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Friday, 27 July 2012

Milestone reached, City too good, Olympic excitement

Chuks Aneke - staking a claim

Before I get down to being miserable about our defeat to Manchester City this afternoon I would like to recognise a milestone for this site. When I published the last post on Wednesday night I knew that there had been 499, 000+ hits, so I was aware that we would definitely go through the half-million mark. That, in itself, is very heartening. The site has been around for just over two years, and over the past three weeks there has been a large increase in daily hits. I don't really know why, and I'm certain it has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. The thing that has amazed me this week, however, is that Wednesday's post attracted over 23,000 hits, making it the most read article I have produced on It's MY Arsenal Opinion. This figure made the site the second most popular on Arsenal's NewsNow feed over the 24 hour period following its publication. It was certainly a grand way in which to smash through the 500,000 mark. Thanks.

On with business and the boys were beaten 2-0 in Beijing by Manchester City earlier this afternoon. I'll start by saying that City are quite a bit further on with their pre-season than Arsenal, having completed a training camp in Austria before leaving for the far-east. However, they just looked like they were toying with Arsenal at times. I'm not going to dissect the game too much but I do want to comment on some individuals and Arsenal's complete lack of tactics.
Let's start with those tactics, as it should get most of the negative stuff out of the way. Arsenal started the game apparently believing they could emulate Spain by playing without a centre-forward. Gervinho was ostensibly the lone striker but, sadly, the Ivorian is to centre-forward play what I am to rhythmic gymnastics. There are times when you think Gervinho looks superb as he darts forward with the ball. Unfortunately he has to either pass or shoot eventually, and this is where there has seemingly been no improvement in his game whatsoever. It was a bizarre way to set up with Chamakh and Afobe sitting on the bench, while Santos played on the wing again. Theo Walcott also played out wide, despite the opportunity to try him in his favoured position through the centre. On the subject of Walcott I thought he played pretty well in his time on the pitch, and looked dangerous. All of this was in spite of Stewart Robson wanting to crucify him on the ESPN commentary every time he touched the ball. I don't know what Robson's problem is, but I want him sacked from his part-time role with Arsenal's official website.
The other "tactic" of note was the new Arsenal offside trap. As experiments go this one looks dead early on. When Thomas Vermaelen tries to play offside it becomes less of a trap and more of an invitation to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Maybe it is Wenger's gift to Steve Bould that he is allowing him to try and drill the boys in the art of raising the arm, but there is a hell of a lot of work to be done before it starts to be anywhere near convincing.
The positives from the game, aside from Walcott, were another forty-five minutes for Abou Diaby and excellent cameos from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ignasi Miquel and Chuks Aneke. Chamberlain was incredibly unlucky not to get us back in the game with a rasping shot that hit the inside of both posts, and City's powerful midfield could not handle him. Why he was then moved to the left-wing I don't know. However, when The Ox did move out wide he was replaced by Chuks Aneke in the central role. I've been a keen fan of Aneke since seeing him on Arsenal TV with the youths and reserves. He is big and strong and powerful, and he isn't afraid to pass, shoot or take people on. I wrote the other day of how Benik Afobe had failed to take his opportunity against Malaysia (and he did again today) but Aneke has certainly done himself no harm. At the back Miquel came on and was too quick and too strong for Aguero and Tevez on more than one occasion. I can't quite understand how the young Spaniard appears to be behind Kyle Bartley in the pecking order. He was outstanding when he came on today.
Overall it's always disappointing to lose, and I felt City deliberately let Arsenal come on to them after half-time, perhaps practising their tactics for an assault on the Champions League this season. I've no doubt Arsene Wenger will have seen it as a useful workout, and the absence of a number of Arsenal first-teamers will temper any disappointment in the result (though City were also far from full-strength). Before I wrap up on the City game there is one more thing that does not sit well with me, and that is seeing Marouane Chamakh get beaten in the air by Kolo Toure - after all, we all know that Toure hasn't got off the ground since early 2005. Olivier Giroud will have no problem in usurping the Moroccan.

Today sees London start its hosting of the Olympic Games. I can't tell you how excited I am about it. I have tickets for some of the events, though not as many as I would like. A lot of things have been wrong in the build-up to this Olympics, from it's hijacking by arty types who designed the hideous official logo, to the disgusting Great Britain kit (Stella "I'd be successful without my father" McCartney's "modern take on the Union Flag" - what modern take?) and the ticketing fiasco which has left thousands of British fans without the opportunity to see the Games in the flesh. Seb Coe's insistence that everything has gone well is frankly outrageous, and indicative of the arrogance of the man. However, you can't deny the organisation that has made this the smoothest run-up to an Olympic event in the last forty years (only Sydney 2000 can boast of coming close). There has been no dithering and very much a "can do" attitude.
I have no doubt that I will once again be made proud to be British by London 2012. I hope that the British athletes can be as successful as they were in Beijing four years ago. The feel-good factor will sweep the country if Mark Cavendish and co can get us off to a gold-medal start tomorrow. I will be paying some attention to the football as I have tickets for a couple of games at Wembley, but it won't be my personal focus for the Games - football shouldn't be an Olympic sport in my view, particularly not for professional players. I also have a ticket to see some hockey and some boxing, and I am looking forward to that far more than the football. Let's hope we have a fortnight of great excitement, and magnificent sport, hopefully under largely sunny London skies.

Finally for today, you can get some more from me over at www.arsenalzone.com by following this link to an article about Carlos Vela's Arsenal career.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Diaby and Chamberlain a class above, Squad number farce

No number for our star signing

It's been another three long days at work for me. The heat in this part of the country has been a bonus and makes working outside all Winter worthwhile - while most people are stuck in stuffy offices, I get to enjoy the sunshine on days like this.

Thanks to Skyplus I was able to see the whole of yesterdays game without knowing the result beforehand. Of course it was largely about players getting some time running around a football field while playing against someone other than a colleague in training. That doesn't mean you don't want to win, however. That is particularly important when you're up against a side that wouldn't compete in the third division in England. It's fair to say that the Malaysian XI gave Arsenal a serious going over for large parts of the game. If it hadn't been for Vito Mannone we could have been utterly humiliated yesterday.
Defensively we were all over the place as usual. I will ignore the second-half back-four as only one of them was playing in his normal position (though credit to Craig Eastmond who I felt had a fine game at centre-back). The first-half was a real concern, however. I really don't know what Thomas Vermaelen was doing for most of it. People will talk about rustiness and all that nonsense, but stepping out to play a forward offside, and getting it wrong by about three yards, is nothing to do with rustiness. I have to say that I believe Vermaelen avoids a lot of stick for his defensive deficiencies due to his excellence going forward.
There were two players who stood out for me yesterday. For the first twenty-five minutes I thought Abou Diaby was the best player on the pitch by a mile. I wasn't surprised that he ran out of steam that quickly having not played properly for so long. I suppose we will find out on Friday whether his quieter final twenty minutes was due to fatigue or due to pain from yet another injury. In the second-half it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that took up the challenge. What a player he is. The pace and strength of The Ox is frightening, and it was notable that he played in the middle of midfield. I hope he stays there.
The major disappointment was Theo Walcott who was awful. It was actually a blessing when he was taken off before we had equalised. Of the youngsters Nico Yennaris was probably the most impressive performer, and the way he set up the equaliser (following a great pass from Alex Song) was outstanding. Benik Afobe missed his chance to make a genuine impression - Kevin Campbell and Cesc Fabregas have both staked their claim successfully in pre-season in the past, and I reckon Afobe will be kicking himself.
The pre-season bandwagon has now moved on to Beijing and is set to come to a juddering halt in the Birds Nest Stadium against Manchester City on Friday. If the performance does not improve from yesterday then I dread to think what City might do to us. And don't give me any crap about it only being pre-season.

The Club has once again embarrassed itself this afternoon with the announcement of the "new" squad numbers. It is quite incredible that our big signing of the Summer has not been given a number. We all know that Lukas Podolski is going to be given the number ten shirt. By a similar token we all know that Robin Van Persie won't be around this season. So why the hell have they not just given the shirt to Podolski? It's yet another own-goal from the Club.
We also have the nonsense of our new centre-forward being given the number 12 shirt, while Ju Young Park (who?) continues to masquerade as a number 9. Henri Lansbury, meanwhile, has not been allocated a first-team place. I think we can assume that Lansbury's Arsenal career is over (this follows hot on the heels of Wenger failing to mention him among his available midfielders the other day). Francis Coquelin has been given a proper number, while we already knew that Kyle Bartley had been promoted. Apart from all of that we still have Andre Santos pretending to be Anders Limpar or Marc Overmars. Embarrassing.
Cue the abuse for worrying about things that aren't important.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Wenger has learned nothing, Tour squad is ridiculous, Time to worry about Wilshere

Same old nonsense for the fans to bear

It's been a long week at work. You might have noticed that I must have been busy from the lack of action here. Given that transfer gossip is ignored on this site it hasn't been a bad week to be out of things. It's fair to say that not a lot of note has happened at Arsenal. Most of the "news" involving the Club has been space-filling untruths and conjecture from the less well educated journalists of this World. At last, today, we've had our first tasty news of the Summer. Sadly, it does not sit well with me. Not well at all.

As the press had already worked out, Robin Van Persie is not going to Malaysia and China with the squad. However, he remains Captain of Arsenal Football Club at this time. Until such time as Wenger grows some balls he will remain so. Before the end of last season Arsene assured us that lessons had been learned from the debacle of this time last year. Do you remember last year? You know, when our Captain announced he wanted out and we spent the rest of the Summer pratting about waiting for the inevitable, while the jumped up little scrote remained the skipper? Forgive me for feeling that we are now in the exact same position. We all know that Arsenal are going to sell Van Persie, despite the claims to the contrary. I have little problem with that. But I do have a problem with the complete lack of authority from the Manager. Can you honestly see Ferguson failing to discipline a player for doing what Van Persie did? They certainly would have been publicly stripped of the captaincy.
Elsewhere we have had the annual rubbish about needing to sell before we buy. This just a couple of days after Wenger told a Hong Kong magazine that we spend our available money. Forgive me, Arsene, but how are we so far in profit on transfers over the last four years if that is honestly the case? We have reached the last week in July and we are in the same position as we were a year ago. The Captain wants to leave, the Manager won't deal with the situation in the best interests of the Club, and the dead wood players are still hanging around like a bad smell. Oh, and we won't be buying anyone else until it's too late. That just about covers it, I think. Wenger has not learned anything from last year, and the supporters are suffering in the same depressing cycle.

The squad for the far-east tour is a joke. Mertesacker, Podolski and Giroud are staying behind in London in order to "work on their fitness". Sorry, but I thought that was what pre-season was for. Are the players going to China not working on their fitness? And if the work these players are doing on their fitness is so crucial then why are the two Germans being sent to Nigeria next week for some corporate glad-handing? Only Arsenal could consider going on a promotional tour and leaving behind the two star-signings. As a result of their omission, the new players will have (as it stands) just one friendly at Cologne to get used to playing for Arsenal. Let's not hear any more nonsense about the importance of a pre-season, shall we?
Abou Diaby, meanwhile, is "...fit, raring to go..." according to Wenger. I won't hold my breath. I'd love to see Diaby genuinely fit as he is a top player when he is able to be. I guess we'll find out in the next fortnight if that is even remotely possible.
There are three goalkeepers on the tour. Why are Fabianski and Mannone going? I can't understand why Damian Martinez had to play at Boreham Wood today instead of getting on the plane. The two clowns who I've mentioned there have no future at Arsenal. We don't want them, and they don't want to be here. Both men want to play. They are not going to do it at Arsenal. Meanwhile, according to Wenger's quotes about needing to get rid before buying, their presence is barring the recruitment of a capable goalkeeper to challenge Szczesny (you notice I said "challenge", and not "cover" - the young Pole needs a kick up the backside and a genuine threat to his place would provide it).
One other person who is on the tour is Craig Eastmond. This lad will not be an Arsenal first-team player as long as he keeps a hole in his arse. Conor Henderson, now recovered from the injury he suffered on last years trip to China, has been left out. What kind of muddled thinking is that? Why bother taking a lad on this trip who you have no intention of ever putting in to the first-team on a regular basis?
The positives from the younger players are the presence of Chuks Aneke, Benik Afobe and Nico Yennaris. Ignasi Miquel is also there. I expect all four to go on loan this season, for at least part of it, but Afobe could force his face in with a shout if given a genuine chance to impress over the next ten days.

Arsene has given injury updates on a number of players. Tomas Rosicky, Bacary Sagna and Emmanuel Frimpong are all mentioned. They also all have a return time pencilled in. Then there is Jack Wilshere. Wenger contends that he is not worried as there have been no setbacks. But there is also no return date. Arsene says:

"It difficult to say ‘it will be this week in September or October’ when he is back in training. He has been out for a year and I don’t want to put any pressure on him.”

So there is no idea when Jack will even be able to consider starting to train. That's train, never mind play. Wilshere is still a kid. He is still growing and developing physically. He has now been out of action for a year, and the end is not in sight. I am genuinely fearful for Jack's career. It would be typical of Arsenal's luck to have unearthed a talent like Wilshere, only for it to be snatched from us by such cruel luck. The time has certainly come for Arsenal and its supporters to be worried about Jack Wilshere.

I'm sorry to be so downbeat after not having posted since last week. Sadly, I fear I've captured the mood of most of the regulars at Arsenal.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Arsenal land a trophy!

Who says we win nothing?

I didn't go to Southampton after all yesterday. Setting off from Dover we were hit by the most spectacular storm which led to flooded roads - you may have seen some of the pictures from this area on Sky News. I wasn't prepared to drive all the way to Southampton with the potential for running in to more, so decided against doing so. As a result I wasn't there in person to see the boys performing pretty damn well in winning the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup.
Not being there in person had me relying on Arsenal's promised "live" text commentary via Twitter. What a joke that was. During the first game against Anderlecht I think we got four updates through the whole match. I actually got better information from the useless sap covering the game for Sky Sports News. As well as that Sky showed Henri Lansbury's goal within ten seconds of it being scored.
It was an incredibly young Arsenal side that took on the Belgian Champions. I was delighted to see that an Arsenal youth product was given the responsibility of skippering the lads, in the shape of Kieran Gibbs. Henri Lansbury has a decent record when it comes to pre-season. He was there to provide the near-post finish following a decent piece of work from Carl Jenkinson. Marouane Chamakh had earlier seen a decent chance well saved. The only other moment of note in the 45 minute game was Anderlecht having a goal ruled out for offside.
In the second game there were one or two more senior players in the side, with Andre Santos, Francis Coquelin, Gervinho and Johan Djourou (who was Captain). Unsurprisingly Southampton went for it in front of their supporters. Vito Mannone didn't exactly put himself in the shop window as Kyle Bartley bailed him out of trouble. It was no surprise when Saints did go ahead. However, Gervinho wiped out the lead with a superb solo effort. It really was fine play from the Ivorian. After that there came the spectacle of the most farcical penalty shootout in history. Arsenal already had the trophy won, but the rules said a draw must be decided by penalties. As it turned out Arsenal missed their final penalty through Kyle Ebecilio, but it really didn't matter. I have to say that I was annoyed at a youngster being put in that position. With Gervinho and Djourou knocking about there was no way a kid should have had to take a penalty. I know it was only a pre-season knockabout, but senior players must take responsibility.
There were notable absentees last night. There was no Alex Song, Abou Diaby (almost certainly not capable to play), Mikel Arteta or Thomas Vermaelen. The obvious question is where the hell were they? If it had been the traditional Barnet fixture they would have been involved. Would not a 45 minute run-out have done them some good? I don't begin to understand it.
All in all it was a useful exercise, I suppose. I'm not sure what was learned from Andre Santos playing at centre-forward for the Southampton game, but it probably underlined the fact that we are still a bit short up front (regardless of certain players still being on holiday). I'm sure some of the youngsters involved will have really benefited. It will be interesting to see if any of them board the plane for Malaysia this week.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Southampton/Anderlecht preview

St Mary's Stadium

I'm off to Southampton this afternoon for the first pre-season game of the year. It's not really a proper match as the boys (and I use that word advisedly on this occasion) take part in a triangular tournament involving two 45-minute "matches". Nevertheless, the first chance to see Arsenal after the close-season is as exciting as ever.
There will be a few senior players in the squad, including Arteta, Gervinho, Djourou and a few others. Marouane Chamakh has apparently also been put in to the group for today. Francis Coquelin will be there, while Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos will share duties at left-back. Thomas Vermaelen will surely lead the team in at least one of the games.
Aside of the senior players there is a chance for Arsene Wenger to get a look at one or two youngsters. Martin Angha, a young Swiss centre-back, has been part of the training group this week, while Kyle Bartley has announced his promotion to the first-team having returned from Rangers. Kyle Ebecilio is rumoured to be the man most likely to be promoted from the youths and Reserves for this season. Thomas Eisfeld, the January signing from Germany has recovered from his injury problems and is set to feature. Having seen the pictures from training this week we might even get a look at the lesser spotted Abou Diaby. I've said for two years that he is surely in make or break time, but he must be now.
I fully expect Arsenal to struggle in the games they play this evening. It must be remembered that this first friendly has been against Barnet for the past ten to fifteen years. It hasn't often mattered who has been in the Arsenal team when playing against a fourth division side. Today we start against a newly promoted Premier League side and the Belgian Champions (one of the most famous names in Europe, and worthy of more than a footnote in Arsenal's own history). Having so many young players will see Arsenal at a disadvantage, I'm sure. However, the result is genuinely of little consequence (assuming we don't get thrashed by three or four goals!) I'm looking forward to it, and a win would be very nice indeed.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Training kit tells us a story, Ramsey put in a bad position by Wales

Dressed in the dark?

Arsenal put up the expected photographs from training yesterday. There are a couple of things that have struck me about the group that is there - from the look of the kit, to the players actually involved in the session.
Let's start with the aesthetics and that disgusting kit. The colours on show seem to confirm what we already knew about the soon to be unveiled away strip. It is certain now that we will be insulted by Arsenal as they thumb their nose to history and saddle us with a purple and black hooped away kit. It really does look like the sort of thing you might end up wearing after a power cut in an already darkened room. Hope may be on the horizon in a rumour that swept some sites last night, and was big on Twitter, that Arsenal have agreed a deal to return to Adidas from this time next year. I have no idea if it may be true, but I live very much in hope - the sooner we end Nike's ridiculously cheap association with the Club the better in my view.
On to the important stuff and there were, as usual, a couple of younger players joining the established squad for the first training session. Some of those lads will be involved in the early pre-season games, and will probably go on tour with the first-team next week. As the players returning from Euro 2012 begin to get fitter we will see some of these boys return to the Reserves. Until then they get an opportunity to impress Arsene Wenger.
Another thing you can tell from the kit is who is part of the "real" first-team squad and who is not. Each of the players considered as part of Wenger's squad have their number in white on the front of their shirt. Those who are currently making up the numbers have theirs printed in red. I was surprised to notice that Henri Lansbury has a red number. Barring a storming pre-season I suspect his days are now numbered as an Arsenal player (if they weren't already by his consecutive loan spells outside the Premier League). Also not really a part of things is Nico Yennaris. The likes of Craig Eastmond, who is also in the group right now, are never likely to make it and shouldn't even be involved at this stage, while Conor Henderson is battling back from a serious knee injury.
Finally I noticed that there are four goalkeepers pictured. At least three of them do not really have an Arsenal future - Fabianski, Mannone and James Shea. The other man is Emiliano Martinez who really does cut the figure of a confident and imposing presence. The Argentinian is highly rated and might find himself promoted this season. I expect his number to change to white before the season gets started.

Aaron Ramsey has been put in a very bad position by Chris Coleman. The Wales boss is trying to bring in some players via the backdoor rules that apply to international football. Among those Coleman wants to recruit is Ryan Shawcross. He has acknowledged that there are "issues" with Shawcross. I would say that's an understatement. Coleman has said that he would need to consult Aaron Ramsey before calling up Shawcross. Why? Why even consider calling him up? Aaron Ramsey is the Captain of Wales. Why does Coleman want to put the young man in such an awkward position? Basically he is about to be asked if he is willing to play alongside the man who tried to end his career, or whether he wants to become the bad guy by stopping Shawcross becoming an international footballer.
Sadly such things are what mark out a good Manager from a poor one. You would never see the top bosses getting involved in such nonsense - they would simply think what is best for the team and not put their Captain in such a no win situation. I hope Ramsey tells Coleman what he can do with his Wales team if he was to call up Shawcross. The lad has been through enough without having to pretend to be all chummy with the animal who nearly crippled him.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Let the countdown begin

Colney - where the hard work happens

So here we go then. The bulk of Arsenal players returned to training today ahead of the long slog of pre-season. There was some light relief last night as Andre Santos told Yossi Benayoun on Twitter that he couldn't wait to see the Israeli. Benayoun was priceless in his reply as he told Santos he would need a photograph if he wanted to see him. Quite clearly the Brazillian was completely unaware that his teammate was not really an Arsenal player.
I've been waiting all day for Arsenal to upload some photos from today on the official website. Usually they have the first images of the early fitness work up on there by lunchtime. Perhaps Arsene didn't want any publicity today as I'm sure he has had plenty to say to those that are present after what happened last week. Either way I couldn't wait any longer as I wanted to get a post written before too late in the afternoon.
Obviously there are some notable absentees from the training at the moment as all those players who were at Euro 2012 are enjoying their holidays. As a result there will be no Robin Van Persie and no embarrassing silences as he walks among those who actually want to play for Arsenal. I am extremely annoyed that he is still, officially, the Arsenal Captain. Arsene Wenger must show some balls and make an announcement that he has been sacked from that position. We all know that Wenger doesn't see it as a particularly important thing, but it is symbolic to the supporters and I'm sure Frank McLintock and Tony Adams find it disgraceful that Van Persie is still wearing the armband, as it stands.
The players that are back to work, including the likes of Thomas Vermaelen, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Gervinho, Alex Song, Johann Djourou and Mikel Arteta are preparing ahead of the first friendly. I expect them all to be involved at some point against Southampton and/or Anderlecht on Saturday. I'm really excited about seeing Arsenal in action again this weekend, and I will do some proper previewing of that nearer the time. Also likely to be involved are some of the fabled "dead wood" who are yet to be shifted on. We have the likes of Squillaci, Fabianski (if fit), Mannone, Chamakh, Vela and Bendtner all still on the payroll (Ju Young Park is representing Korea at the Olympics in a couple of weeks - I have tickets to see him play at Wembley against Gabon in the big game of the opening round!) Personally I do not want to see any of these players involved at St Mary's - they are not likely to play for Arsenal any time soon so why have them get in the way of experience that could be given to a young player like Chuks Aneke, for example?
I hope that we will be getting some quotes from Arsene Wenger in the next day or two, and also some interviews with one or two of the players. Obviously, as these will be available only through Arsenal Player there will be nothing particularly juicy, but at least it will be Arsenal related blandness as we head towards Southampton on Saturday.

Finally for today you can find my latest offering for Arsenal Zone by following this link. Hopefully I'll have some more here tomorrow.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Who are these clueless idiots employed by Arsenal?

Definitely NOT the Premier League

One of my biggest bugbears in recent years has been the consistent errors in many of Arsenal's official publications. For some years after Cesc Fabregas broke the record we still had Stewart Robson recorded in the Official Handbook as the youngest goalscorer for Arsenal. Similarly, our Premier League attendance record was shown as a figure under 39,000 in the Handbook for the SECOND season at the new stadium.
There are a number of other publications which are endorsed by the Club and yet are so badly edited as to contain numerous factual errors. Two of the books that spring to mind immediately are "Arsenal On This Day" and "The Little Book Of Arsenal". Once you've been through the matchday programme for most weeks and found at least one mistake you can start to see what I'm getting at here.
Over the past year Arsenal have been using their official website and Twitter and Facebook to celebrate the 125 year anniversary. One of the initiatives has been the "125 Image" collection, which is a series of photographs chosen to represent iconic images from our history. A few months back there was a picture of the final game at Highbury, accompanied by a caption claiming the match that day was against Tottenham. I was one of many people to complain at such a ridiculous mistake and the text was altered. Regardless of the correction it was an outrageous error for Arsenal to make.
The picture above is the one that Arsenal issued yesterday and it shows Tony Adams with the Football League Championship Trophy, and George Graham with his Barclays Manager Of The Year award. The picture was taken during the open-top bus parade after the Title win in May 1991. However, whichever clueless idiot at Arsenal was writing the caption for the picture came up with this nonsense:

Today's 125 image sees George Graham and Tony Adams on the open-top bus with the Premier League trophy, May 1991. Arsenal finished with 83 points from their 38 games that season, seven clear of runners-up Liverpool. Graham's Gunners were worthy champions, losing only once over the course of the season!

Spot the obvious mistake.
I'm sad to say that this is indicative of the lack of care Arsenal have over their editorial policy. They claim that they have strict quality control procedures, and everything is edited in order get the "little details" correct (that quotation is from Gazidis' right hand man). Frankly it is embarrassing and any Arsenal supporter worth their salt would have got the caption correct. It may seem that I am picking on something small but I get genuinely irked by these things. Whoever is responsible for publishing this nonsense should be getting a serious shoeing from the powers that be on Monday morning, but there will be nobody at the Club who even notices the error. I daresay the incompetent fool at fault doesn't even realise that the Premier League is a recent phenomenon. It's an absolute disgrace.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Red And White propaganda stinks like RVP, An Arsenal man returns, Embarrassing pre-season climbdown

The puppet-master?

I went to work this morning and was lucky enough to see Sir Stirling Moss, Dalton Grant, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Yohann Blake and a certain Usain Bolt. Getting the autographs of Blake and Bolt may turn out to be something great if either of them wins the 100m gold medal as expected at London 2012. With all this celebrity spotting going on I didn't know anything about developments at Arsenal until quite late in the day. It has turned out to be another ridiculously busy one.

I'll start with Red And White and their statement in criticism of the powers that be. Let me make it clear that I believe Usmanov's people should be getting a say in how the Club is run - they own nearly a third of the shares. They don't, as they claim, "own one in every three seats" in the stadium - if they do then I've just handed over my season ticket money to the wrong people. I have to say I have a real problem with Red And White making such statements about Arsenal, while claiming to have no desire to destabilise us in any way.
Let's start with the part of their "open letter" that I agree with. They inform us that Ivan Gazidis has, effectively, been cold-calling big firms with regards to commercial deals with Arsenal. In doing so he approached a company that is more than 50% owned by Alisher Usmanov. Red And White quite rightly state that this is unprofessional. How can Arsenal, given that the Board will have nothing to do with Usmanov, be looking for sponsorship from a company without first checking whether or not the Uzbeki owns it? It's yet another in a long line of fails on Gazidis' Arsenal CV.
Apart from that I have no time for anything else they have had to say. The content of the letter is brilliant, and it says everything that most fans want to hear from the Club itself. Every one of us wants to see a debt-free Arsenal spending the big money on the big players, and bringing home trophies. However, there is more than a whiff of propaganda about this. It's a bit like the political party in opposition - they can promise the Earth, but don't have to deliver any time soon. I said on Facebook earlier that it was a piece of "opportunism" following Van Persie's unexpected outburst last night. However, now I have thought more about it I believe there is potentially something a bit more Machiavellian going on.
It is my belief that David Dein is still very much involved with Red And White. Do you remember David Dein? He is often thought to be the man that Arsenal are missing. Certainly in terms of player recruitment he was in a different league to Gazidis. However, I'm not having any nonsense about his "passion" for Arsenal. It's easy, I am sure, to be passionate when you are the only director drawing an annual wage (and a very big one at that), as well as schmoozing your way through the corridors of power in European football. Red And White make great play in their letter today of the fact that the Board made a lot of money selling their collective shares to Stan Kroenke. Lest we forget that David Dein made more money than most of them when he sold out to Usmanov. Make no mistake that David Dein did damn well out of Arsenal Football Club. Where he fell short in his ambitions was never managing to become the all-powerful Chairman he wanted to be. The "establishment" of Arsenal, the Hill-Wood/Bracewell-Smith/Carr/Gibbs axis made sure that this never happened. Interestingly, within today's statement Red And White make it clear that Usmanov does not sit on the Board of any of his companies - in other words he has someone on there for him. When Dein was initially employed with Red And White I am certain that he was set to be that man if and when Usmanov's people got the shares required for control of Arsenal.
So where am I going with this? Well let's look at the fact that, over a number of years, we have seen our star players leaving Arsenal. Thierry Henry signed a new deal in 2006, negotiated by David Dein. In 2007, after Dein was sacked by Arsenal, Henry left for Barcelona. Within a year Adebayor was agitating for a move. A year later he got one, along with Kolo Toure. Then we had the annual nonsense with Fabregas. Gael Clichy also left under a bit of a cloud last season. Now we have Robin Van Persie. Do you know who is the common thread running through all these sagas? Darren Dein, the son of David Dein, has been one of the agents representing each of the players named. Such is the passion that the Dein family has for Arsenal that Darren Dein actively seeks to get our best players transferred year on year it seems. The question is, why?
Red And White have made great play on the fact that this has happened. They also, in a very detailed letter it must be said, cite the example of Robin Van Persie and use it as a reason for their press release today. It's almost as though they had it written already, and that they knew what Robin Van Persie was about to do. But then, if Darren Dein is one of the agents involved, and David Dein is still in with Red And White, it is almost certain that they knew what was about to happen. Could it be that David Dein is actually pulling all the strings here? Is he actually the grand puppeteer? I believe it's certainly food for thought. In the interests of not wanting to invite Alisher Usmanov's lawyers in to my house, I will state that I am only putting this forward as a personal theory, based on no evidence whatsoever.
As I said earlier I believe Mr Usmanov has a right to have his voice heard on the Board of Arsenal Football Club. However, I think the "open letter" today stinks to high heaven. As with Robin Van Persie's ill-advised digs at Arsenal last night the supporters will, by and large, see through the whole thing. If Red And White wanted to make a point, and to get in well with most of the supporters, then they have just scored a tremendous own-goal. What we need right now is not a Civil War for Arsenal FC, but for the Club to do what it has done best when it's been under the cosh during the last 100 years - come out fighting just like Sir Henry Norris did and do what's best for Arsenal, to the detriment of anyone who gets in our way.

Elsewhere I am delighted that Terry Burton is back at Arsenal as Reserve and Youth Development Coach. Burton was the man who nurtured the likes of Martin Keown, David Rocastle, Martin Hayes, Niall Quinn, Michael Thomas, Paul Merson and, of course, Tony Adams back in the early to mid 1980's. He had previously been part of Arsenal's FA Youth Cup winners in 1971 as a young apprentice player.
Terry Burton has been a very successful coach throughout his career, and last season was assistant to Dave Jones when he took over at Sheffield Wednesday and got them promoted. It is always nice when a real Arsenal man comes back to the Club. Hopefully he will be able to instill the Arsenal Way in to the youngsters that come under his charge, just as he did with those lads who came through back in the day. Tony Adams talks highly of Terry Burton's influence. If we can bring through a couple of leaders like Adams, Keown and Rocastle over the next few years then he will have lost none of his magic. Welcome back Terry.

Finally today, you may recall that I said a couple of weeks ago how Arsenal's proposed match in Nigeria looked like being cancelled. You could have knocked me down with a feather when they announced last week that the game was going ahead against a Nigeria XI. I don't know whether I was surprised tonight when Arsenal told us the game was off after all.
For me this is yet another cock-up from the clowns that are running important areas of the Club. Make no mistake this is incredibly embarrassing to Arsenal. I know a couple of supporters who had booked their trip to Abuja, at great expense, and now have been let down badly. It is humiliating that Arsenal could announce, with no small fanfare, their new partnership in Africa. Going to Nigeria always seemed to be a stupid idea. I don't know if anyone in Arsenal's commercial department knows much about current affairs, but Abuja is not an insanely popular travel destination. There are a few reasons for that. Arsenal should have looked in to them before realising there would be "difficulties" in actually taking superstar footballers there. It's just the sort of unprofessional incompetence that Red And White are referring to. Unfortunately.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Back to square one

You wouldn't have that without Arsenal

Tonight's post was going to be about Lukas Podolski's confirmed signing and a rant about the London Olympics. Robin Van Persie has shattered that idea with his statement tonight. I'm sure you all know what he has said so I won't go in to detail about that. Suffice to say that RVP has decided he no longer wants to play for Arsenal, but he still loves the fans blah, blah, blah. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Robin Van Persie was outstanding for Arsenal last season. He deservedly won both major Player Of The Year prizes. It was a truly phenomenal campaign from our Captain. But don't you think he kind of owed us one? Don't you think he still does? Van Persie arrived at Arsenal off the back of the Invincibles season. He was hopelessly one-footed and lacking in pace. Undoubtedly skillful (on his left foot) with a jack-hammer of a shot, he was a spiteful player who had brought with him a reputation for being unpopular. Later that season he was sent-off at Southampton, costing Arsenal the three points. Arsene Wenger marked his card and the disciplinary problems became a thing of the past on the pitch. Make no mistake, Arsenal rescued him from Feyenord and then Arsene rescued his career by setting him on the right path. Before the start of the following season Van Persie was arrested and charged with rape. Arsenal stuck by their man and he was found to have no case to answer. It would have been very easy for Arsenal to kick the youngster in to touch, but they didn't. Over the next six years Robin spent more time injured than playing. What did Arsenal do? They got him all the specialist treatment he needed, they gave him new and improved contracts, and they stuck with him until he came good at the back end of the 2010-2011 season. Don't you think Robin Van Persie owes Arsenal some loyalty?
The statement issued tonight was disrespectful in the extreme to Arsenal FC. For the Captain of the Club to do something like that is completely outrageous. There was no reason to publicly question the ambition of the Club when still employed by them. If what he has said is true, then there are questions that must be answered by Arsenal - though they never will be. However, I do not believe for one minute that financial terms were never discussed or offered. I would also say that, if Van Persie does love Arsenal then I trust we will not be seeing him in a Manchester City or a Chelsea shirt any time soon. After all, it's not about the money...apparently.
There are a couple of things I want Arsenal to do immediately in response. They have already issued a statement with the usual non-inflammatory remarks about fulfilling contracts etc. However, I want to see a harder line taken. We went through all this rubbish with those two idiots last Summer. The Club failed to be strong enough. This time I want to see a statement telling us that Robin Van Persie has been fined for a disciplinary offence (if I went public about the things that are wrong with my employer I would be sacked). I also want to hear that he has been stripped of the Captaincy and that it has been handed to Thomas Vermaelen (who has committed himself to the Club long-term) or Jack Wilshere. Finally I want an announcement that Lukas Podolski will wear the number ten shirt from now on and that Van Persie will be issued with a squad number if the Manager requires him to play at any point. As well as all that there now needs to be a massive transfer - to make Van Persie look stupid, and to get the fans back on side. After all he has to be replaced, and a relatively unknown French striker doesn't quite fit the bill. Go and get Benzema or Goetze or Higuain and show the ambition Van Persie claims the Club is lacking.
There is now, of course, the annual debate about what is going on. Why have we lost our best player, yet again? Obviously the lack of trophies is a big thing to some. But who better to end that drought than the players themselves? Lest we forget that both Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie had the opportunity to win us a trophy in 2011 against a side that got relegated. Who knows how the rest of that season might have gone but for the crushing defeat by Birmingham at Wembley? Only the players were to blame on that occasion.
Over the next couple of days there will be many mourning the loss of Van Persie to Arsenal. I would ask those people to remember one or two things. Firstly, one great season does not an indispensable player make (just ask Adebayor). Secondly, we have lost better and more important players than Van Persie. Thirdly, nobody is bigger than Arsenal Football Club - we celebrated 125 years last December, so I won't be shedding any tears over another player who thinks the grass is greener.
Arsene Wenger is already getting stick over this in some quarters. Regular readers will know that I am no Wenger apologist. In my opinion he should have been out ages ago. However, I don't see how he gets any blame over this. I would also come back to my original point with regards to Van Persie's lack of loyalty. Arsene Wenger created Robin Van Persie. He is owed big time by the Dutchman. Last week Wenger turned down the French FA because he was loyal to Arsenal. He knows that without Arsenal he would not be the figure he is in football. Fair play to him for that.
I will leave you this evening with one final thought. I mentioned earlier that Arsenal rescued Van Persie from Feyenord. He was deeply unpopular in Holland, and Ajax fans had actually tried to get on to the pitch to attack him at a Reserves fixture. This Summer he has cemented his place as the most unpopular Dutch footballer in Holland following his showing at Euro 2012. He has now also made himself deeply unpopular with the many legions of Gooners. That takes some doing.
 Bye bye Robin, now give us back our armband and sod off.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Disappointed about Campbell, Thierry being victimised

Could this be his only appearance in an Arsenal shirt?

Eleven years ago today we were celebrating the arrival of Sol Campbell at Arsenal in the biggest transfer coup in living memory. Today I am lamenting the fact that his namesake will not be in red and white as hoped.
I was really disappointed yesterday when it was announced that Joel Campbell is about to join Real Betis on loan for the season. Campbell himself described it as "a new adventure" and I certainly wish him luck in La Liga. However, I was really hoping to see a bit of the Costa Rican in the Arsenal team this season. With a number of strikers (hopefully) moving on it seemed certain that Joel would be part of the squad on his return from a year in France with Lorient.
One of the other blogs ran a story last week (I forget which site it was) dissecting the rules for work permit applications in the UK. I know a little about the process myself, and I felt the piece was over-simplifying things somewhat. I don't know whether Campbell has been allowed to go out because a new application has been, or was likely to be, refused but it would not surprise me if that was the case. Either way, it is a shame that this talented youngster will not be at Arsenal when we get started again next week.
Campbell is not the first youngster from his part of the World to be signed by Arsenal and immediately sent out on loan. He is also not the first to be loaned out over a number of years. Before him there have been Carlos Vela, Pedro Botelho, Samuel Galindo and Wellington Silva. All of those players have something in common - none have made the grade at Arsenal. In fact Vela is the only one to ever play for the Club. My biggest fear for Joel Campbell is that he will go the same way as the others and that his Arsenal career is actually finished before it has even begun. In his favour is that he will be in the top division in Spain, as opposed to some second division outpost. If he can force his way in to the Betis team then Campbell will at least have the chance to impress at the highest level. Let's hope he's a revelation.

My copy of the end of season DVD arrived last week and I finally got around to watching it properly last night. You will recall, no doubt, that Thierry Henry scored Arsenal's seventh goal in the home rout of Blackburn. You will also recall that, after the end of the season, the goal was taken away from Henry by the Premier League's "dubious goal panel" because of the deflection it took. I was a bit miffed at the time, and even more so now. In the same game, for example, Mikel Arteta hit a shot that was going wide of the goal but was deflected in to the net - Arteta is still credited with the goal. Then there are the goals we conceded to big deflections - Saha for Spurs and Holt for Norwich. Neither of those was beating the goalkeeper before the deflections that took them in (much like Henry's goal). Having said that the shots were on target, but so was Thierry's against Blackburn.
I was so annoyed last night that I googled the "dubious goals panel" to find out who sits on it. I found that nobody is allowed to know. The only thing revealed is that it is made up, at any one time, of "three people who have either played or officiated at the highest level". According to their criteria it states quite clearly that an effort which is originally on target, before being deflected, will see the goal remain credited to the player taking the shot. Goal attempts that were not on target, but are diverted in to the goal, will be credited as own-goals. So why has Henry's goal been taken away? I can only assume that there is someone on the panel who dislikes The King. Let's face it, he has plenty of enemies among defenders who have been humiliated by his sheer brilliance. There can be no other explanation for such a ridiculous miscarriage of justice. As a result Thierry's all time Arsenal record has been brought down by one goal. Quite simply, this is wrong. Arsenal should ignore the decision of the panel and keep Club records as they were, with Henry credited as the scorer. Maybe we should, as my Dad said today, start a campaign to get Thierry's goal back. What do you think?

Just as a quick finish, I promised to keep you abreast of any writing I did at www.arsenalzone.com . I wrote a piece last week about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott and it's been on the site since then. It's a bit dated now as I forgot to link to it from this site, but you can read it by clicking here. I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Boring Spain finally thrill

Spain - brilliant when they entertain

Spain finally stepped up to the plate last night and decided to entertain Europe. The performance against Italy showcased Spanish football at its very best, with the technical skill on show simply second to none. It was a fitting end to the best international tournament since France '98.
I have been particularly scathing about Spain over the past three weeks. I stick by every word I have said. Until last night Spain played a brand of keep ball that suffocated the game. There was little attempt to score goals, with the exception of their game against a Football League standard Ireland team. I was getting annoyed last night with all these smug know-alls on Twitter and the like having a go at people like me. These people deliberately overlooked the fact that Spain played a completely different style of football last night. Instead of the constant sideways passing there was an intent to destroy Italy. Compared to their other games it was chalk and cheese, and it couldn't have been more entertaining to watch.
In order to underline my point about the change in style from Spain I want to highlight the fact that Italy had more possession in the first-half - Spain were more carefree with the ball as they tried to create chances, rather than play keep-ball. Italy also had eleven shots at goal, and Cassillas was as busy as he has been in the last three international tournaments. It all made for a real spectacle.
Let me make the point that I have no problem with the way Spain played in the earlier games, other than a wish to be entertained more. Good football is winning football. If you are winning then you should make no apology for how you do it. However, that is not to say that people are not entitled to criticise. I well remember how Arsenal under George Graham were castigated for being "boring", but no Gooner cared as we were winning trophies (actually, until near to the end of Graham's reign we were far from boring). Anyone who claims to have actively enjoyed Spain's play until last night is either lying or is an out and out football snob. The reason Germany and Italy grew in popularity during the tournament was because they played football with intent to score goals. They attacked at pace and tried to get in behind the opposition. Last night Spain came to the party, and did it better than any of them.
It's probably a shame that such a great side got the stick it did during this tournament. Thankfully, what will remain in the memory will not be the boring pass, pass, pass with no shots. What will be remembered is the glorious attacking play of last night. I just wish we'd seen it sooner.

As much as I am not a fan of international football, I can't deny that a Summer tournament is the perfect distraction from a lack of Arsenal action. Apart from anything else there is less transfer rubbish in the newspapers as there is something else to concentrate on. With the players back for pre-season next week we can now get back to Arsenal. The blog will now return to normal, with a concentration on what really matters.