continue as Arsenal captain. If he does stay we will have to put up with a year of distractions as the press go on and on about him leaving next Summer. And what if he has a few bad games? The press (and some of the fans) would be full of "he's not interested" stories. It's a tough one, because we need our best player (one of our best ever) but do we want him if his heart is elsewhere?
When he'd finished with Fabregas, Wenger went on to talk about Theo Walcott's omission from the England World Cup squad. Arsene told Sky that the lad was "destroyed" by the news he would not be in the squad. I thought Arsenal played a blinder by issuing a statement on the official website, purportedly from Walcott, wishing England and Capello all the best. I suspect the boy was in no fit state to say anything about England. I must admit I was shocked that he was left out. I don't necessarily think he is good enough to be there, but in the face of those named ahead of him (Wright-Phillips in particular) i just don't understand it. There can be no doubt that Walcott has not yet fulfilled his early promise, but he has played at the highest level of the European Cup and delivered in big matches since he arrived at Arsenal - not to mention his hat-trick in England's last big game. If Capello had selected Adam Johnson I could have understood it as it would be another left-footer in the squad, but to leave Walcott out for a player who couldn't get near his club side (and a fairly mediocre one at that) is unbelievable. Unfortunately it has very much tempered my interest in seeing England progress at this World Cup - I'll be paying far more attention to Holland and France.
Wenger also paid tribute to the abilities of Joe Cole. As you will know, Arsenal are heavily linked, with a number of blogs and messageboards citing "sources" who are confident the deal is done. I have to say, hearing Wenger talk in glowing terms of Cole made me start to believe in the rumours. I, for one, would very much welcome his arrival at Arsenal - experienced, skilful, a winner. It is very fair to say that we do not urgently require a player in his position, but the arrival anyone that is an improvement on what you already have must be a good thing. I defy anyone to tell me that Joe Cole is not a better player than Rosicky, Nasri, Walcott and Eboue. If you can then ship out a couple of the dead wood, then you recoup the money you would b paying Cole in fees and wages. It would be a low risk, high reward, signing for Arsenal, I just hope Arsene can make it happen.

You might have noticed that the World Cup starts tomorrow - if you didn't then you must be living in Bin Laden's cave or something. There is plenty of Arsenal interest on the first day, Vela will play for Mexico in the opening game, while the French contingent are in action in the evening. I hope they all do well but, more imporantly, they all come back uninjured. Some of the players (Vela I suspect, as well as Gallas) will probably not come back to Arsenal, so let's hope Vela has a stormer and someone pays stupid money for him.

Until next time - probably after the matches tomorrow.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Of me and Big Phil

Hello All

This is a new blog, based on my love of Arsenal Football Club. I might not be here every day, but as soon as I have something to say then I'll be here to say it. Whatever appears on here is only my opinion and if you don't like my opinion then fine, that's your right.

I am 31 years old, married and a father of two boys. I was born in to an Arsenal supporting family and have a season ticket at Ashburton Grove. I was a season ticket holder at Highbury also. I don't pretend to know more about Arsenal than anyone else, but I have a lot of time for anyone who actually goes to watch their team play.

Occasionally I'll comment on stuff that isn't Arsenal, or possibly even not football - it's my blog, so I'll do as I please in that regard. With the World Cup on the horizon you can expect plenty of opinion on that - especially this abysmal England line-up. I'll be keeping a particularly close eye on those boys from Arsenal.

Moving on then to the first Arsenal story of my blog career. Unfortunately, Big Philipe Senderos has departed Arsenal for Fulham. I think it's a real shame that this lad couldn't make it at Arsenal. He was a key part of the run to the European Cup Final in 2006 and, when he had a run in the side, did not let us down. Don't forget that we were 8 points clear in 2008 with Senderos and Gallas at the back - Kolo returned and it all went tits up. Senderos is a genuinely nice guy, an intelligent man and I wish him all the very best. Arsenal through and through and deserving of Arsenal fans appreciation.