Monday, 29 August 2011

The Morning After The Night Before

Do you ever get that feeling when you first wake up that you don’t know what day it is or what happened the day before and then suddenly your stomach sinks and you remember everything instantly? It was the best two seconds I’ve experienced since our horror show at Old Trafford yesterday. All I have is questions for the Arsenal Hierarchy and no answers. Who do I aim them at? Is there any point? I’m blatantly just pissing into the wind.

So where do we start with yesterday? Well the line up is a good place.

Wenger went with inexperience at full back, after the loss of Bacary Sagna to illness! Ill since Thursday but well enough to find his password for twitter and tweet "hello everyone..sorry for the silence but couldn't remember my password anymore. Glad to be back." and " I'm not playing because of a virus.feel sick since thrusday..I had high temperature until now..woke up to watch and support my team." We also had to deal with the loss of Thomas Vermaelen to a knock picked up in Udine. Now, I’m not one to usual question their absences but could they both have played? It was obvious we’d struggle without them.  A lot of people believed  Vermaelen should have been skipper and I hope i'm just being overly ciritcial but I'd expect him to play. Them we had the debutant Coquelin in the team to protect the back four. Upfront we had Arshavin, Van Persie and Walcott so we could offer something in attack.

Whilst it was a horrific team display, I thought Djourou was particularly horrendous. That performance is up there with Stepanovs v Dwight Yorke and co. He was so easy to expose. Countless 1-2’s had him like a rabbit in the headlights. Why did he try to shield a ball back to Szczesny, whilst it was bouncing and in our own box? He also got caught ball watching and unable to recover time after time. They just never learn.

If you want to compare that with Thomas Vermaelen v Liverpool, you'll see the difference.

For those that haven't used this great app (FourFourTwo Stats Zone), orange X's and O's are clearances. Purple are failed attamepts and the black triangles are fouls. This doesn't show how many times he was motionless and exposed by United.

In fairness to his centre half partner I didn’t think Koscielny did that bad but neither were dominating and we might as well have had some bollards at the back.

Then we move onto our midfield, the key to this entire formation. Poor debutant Coquelin didn’t have a hope with Ramsey and Rosicky. Rosicky was seen in the warm up trying to pass on some advice ahead of game, which was good to see but as soon as the match kicked off he (Coquelin) was fed to the lions. Neither Rosicky or Ramsey offered much in the way of support and he did quite well considering, especially when you take into account he was substituted when score line was 3-1.

Then we have the non dynamic forward three. I’m not sure whether the departure of Cesc and Nasri has led some players to believe they are more important than the actually think but Walcott stitched his ‘mate’ up at right back and woefully exposed him throughout, which led to an altercation between the pair and Jenkinson told Theo to ‘fuck off’. A lot of fans on twitter made the point it was nice to see passion but you can’t help but feel Theo wouldn’t have done the same to Sagna. Theo, as an experienced team member needs to focus on helping the lad not hindering him. Jenkinson became clumsy and was later sent off. A lot was also made of Van Persie’s poor pen but in truth I don’t think it would have had an impact on the result. We were going to lose yesterday, no matter what. Van Persie has been in sensational form all year but now he is captain he has to stand up and be counted. He does have questions over his big game mentality and yesterday did little in the way of quelling that. He got a goal, yes but it was a token gesture. As for Arshavin, well I’ve always been a fan of his because he creates but it obvious to us all that he is merely a passenger in this side and we can ill afford those at present.

The teams perfromance can be assessed by their influence on the game compliling all of their stats:

 The bigger the name the bigger the influence...

Post game Wenger looked for reasons behind the defeat

“You could see that we had not recovered completely from Wednesday night. We were as well weak in some departments and Manchester united has of course, class”

Even though we had made 5 changes to the starting line up.

Although Wenger declined to apologise for the performance in his initial SlySports interview, he did so in his press conference.

"The fans were great and I feel sorry for them. They do not want to see their team like that. We can only apologise and come back in our strength and desire in the next game."

Nice to see a bit of honesty for a change and that leads us to the highlight of yesterday. Our support, It must have lasted for about 15-20 minutes if not longer but chants of “We love you Arsenal, we do” rang out loud and clear around Old Trafford. Every one of our supporters in attendance is a credit to Arsenal Football Club. We’ve had to put up with a lot at Old Trafford in the way of gloating from the United faithful but in the face of adversity and a pathetic display, the support was phenomenal.

Moving onto overall support for a moment but off the field we are starting to see cracks in The Emirates project. I found this on last night:

Swansea City at Home, 3pm kick off and it's a general sale. Astonishing,

Add to that approximately 11000 fans were wiped off the waiting list and the club is certainly heading in the wrong direction. I prefer to think supporters just can’t justify the obscene prices and it’s not a case of people turning their backs on the club. You have to take the rough with the smooth. Supporting Arsenal isn’t about winning trophies, it’s about watching/supporting your side play and should always enjoy that. No matter what.

So where do we go from here? Well Wenger, Gazidis and The Board have three days to work miracles because if they don’t there’ll be even more uproar. The Wenger Out brigade is now a majority and whilst it would be catastrophic for him to leave now, the end of the season might be the end for our legendary manager. A poll on asked if Arsenal would finish in the top 4. 85% voted no. Not surprising given the humping we received yesterday but our season could well be decided by our activity (or lack of) in the next 3 days. If we do promising business I will still believe but I’m not expecting anything to be honest.

Wenger said last night

“I know that in England that when you lose a game the signings are always the solution. First we need to get our players back. We had eight players out today and anybody would suffer with eight players out.”

I agree that signings are not always the solution but they aren’t needed just because we were thrashed off United, there is a much bigger picture to look at. Our squad is awful. Lot’s of players are either too young and yet to realise their potential or living off former glories.

When a manager leaves a side you have to go through a poor run of form, lose your best players and have a lot of discontent through the entire club. We are currently in the midst of that and the next 72 hours will determine whether we can turn this around or if we’ll persist with our current policy. If we do persist this love affair between Arsenal and Arsene will come to a tragic end.

Realistically I think we need approx 8 quality additions to the squad, even with 8 players returning. We need 2 centre halfs to replace Squillaci and Djourou. We need quality cover at right back and possibly a left back, as Gibbs is already showing he is not to be relied upon. We desperately need depth in midfield. Frimpong might have resolved the cover needed at DM but we need at least 2 more centre midfielders. We need depth at striker to cover RVP, which looks like its going to Park Chu-Young and another winger. That is too much to do in an entire transfer window and possibly two windows but we all know it won’t happen, no matter how many windows it takes. The sands of time are fast running out and we need to act now. Over to you Arsenal, we all want to believe but someone isn’t telling the full story or we are just being lied time and time again. Prove us wrong for once.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Transfer Anxiety - Same Old Arsenal

Over the last few months it’s fair to say we’ve all been put through the mill a fair bit with the comings and goings at our Football Club. Wednesday night was huge for some many reasons but if the worst case scenario had reared its ugly head it would have severely impacted our ability to bring in new players. We won and now we are days away from the window closing. It is clear we are trying to do business with Bolton and they attempting every trick in the book to drum up interest, which is a good sign but ultimately at this moment in time Gary Cahill is still a Bolton Wanderers player.

Wenger said in his press conference today

"I will try to strengthen the squad in depth because at the moment we are a bit short number-wise but if we get two or three players in we have the quality to challenge."

That is promising but he went on to say

"There is a chance [we could make no signings] because again we are dependent on the desire of the people who have the players to sell the players."

If you wanted to analyse those quotes you might come to the conclusion that we might not sign anyone, so is Wenger saying we won’t be able to challenge? Irrespective of our opinions I’d imagine AW would always believe we were challengers, given his notorious stubborn nature. However, for me the thought of us signing three players is quite positive talk from AW. I want to genuinely believe that this side can contend for major honours, at the moment I can only hope. I want to get carried away with the hysteria that comes with a new attacking signing and seeing the positivity flow through the club once again. We’ve be bogged down with so much negativity over recent months this club needs a facelift. The feel good factor needs to return.

Imagine the headline, Hazard signs for Arsenal. would go into meltdown. The internet can barely handle the Arsenal rumour mill, my phone certainly can’t. I now have Eden Hazard saved as a search on twitter to see if rumours have any foundation and thus far all I can find is an article by a non-credible website from last night that has been recycled many times today. This is what it has come to, I spend time in my day translating various websites to find legit sources behind stories. However, I know deep down that it probably won’t happen but this is the sort of inspiration we need to galavanise our side. Arsenal want good commercial results, shirts would fly out of the club store; printing would go through the roof. After all you have to speculate to accumulate right? Every man and his dog know Hazard is a play that would help fill the void left by Fabregas and The Million Dollar Man.

I am at a point where I don’t care how much we pay for players. I’m not saying sign average players for 20m like certain sides but the likes of M’Vila, Hazard and Cahill for me can command 60m-80m worth of fees. It no longer matters that we get the best deals possible. I just want them signed, holding our shirt and telling me they’ve supported Arsenal all of their life. We moved to this stadium to compete financially remember.

In less than 5 days this will all be over and I can snap out of this pathetic routine that I have fallen into but Wenger needs to come up trumps otherwise the knives that are already out there will get that much sharper. We got lucky last year when we didn’t replace Almunia but this is multiple positions that need strengthening now and we need to buy. We cannot afford to take a gamble on the current squad but there is a part of me that thinks we won’t get what we want and we’ll have to make do. Let’s hope this isn’t the case.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A Striking Dilemma

Van Persie's Arsenal

Much has been said about our defensive issues over the last season and more, but what also concerns me going into this season is our lack our depth at the striker. As our football club prepares for departure of Cesc Fàbregas, much attention will turn to the captain in waiting Robin Van Persie. This is now Van Persie's team without any shadow of a doubt. He is our leader in terms of performance on the pitch (all be it the wrong choice for skipper), he is in the form of his life but when we played Benfica last Saturday, he got clattered and was down requiring treatment. As every gooner collectively sighed cross the globe hoping this wasn't another injury like the one he picked up at Ewood Park last season, it suddenly dawned on me that it wasnt just a another case of 'van Persie ruled out indefinitely', this was now a situation where without the great Dutchman we carry very little threat in reserve.

Competition (or lack of)

Van Persie is without a doubt our leading striker but we all know he isn't exactly reliant... Hopefully he can overcome that this season and beat his best record of 38 starts in a season but if the worst was to happen, we have to look to our squad. Marouane Chamakh would appear to be the next in line and that worries me, immensely. First of all we are going to have to rely on him to get us through the first 90 minutes of our tie v Udinese. Relying on a player who has mustered 11 shots at goal (in the Premier League) since Christmas is nothing short of disgraceful and embarrassing. Of those 11 shots he's managed to get a mighty 2 on target, he's averaging a shot on goal every 215 minutes (via @orbinho). What is all of that about? Given our wealth of wingers and the creativity that Fàbregas brings/brought to our side it makes me wonder if we've put a square peg in a round hole. Chamakh looked a real threat during his time at Bordeaux and he even started his Arsenal career well but the phrase "form is temporary, class is permanent" doesn't look like it applies in the case. There is speculation about his private life affecting his performances but if that is the case it has now gone on for 8 months and that isn't acceptable. He didn't manage a single goal in pre-season, even against a Malaysia XI and the mighty Hangzhou Greentown. He is paid a reported 50k a week and I can't help but feel Bendtner's appetite for starts would be served better by staying at Arsenal, rather than being lower in the pecking order to Chamakh. His touch has been appalling throughout his baron spell and his ability to hide in games is unbelievable. Fans always get on the backs of Arshavin and Bendtner but they always put themselves up there when it comes to creating or scoring goals. Then we have Carlos Vela, who to be fair to him has shown that he is a lot more lively and ruthless in his appearances during pre-season. For a start, he's actually scored, twice! I would say he is ahead of Chamakh in terms of starting but that's more of damming indictment on Chamakh than it is praise for Vela. The Mexican does get into positions where he can hurt sides but are we in a position where a player that we loaned out to West Brom, who couldn't hold down a starting berth with them, suddenly becomes our number 2 striker, I don't think so. I would like us to convivnce Bendtner to stay with us. He may not be the regular starter but considering we can play approx 60 games in a season, when Van Persie has only managed over 30 starts once in his Arsenal career, that's as good as assurance you'll get for minutes on the pitch. It is however unlikely given Bendtner's claim that a transfer is very close to happening that he will ever pull on an Arsenal shirt again (much to the delight of many Arsenal fans).


We do also have striking options on the wings but giving the tactics/selection in pre-season I can't see Theo Walcott entertaining any time through the middle. Maybe an injury crisis will break out and Arsène Wenger will have no choice but to put our new age number 14 at the heart of our attack. I think Walcott would make an excellent striker (as I have blogged on at the end of last season), he has all of the qualities we need but it appears another season on the right wing beckons. Maybe once Oxlade-Chamberlain shows he is ready to play week in week out we'll see Theo make the transition from winger to striker. We also have a man for all forward positions in Gervinho but he has accommodated the flanks throughout all of his appearances so far. He certainly has the directness within the box to go for goal and he would definelty score us goals but given his career at Arsenal is in it's infantcy it's unlikely he'll move either. We've also deployed Arshavin as a centre forward in the past but that didn't quite go to plan. Especially when we lost 3-1 to United but he wasn't to be faulted given that fact he competed for crosses against Ferdinand and Vidic. How Arshavin paid for that cracking strike at Anfield.

Buy Buy Buy

We need to sign a striker, it's as simple as that. Van Persie needs competition for his place, the team needs more than one genuine goal source and maybe it buck the ideas of certain alleged forwards. No Plan B has often been a commonly used phase around the The Emirates and we may well start the season without a genuine plan A, if we are to lose Nasri & Fàbregas. Irrespective of those issues we will need to show intent in the transfer market and sign a forward, fans clamour for the signings of Benzema or Rossi. Players like Llorente may become available if we pay the right price. This is a worrying time regarding the direction our club is heading in but we seem to have so many issues that one transfer window may not be enough to sign the players we need. One thing is for certain, if Fàbregas and/or Nasri is to leave by the weekend, the club and the fans need top class players coming through that door or this may well prove to be a long season. After all Wenger said we wouldn't be a big club if we sold them, he can however prove we are a big club by bringing in proven players.