I seriously do wonder if Blatter and his cabal of nonsense speaking mental friends at FIFA have it in for the English league. I mean, we know the chap has a dislike for the Premiership bordering on the psychotic but a round of friendlies before the opening weekend of the season? That’s a prick move. Considering the fact that the Premiership is the most watched league worldwide, with a large number of world football’s superstars involved, you’d have thought it was in Fifa’s interest to ensure that they didn’t play a round of Friendlies in places like Mexico 3 days before the premiership season starts. At best it’s incompetence, at worst it’s malicious and I wouldn’t put anything past that bollock headed moron.
But, assuming that Arsenal’s international brigade don’t break their legs or faces whilst on international duty, it really get’s down to business this weekend. For once, Murdoch’s incessant dicking about with the fixtures will actually provide us with some benefit, an extra day. And so much can happen in a day, including getting a new goalkeeper and teaching your team how to defend. Well, we’ve had more than a day to do that already, but you know how we love the last minute.
I’m intrigued by the season ahead. I see Arsenal as having a major deficiency or two – namely we don’t have a goalkeeper yet, only three nodding dogs with rusty springs, and we still can’t defend as a team. Remember when we played Bar**lona and in that first 45 they a) dicked us all over the pitch and b) bullied us off the ball when we did manage to touch it. Arsenal don’t do that, we don’t track properly and we don’t close down. There isn’t any point in one player running after the ball and closing people down when the rest of the team are watching him. The opposition just pass to an unpressed player. If the entire team don’t press as one, then there is no point one player running their guts out. It’s what Wilshere was saying the Arshavin, run you lazy shit, for the love of god stop eating and start running (speaking of whom, what a marvelous pair of breasts he is growing – Arshavin, the new Nasri). We conceded 5 goals this week mainly because we step off and never pressure as one. If someone does press like Koscielny did for one of the goals, everyone else stands off (Vermaelen) and the opposition just walk through. Press or don’t, but really, definitely press please. If I see Denilson stand and watch Wayne Rooney run past him to score this season I might actually explode and cover my walls with brain and rage.
The frustrating thing about it is, I believe that in every position apart from goal we have a very strong 1st team (if not quite the defensive numbers to say a complete squad) – we genuinely do seem to suffer from a lack of effort and work ethic (hello Wigan 2-0 down you say, take 3-2) and defensive organisation.
As most of you will know from my comments though, despite our shortcomings I’m not naive enough to think it’s all doom and gloom. After yesterdays traditional season opener at Wembley, two things occured to me. Firstly, Wayne Rooney works bloody hard, but sometimes the press get a bit carried away with it all and secondly Arsenal will never have a better chance to win the league.
On the subject of Rooney, he is clearly an incredible talent, a player who I mostly admire for his tenacity and will to win. I’ve been one of those that has berated his moods and childish thugging around, but really it is great to see football mean so much to one player. It’s something I see in Jack Wilshere, but something I find lacking in the rest of our squad sometimes, RVP and Fabregas aside. But the way Andy Gray was going on about that first goal shows how much of a dour moron the man is. A fantastic ball from Scholes, Rooney looked up quickly saw he was onside and saw Valencia cutting across and he simply played the numbers game. Percentages. Hit the ball across the area and have faith that your mate is running there. He didn’t even look up again, Valencia could have stopped running – it wasn’t wonderful vision, it was simply a hopeful pass. What it was, was fantastic team play, great running and commitment from both Rooney and Valencia and a decent ball from Scholes.
Firstly the caveat to this next bit is both teams had a few players missing and the atmosphere was that of a friendly at times – in the League Scholes would have been off for two yellows. But 80,000+ people didn’t think it was a friendly and do not underestimate the will to win of either team, so that they might strike the first blow of a long arduous season.
With that in mind, both teams were fairly poor. Chelsea seem to have reverted to the narrow formation employed at the beggining of Ancelloti’s tenure – I don’t understand it, Kalou and Malouda who can run and cross, and you tuck them in? Mental. As a consequence, after United scored first Chelsea never really looked like they would break them down – they just didn’t seem like they could mount a counter attack – United defended very well, but Chelsea just looked dull going forwards at times. The sooner Drogba is fit and playing 90 minutes the better for them. Sure they coped OK without him at points last season, but he often proves the difference. Depending on how they line up this season if they continue playing narrow and solid in the middle, I just don’t think they’ll get as many points as last season. Nice to see Essien back though, he’s a terrific player and has suffered some horrible injury problems. Odd to say, but a likable Chelsea player – he just mustn’t spend much time with John Terry.
United look like they picked up where they left off last season. An incredibly effective counter attack built around Wayne Rooney’s tireless running and the wide players flooding to support, coupled with a disgusting cretin in the middle trying to break someone’s legs. Make no mistake, in the Premieship Scholes would have been off yesterday for at least two stonewall yellows. The few games I’ve really seen of Gibson seem to suggest he’s in the same mold, break legs first, break legs later, break them again as you get up. It’s a shame, because otherwise Scholes is a great footballer – he get’s forward and his distribution is excellent, I don’t think he gave it away once yesterday. He’s just an abhorrent tackler.
They really do have an average midfield compared to most of Fergie’s previous teams. Anderson is so poor he might get left out of their 25 (that’s doubtful though really), Fletcher (as noted in the comments a few days ago) was their best player last season which speaks volumes because he is essentially a box to box journeyman who wouldn’t have got a look in a few years ago, Giggs and Scholes are getting older and older – Scholes in particular is a red card timebomb as he gets slower and further from the ball – Valencia has the flair, but has been fairly inconsistent and Nani for all his quick feet seems more interested in taking an extra two or three touches. We had this debate in the comments but I’d far rather see Fabregas, Song, Wilshere, Frimpong, Nasri, Rosicky, Diaby and even lazy lazy Denilson in my dressing room that the other mob.
Again, I see United struggling to score against more negative teams. It’s odd they made the transition from all out attacking goal scoring machines to counter attack darlings, but then they’ve lost Ronaldo’s flair and not found an effective replacement yet. They’ve started turning into Stoke. I keep expecting their players to start practicing long throws, although the new boy did his best to inject some hilarity into the game, kicking the ball into his own face before it rolled over the line. I did laugh. The trouble with counter attacking football is there needs to be an attack to counter.
I think what I’m trying to say is that before the season has even started all people do is sit and whine all over the internet about how we have to buy this chap and that chap and we need two for this position and that position. If we just learnt to defend, that would be a start and like I’ve tried to intimate above – the two teams who finished above us last season have problems of their own, and weaknesses.
One last thing, I wish Arsenal would shut our players up about Emir Spahic – we’ll turn into Barcelona if our players keep saying how great he is. That is not a good thing.