Thursday Round Up – El Classico, Transfers, Vermaelen & The March

Howdie Folks…

It’s day 2 for me without broadband, and the faithful Blackberry has to step in again and act as a USB modem. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry! It’s not 20Meg, it’s more like 0.5Meg, but it’ll do… until Sky sort out the broadband… if they ever do!

Back to football, and yesterday saw a feisty encounter between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Bernabeu… it wasn’t the classic that you’d expect… until the last 10 minutes, when Messi scored a sublime solo effort to make it 2-0. It was an interesting affair, as the last couple of encounters have been – a lot of fouling, a lot of play acting and a lot of sulking from Ronaldo. Barcelona didn’t look as comfortable as they have and looked a bit nervous – but the decision from the officials to send off Pepe for a challenge that didn’t deserve a red. I actually feel sorry for Real Madrid and sorry for Mourinho – he’s worked hard, he didn’t deserve this!

Back to Arsenal and thank you all for comments, twitter messages and emails about the squad… it’s been interesting to listen and read through the comments and messages and there is a common consensus through the fans – whether or not the manager feels the same is another question all together…

Transfers

There have been a lot of comments saying that we don’t need a new goalkeeper any more as Szcznesy has proved he’s good enough – whilst I do agree that Szcznesy is the best of what we’ve got, the others aren’t much to go by. IE, of course Robin Van Persie is our best striker, because we have Chamakh and Bendtner – but should that stop us buying a world class striker? No, of course not – better players = a better squad. So for me, yes, we need a new goalkeeper to raise the bar, to challenge Szcznesy and to give us a credible option if our first choice keeper gets injured.

One or two comments have suggested that Koscielny would be more suited as a defensive midfielder and for me, I had my doubts – but seeing Pepe yesterday play for Real Madrid – a player who has played all of his top career as a defender – in midfield, made me double think this whole thing. If Arsene was watching the game, surely he must be thinking the same thing.

With Vermaelen back, Koscielny will be relegated to the subs bench next season and with the likelihood of additional defenders being brought in, it’s food for thought. It is clear that we need to strengthen defensively – Arsene has admitted it to, so we should see some changes. The majority of fans want a player like Gary Cahill brought in – I can see why – he gives 100%, is good in the air, commanding and also British – he’ll cost a fair amount, but we need better players. I’m not sure if he’s the right fit, but he certainly can’t be ruled out.

There is a big call for a proper winger – someone who could fit into the formation or a 442 and cause problems, attack players and dribble – something Arshavin and Walcott have clearly not mastered. In fact, there is a big call for moving back to a 442 with Theo and RvP up front. I’m sure we’ll discuss more soon…

The March

So, I keeping on hearing about the anti-Wenger march… The march was originally organised to be a peaceful one, but I fear that it will become a slightly more aggressive. I definitely agree with the content and press release that was issued, but I’m not sure if a march / protest is the right way of doing it!

A snippet of the press release:

We want to see Mr Wenger repeat his early successful years with the club.While we’re appreciative of what Mr Wenger has achieved for Arsenal in the past, we believe that the manager should be held accountable for the success of the team and not the club’s balance sheet. Itis felt by many fans that since the departure of David Dein, Mr Wenger has taken on too much responsibility at the club to the detriment of his team. As a major football club, Arsenal should be competing for and winning trophies.

I have to say it’s quite true – Arsene Wenger needs to concentrate back on the football side of things only, something I touched on in yesterday’s blog. He needs to focus on coaching and motivating the players – not worrying about the money side of things, or the balance sheet.

An interesting point that I whole heartedly agree with is:

Adopt practices of other Premier League clubs in moving away fans to the upper tiers i.e. moreexpensive seating, thereby providing more affordable seating for Arsenal supporters. As itstands, away fans have prime positions in the stadium at the lowest cost – to the detriment ofArsenal supporters.

I find it amazing how nice we have been by placing the away fans in the most central part of the stands and lower tier – when I go away to other stadiums, I often find myself stuck in the upper tier or the upper upper tier (in the case of Barcelona) and it allows the home fans more prominent space to take control of the game – something we lack at the Arsenal.

I’m sure we’ll speak more about this in the next week or so… but for now… I’ll leave you with some good news…

Vermaelen

Good news for all of us, Tommy V is back. He’ll be in action tonight in the reserves and it will be good to see how he fairs. He’s been out for the whole season, so we’ll have to be patient, but if he is back for next season, fully fit, then we’ve got a defensive re-enforcement!

  • JayJayGooner

    I do think it’s time for the fans to say something and there is no better way than doing so via a march. It’s clear that Wenger has had it his way for too long. How else can the fans have their say?

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Another opportunity to take a swing at Wenger…but who really cares,right? I watched the Barca-Real ¨game¨and it was a disgrace from start to finish…play acting,referee-bating, Barca players trying to intimidate the officials, dull, defensive Football until Messi did his magic and Real predictably collapsed in front of their home fans!
    Funny how nobody mentions that we had Barca on the ropes after the first round and how we were in it right up till the referee mistakenly sent off RVP (our best player that night)!
    Funny how everyone started to really blame Wenger for everything from bad weather to the Queen’s dyspepsia after that loss at the Nou Camp but forgot to remember that we have been in the top 4 for 15 years straight, in the CL knockout-round for 10 years and in every other competition for 20 years.
    I’m definitely NOT an AKB supporter but I am not a blinkered, Gloomer and Doomer Wenger out fanboy either. Blaming Wenger for our ills is simplistic in the extreme, pointless and unhelpful and in actual fact doesn’t offer any positive suggestions as to who would replace the manager of the decade! Mourinho would destroy the Arsenal in a year or two, Guardiola would never be available, anyone else is well below Arsene’s level and would take 4-5 years to have any result.
    By the way glad to see the Verminator back!

  • Berth

    @ Domhuaille MacMathghamhna: your opinion sounds interesting but is not worth considering under the circumstances we find ourselves. You can’t pay 60 quid for a match or over a 1,000 pounds on season ticket in this tight period and not expect good return on investment.That return should be measured with trophies and not the number of competition we have appeared in; the tag nearly men echo around me whenever I find myself in the mist of united and Chelsea fans.

    Then comparing us to United, I know we shouldn’t but they have been winning trophies and at the verge of yet another final; making it their third final in 5 years. We can’t sit on mediocrity when you know what potential your manager’s got

  • Lagos

    @ Berth:
    Agree with you. The mistakes being made are for the reasons cited above. The club has a unique dynamic and perhaps Arsene Wenger is too engrossed in the club affairs to concentrate on the team affairs.

    I’d prefer him to go back to how it was before when he would pay top dollar for the likes of Thierry. A special player with a special ability – you can’t say that about anyone in our squad at the moment.

    We have a HUGE wage bill, people like Denilson, Bendnter and Eboue on more wages than Rafael Van Der Vaart, Modric or Bale – that doesn’t make sense. It was done on the premise that they would be amazing players in the future – but that is when they should be rewarded – not now.

    This is the summer of reckoning – I fully support the march and think it makes a lot of sense. If AW doesn’t realise the fans frustration now, then he never will.

  • Kodjo

    I agree with Berth in his assessment of the situation. We cant sit on mediocrity and become nearly men season in season out.

    I’m sure Wenger will have no choice but to take action in the summer bcos of the current state of affairs. I dont think a radical overhaul is needed but it hurts to see the fringe players on at least 50 grand showing no passion or will to die for the club.

    Wenger needs to gamble and play certain players in diff positions in key matches…he has gambled on youth… why not gamble on tactics and personnel. Tactically for certain games i’d even play Djourou as a defensive midfielder alongside Song, which he actually was until Wenger converted him into a centreback. Clearly Kos has the engine to run around the midfield like a mad dog ala Pepe and is comfortablle on the ball. His anticipation and reading of the game is excellent bar the mistakes which he is allowed partly due to this being his 1st season and lack of physical presence.

  • Domhuaille

    Kodjo and Berth seem to think that the Arsenal are a mediocre team with mediocre results and maybe this season they’re not having their finest hour but, as I pointed out before, we are NOT mediocre….City and Liverpool have had mediocre seasons, Real will have 1 LaLiga trophy after spending 10 times what we spent and Spuds, well we all know they’re the definition of mediocrity.
    Wenger will sell and transfer in this summer because Kroenke apparently wants him to top up the club with a few first class players and reduce the wage bill on squad types like Eboue,Rosicky etc. There will be changes for the better,but that doesn’t mean from mediocre to slightly above, it means from very good to excellent.

  • yemi

    @ Domhuaille:
    I disagree with you, for how long do you think we can continue to be the “NEARLY” or “ALMOST” club ?
    In january we were clamouring for a defender, Wenger gambled on TV coming back from injury, What happened ? TV gets a setback and BHAM !!! Djourou gets injured…. Then we are left with squilacci, KOS and miguel !!!
    The truth of the matter is that we are quite overloaded in midfield(Apart from DM where we have only Song), We are light at the back.
    For crying out loud even Spuds have about 5 CB’s or more in Gallas, Dawson, King, Woodgate etc and even Bassong who can do the job… We are light weight in defence. In RB we have Sagna alone (ebuoue ? No way), LB clichy and young Gibbs. DM, song alone, CB Squillacci, Kos, Djourou, TV, Miguel. So so Weak…. No presence in that CB line up, no experience apart from TV maybe? Squil Yes in experience but no in skills …
    The effect of this can be seen in games that we lost/drew from winning positions. Because noone take charge of the defense when we are under pressure in the dying minutes… 13 points dropped from winning positions against Spurs (5), Liverpool (2), Newcastle (2 + Ego), Sunderland (2), and wigan (2 Squillacci own goal) making 13 points.

    Add 13 to our current points tally and we would have been on 77 points….*Sigh* So much for an easier run in !!!

    The difference between this season and other seasons is that there is no team you will confidently say Arsenal will beat (Apart from maybe b’pool ?)

    Something needs to be done about the leaky defense. That was the problem last season. We score a lot of goals but leak a lot !!!

    What embarrasses me most is that When teams beat us, they go an and lose to one crappy team. Bolton, B’ham ….

  • yemi

    Arsenal vs Spurs 2:3 => 3 points. Winner 86th minute
    Spurs vs Arsenal 3:3 => 2 points. Equaliser 70th minute
    Newcastle Vs Arsena 4:4 => 2 points. Equaliser 87th minute
    Arsenal vs l’pool 2:3 => 2 points. Equaliser 101st minute
    Wigan vs Arsenal 2:2 => 2 points. Equaliser 80th minute (og)
    s’land vs Arsenal 1:1 => 2 points. Equaliser 90th minute

    We can’t hold on to leads anymore.

  • yemi

    Arsenal vs Spurs 2:3 => 3 points. Winner 86th minute (leading by a 2 goal margin)
    Spurs vs Arsenal 3:3 => 2 points. Equaliser 70th minute (leading by a 2 goal margin)
    Newcastle Vs Arsena 4:4 => 2 points. Equaliser 87th minute (leading by a 4 goal 1st half margin)
    Arsenal vs l’pool 2:3 => 2 points. Equaliser 101st minute
    Wigan vs Arsenal 2:2 => 2 points. Equaliser 80th minute (og)
    s’land vs Arsenal 1:1 => 2 points. Equaliser 90th minute

    We can’t hold on to leads anymore.

  • samir

    Despite Wenger’s protestations that we wont be selling our stars I dont think he can do much to stop it. Cesc and Nasri will want to go to Spain at some point – its where most Mediterraneans want to end up anyway. I suspect we will have another cat and mouse summer with these two. Either way on Cesc I believe the Captaincy should be taken away from him. Wenger has made a mess of this since Viera left. He should have made Gilberto captain but didnt – then he should have made Toure not Gallas captain. We have two options – if Vermaelen returns fully fit I would make him captain. The other option is to make a bid for Scott Parker. WHU look doomed and we could pick him up and make him captain. We need some focused leadership in the team and Cesc is clearly not mature enough to be a captain. His whole body language against Bolton was an example of that. Will Wenger be brave enough to do this – of course he wont!

  • samir

    I think the problem is that the stench of “near enough is good enough” permeates our club from top to bottom, nors general. Change is long overdue and I don’t believe that, after spending so long insinuating himself into the fabric of our club, Wenger will listen to anyone else or appoint a No.2 with the necessary cojones to be Mr Nasty and shake things up. There’s also no way he will hold his hands up, admit he’s been wrong and trash the amount of players we need to axe. We need far more than a bit of tinkering because everyone is in the dozy, CL comfort zone and no one can rouse themselves to take the steps needed to progress and become WINNERS. As for players going elsewhere if Wenger goes, er, big deal. I doubt it would happen but even if it did, is that really enough reason to stick with our busted flush manager? And what do such thoughts say about our overpaid, underperforming mercenaries?
    The problem is the so-called fans we’ve picked up recently appear to be Arsene fans, not necessarily Arsenal fans. They don’t really seem to care if we win or lose… as long as Arsene’s running the show. Oh, and they also spend an inordinate amount of time NOT talking about football!

  • Berth

    Samir I understand your pain but at this juncture you should try to find a very fine balance between being obsessed about football and what you call life. Don’t be drawn into this tantrum and get a real life ooutside of Arsenal if you want to live longer.

  • Bonathan

    Firstly, I think we need not get too carried away. People are calling for wholesale changes. At the end of the day, we have comfortably qualified for the champions league despite a lot of strengthening from the clubs behind. We have been involved in the title race up to now, and but for some a few silly mistakes, as well as some bad luck, would still be involved now.

    The goals against bolton for me highlighted the need for us to defend set pieces better. Whether it comes from the coaching staff or from a more commanding addition to our back line. I’d say both might be a good idea. I heard perry groves talking on sky sports saying he felt steve bould should maybe have more involment with the first team. I can’t help but think this would be a good idea, whether it be replacing pat rice or working alongside. he is apparentely highly rated as a coach and certainly knows a thing or two about the art of defending.

    we have been unlucky to be without our 1st choice CB for nearly the full season which is going to be a big blow for any side. Not to mention being without arguably our 2nd best (JD) for long spells as well (taking time to bed him back in after his long lay of at the start of the season, and then his shoulder problem more recently).

    I feel we have an excellent cb in vermaelen, as well as a really good, and still improving JD. I feel you need at least 4 good options at CB. Kos has been hit and miss, but given that he still has his best years ahead of him and that it was his first season in english football, i’d be happy to keep him on. Squillaci too has been new to the league and if we were in a better position, perhaps i would be inclined to bear with him as well. but given our disappointments, and need to make sure in this area, i think he has to be the fall guy. let’s face it, he’s not getting any younger either.

    I think we need to sign an established, quality CB. Cahill has been talked about and although he isn’t exactly vastly experienced or proven at the highest level. He deos have his best years ahead of him and is tipped to reach the highest levels. What’s more he has several years of premiership experience under his belt and should take little time to adapt. Alex, from chelsea could potentially be an option too. He would provide the quality and experience, but i think he will stay and fight for his place, and possibly oust terry out.

    Given that we have kyle bartly to come back as well, we should then be well covered there. KB can give us good cover for song and sagna as well. certainly be a more defensive option to eboue when sagna is out, which could be useful.

    The goalkeeping situation is a tricky one. schwartzer, looking back, would have been ideal to put in a season or two while the younger ones gained experience. i think if we can find an old, approaching retirement but still top quality keeper then we should pounce and send one of our youngsters out on loan. not which names come into play there though.

    aside form that, i feel some sort of attacking wide player might be handy, and also another good striker. If we got them then i’d think about getting rid of bentner and rosicky.

    of course, whether we can keep hold of fabregas is another issue

  • terrencetg

    I dont care who Wenger signs – it will not make any difference on next season. The problem is not the technical skill of the players. Its the tactics of the manager and the manageral leadership. Wenger has lost the players – you dont see them defending him much now do you ?

  • terrencetg

    since losing the carling cup final our prem lge form has been dreadful and thats why that trophy meant so much to me.i strongly believe it would have been a catalyst for the team to push for further trophies but it wasn’t meant to be.our prem lge record of p7,w1,d5,L1,f10,a9,pts8 was the biggest thing that i feared at the time and unfortunately my fears came true.the player’s weren’t good enough when it mattered most(business end of the season) and wenger to his credit takes full responsibility for it.at the end of the day no matter what any of us think or believe,there is only one person who can make it right and that’s wenger himself.the frustration fans on here feel is understandable and right and i always read the posts with alot of interest and take alot of good points that posters make.but what i don’t agree with is having disrespect for wenger and calling him this and that,that is out of order for me.you may not agree with him anymore or want him out,but what he’s done for this football club as been fantastic and the legacy that he will leave for future manager’s at arsenal will be on a footing that we have never tread before.there will come a time when an arsenal manager might be able to break the british transfer record or even spend 40/50/60m in one summer.wenger has manager made the ultimate sacrafice by wanting a new 60,000 seated stadium knowing that he would suffer in terms of transfers and had to go a route that may’be he didn’t want to go but had to.if there comes a day when i want a new manager(and i’ll reserve judgement untill next season starts)then there is no way i would disrespect him for what he’s done for afc.you can take this anyway you want,arsenal were always a big football club,but in wenger’s time we have become even bigger and while there’s a number of reasons for that, he has been the main man for afc.