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Thursday, 12 August 2010

Early team news, England, why?

I know the Tories are famed for privatising everything they can lay their hands on, but I must have missed the reports of them privatising good news from Arsenal. God knows we haven't had any for what seems like ages. The latest is the news that Johan Djourou has been ruled out of the game at Liverpool on Sunday with a hamstring injury. This shouldn't (and doesn't) come as any shock to me. Djourou is, much like Abou Diaby, the King of the niggle. I can't help thinking that most of his problems are of the mind. Nasser Hussain talks in his autobiography about one of the wasted talents of English cricket, Alex Tudor, and how he felt that most of Tudor's injury problems were in his head, and were not physical ailments at all. I see the same thing with Djourou - I can think of at least two occasions where he has pulled out of matches during the warm-up, claiming some injury/illness. Of most concern at the moment of course is what this latest problem means for Arsenal ahead of the season opener. With the additional news that Alex Song will also be missing we are suddenly left with only Vermaelen and Koscielny to play centre-back. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that Havard Nordtveit has been included in the first-team photograph this season (see the top of the page) and he is, nominally, a centre-back. However, he has spent the entire pre-season at right-back, or in midfield, which indicates to me that Wenger doesn't fancy him at centre-back. All of this makes the decision to loan Kyle Bartley out to Sheffield United frankly ridiculous. It is an embarrassment for any club to be entering a season with only two central defenders available. For a club like Arsenal it is an unforgivable disgrace. In other team news Wenger says that Diaby and Denilson face fitness tests this weekend. How? How can they be involved following a fitness test when neither of them have played a part in the pre-season matches? It makes an absolute joke of the pre-season preparation that the players do if these two are in the squad at Anfield on Sunday. Meanwhile Fabregas and Van Persie are to be assessed tomorrow. Cesc played 45 minutes for Spain in Mexico last night and the extra day's rest before Sunday will probably see him make the bench at least - so, too, Carlos Vela.
This whole problem is down to Wenger's failure to buy the required players in the transfer window so far. It is an act of negligence for us to enter the new season in this situation, and one which Arsene should explain to the fans in full. We want signings, we need signings, and we need them in a way that we've not seen in the Wenger era.

I've just watched last night's England game in full. Theo Walcott played the first-half and was England's best player. He looked to be doing things we have not seen for a long time as he ran at his full-back and committed defenders before delivering decent balls in to the box. He played like he had a point to prove to Capello and I think he made it. The only note of caution would be to point out that one of the Hungarian defenders was playing for Stevenage, in the Conference, not too long ago. You should remember that the next time Hansen, Shearer, or some prat in the pub decides to talk about "international level" - David Healey has a prolific goalscoring record at "international level," but he couldn't score for toffee in the Premier League.
Kieran Gibbs played the second-half and was a catalyst for much of England's best attacking play. There is no doubt that Gibbs is superb going forward, but I see his defensive abilities as severely lacking right now. Right at the end Hungary got away down his side of the pitch, as he was ball-watching, only for Joe Hart to save England. At the moment he looks a bit more of a winger than a full-back, but the last bloke we converted to full-back was Ashley Cole, and he hasn't had a bad career has he? More of Ashley Cole below.
Jack Wilshere made it a hat-trick of Arsenal players in the final ten minutes. His first act was to launch himself studs-first at a Hungarian midfielder. I like this nasty side to Jack, who is clearly not afraid to put himself in there. However, I suspect he will not be afforded the leniency that is given to Scholes, Lampard and Gerrard - after all, Wilshere plays for Arsenal. It will be interesting to hear what Andy Gray says when Jack flies in on a Liverpool player on Sunday - I bet he won't be chuckling and saying it's a "typical Jack Wilshere challenge" as he does when that dirty scroat Scholes is trying to injure opposition players.

Finally, as a lot of Gooners will have seen outside the stadium last week, we appear to have our own fair-share of toerags following Arsenal. Since we arrived at the new stadium Arsenal fans have complained that it is a soulless bowl of a ground, with nothing to make it distinctively "Arsenal." Last year the club embarked on a programme to "Arsenalise" the stadium and a number of superb additions were made. One of these was the original and brilliant tribute to Highbury - a mural, in the form of a massive team photograph, including the faces (where available) of every player to represent Arsenal at The Home Of Football. I noticed not long after it was unveiled that some twat had taken a knife to Ashley Cole's face and scored over it but, thankfully, the damage was really quite minor. To my surprise Arsenal didn't take any steps to protect the mural - no perspex cover etc. Over the Summer the knives in North London have obviously become sharper and Ashley Cole has been sliced out of the picture completely, thus destroying this most wonderful of Arsenal ideas. Why? Why would you do that to something that is paying tribute to Arsenal players of the past? I dislike Ashley Cole as much as the next Gooner, but I can not, for the life of me, work out what sort of prick would do this. Why stop at Ashley Cole? What about Stapleton, or Adebayor? It's time to get over this hatred of Ashley Cole. Abuse him when he plays against us, fine - we all will. But to destroy something that is dear to Arsenal? Tossers. I hope Arsenal find the little scroats that did it and hang them from the new clock.

I'll be previewing the season tomorrow night, ahead of the big kick-off on Saturday.

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