Bank Holiday Tuesday… I wish…

Morning All…

It’s been an eventful weekend of football, but nothing much Arsenal related. Despite the fact that I don’t really like Barcelona, I did want them to win on the weekend, and when United started so well, I thought it would be much tighter… but Barcelona cranked up the pressure and really put United to the sword. In fact, it was pretty embarrassing for United and this season, Barcelona have really come of age in terms of their overall play.

The immediate reaction is to question why we’re not as good as Barcelona – and that’s been the reaction throughout many fans. But the reality check is not why we aren’t as good – it’s how to we get better – Barcelona have formed an incredible team, a team that play for each other and they’ve assembled it over many years. Barce didn’t win anything for 6 years or so before their first trophy and in a league where there are rarely winners outside of Real and Barce, that’s much worse then our plight.

Barcelona have also spent some considerable money on players – Dani Alves joined for €30.5M, rising to €36M for bonuses, David Vila €40m, Mascherano €22m, Adriano €13m… the list goes on. We’re nowhere near spending anything remotely near that in a summer, let alone one single player – and even further – we’re handicapped by a £400m stadium. God knows how Barcelona can afford the massive amount they’ve spent – nearly €700M in the last 11 years – of course, some players going out as well to balance the books. So, when I look at our current situation, then how on earth can we be so angry and upset that we haven’t managed to compete – in fact, out of all the games I’ve seen, we actually played better against Barcelona than any other team.

The main reason that I’m so upset is not at the fact we didn’t beat Barcelona; it’s because we somehow finished fourth and were the laughing stock of the Premiership when in March, we had a finger on the Premiership – of yeah, and of course, the fact we self imploded in the Carling Cup final, that’s why I’m upset!

Arsene can make it right this summer. We don’t need a huge change, but key signings in key places will make a huge difference and re-invigorate some of the existing squad to new levels. We have signed three players already this summer – two sixteen year olds from Barcelona’s youth academy and perhaps Carl Jenkinson from Charlton – a player we’ve been heavily linked with – and very recently the Finnish FA announced he was our player. Apparently he is very classy – has pace – and can play anywhere at the back.

“I’m surprised the Finnish FA have done that. We have been in dialogue with Arsenal but until everything has been sorted out I can’t officially say it has been done and dusted because it hasn’t been announced yet. I’m sure Carl, if nothing goes wrong, won’t be our player any more. That is a shame but if it all comes off then it is a wonderful opportunity for him.”

Those three players won’t make the difference that we want, but they’re a start. Now for real signings… and where do you go to find out close to happening transfers? Betting sites, and betting odds… and this is what Private Eye WOA has found out…

Cesc to Barcelona, odds are 4/6 – Shay Given to Arsenal, odds are 4/6, Chamberlain to Arsenal, 1/3… those three odds are interesting. Those types of odds normally means that deals are on the cards – the betting sites must be very certain that they’re going to move. How much do we read into it? I’m not sure, but the Chamberlain deal looks like it will happen…

Now that the Champions League final is over and considering that it’s June this week too, I think the transfer madness will really kick off…

Just before I go, congratulations to Swansea for reaching the Premiership – it’s strange to have a Welsh team in the league, but hey, something new – Swansea seem like a football playing club, so will perhaps be the new Blackpool…

Adios for now… speak tomorrow…

Will Arsene Sort It Out This Summer? Maybe, Maybe Not…

Morning All…

In the last couple of days, it’s been a little confusing to read all the articles on the net and all the newspaper stories about what’s going to happen at the Arsenal this summer. On one hand, you hear that Arsene is going to strengthen and bring in experienced players – something he has repeated several times this close season. Of course, we want to see big experience – we want to world class players – but when Arsene says experience, I hope he is not referring to the likes of Silvestre etc

With Niklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela surely out of the door this summer, it’s time to bring in a striker. Falcao, the 30 goal striker from Porto is mentioned, a costly addition, and unproven in a senior league – kind of reminds me of what Alves did in Holland and then flopped in England. But Falcao has a much better reputation that Alves did and could prove to have the same impact as Suarez, who also came from a lower league. Arsene has also been linked with Gervinho, the Lille striker, but are any of those two really an option?

I have a real feeling that perhaps this summer won’t be the sudden summer of signings that everyone thinks it will be. We’ve been linked with Benezma of Real Madrid but I will tell you now that he is certainly not a player who we will sign. He cost Real Madrid £35m and is on a bigger contract that Cesc Fabregas – even if we bought him for half the price, he would still become our record signing and he’d have to take a wage cut. Would we shell out £15m – £20m on one player, I doubt it. Do we want to sign players who are already at the ceiling of our wage structure, I think not. Out of all the names mentioned, Gervinho at £8m with a £40k a week contract is probably the level we’re aiming at.

But do we have enough within our team to potentially not buy another striker? Jay Simpson, Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Sanchez Watt and even Theo Walcott could play up front as back up to Chamakh and Van Persie – but is that enough? They say you get what you pay for and if we continue to focus on trimming budgets and promoting from within, will we ever be able to compete with the other top clubs.

It’s a tough cookie to understand who we need to bring in – for me, a striker is essential, a marquee signing if you wish – we’ve been linked with Edin Hazard and he would slot nicely on the left of midfield – a talented player – a young player and someone who can really become something special. With Denilson leaving and massive question marks over the fitness of Abou Diaby, a new midfielder is on the cards and something that people want.

We’ve recently got Aaron Ramsey back into our squad and his displays this season have shown that he can make a difference. The question for Arsene is even if Denilson and Diaby do both go, then are the likes of Ramsey, Lansbury, Frimpong and Miyachi ready for first team action – if you add in Nasri, Wilshere, Cesc and Song, that’s a lot of midfielders – but a lot of midfielders without experience. There have been a lot of rumours about us signing Scott Parker. But, despite his POTY award, has he really shown us that he is the one we need. He didn’t do that well at Chelsea and he’s just finished the season with a relegated club. He’s over 30 and he’s not in the same physical league as the other midfielders I’ve mentioned and that makes me think who on earth can Arsene bring in?

I’d love him to sign a strong midfielder to compliment the likes of Wilshere and Song – two players who have played a hell of a lot of football this season.

We’ve also been linked with two defenders – Sakho from PSG and Cahill from Bolton – both players will cost £15m. Both look like decent players – my preference being Sakho – young, very talented, and quite experienced, despite being only 20. The question for Arsene is whether bringing in big centre back to partner Vermaelen is the right decision – obviously it will block the progress of Djourou and Koscielny – who despite the massive amounts of mistakes they’ve both made this season, do look promising.

Which leads me to believe that I don’t think Arsene will bring in a big centre back – Vermaelen will be “like a new signing”.

I can see enough excuses in the squad for Arsene not to buy a lot of players – a lot of potential – but if our current squad has such a soft centre – throwing away leads willy nilly and unable to defend, then something has to change. We need a leader to be added to the squad – we need some grit and determination – experience and spirit.

I don’t know what Arsene will do, but I hope he has a better plan than bringing in more 16 years olds.

Let’s see how today pans out, and whether we’ll hear any more news…

Will Arsene Sort It Out This Summer? Maybe, Maybe Not…

A Summer Of Change…

Morning All…

In the last few days, we’ve had a influx of players who have declared intent to leave. First Denilson stated his desire to leave, then Niklas followed suit and then Carlos Vela jumped in with a little announcement of his own on twitter. 3 players from the youth project, all ready to jump ship. Loyalty in the game? Virtually none if you consider how many games and how many chances all of the above three players have had in their Arsenal careers. In reality, none of the three players gets into our first team, so perhaps a blessing in disguise that they wish to move on and perhaps a blessing in disguise that some clubs are interesting in them.

Our wage bill is £120m a year and Bendtner (£2.5m/year), Denilson (£2m/year) and Carlos Vela (£1.6m/year) would shave about £6m per annum of the wage bill, so not a bad start to the summer. At minimum they’d bring in at least £5m each, and at maximum, you can look at maybe £20m for the three. We’ll see what happens. If Bayern Munich are really interested and the £12m quoted is true, then it will surely be a good bit of business. I don’t actually think Arsene wants to lose Bendtner, as he has shown incredible faith in the player – but what can you do when players aren’t happy?

Bendtner’s agent and father said this:

“He has made his decision and he has told it to Arsenal. Nicklas needs to be playing from the start so, sadly, he must leave. He wanted to finish the season first, so no-one could say he didn’t fight for a first-team place right until the end. There is real interest from both English and German clubs, and Bayern Munich were after him, earlier. It’s very exciting. But talk about Aston Villa is rubbish. He has not met anyone from there.”

So, it looks like it’s going to happen, and perhaps it’s the start of a mini-exodus…

Arsene has repeatedly said that he is going to be active in the transfer market, and we’re all eager to see what that actually means…

“We will try to do the right thing this summer and we will try to buy the right players. The amount of money is not always linked with the quality of the player but if we find the right players we will spend the money. But we should not go overboard. Even if people say we have to spend money, we have to be realistic. We cannot buy players for £50 million and, even if we try to strengthen our team and spend money if needed, that is a fact. The market will be hyperactive because everyone believes financial fair play will happen soon. So we are quickly doing the last buying before the stores will be closed. And for the very first time for a while, I will be very active too.”

For all the fans, that statement does have quite an interesting ring to it… Arsene says he’s going to be active – but to be honest, I’ve seen many a summer go past where I’ve been disappointed, so I’m not going to hold my  breath. I do hope we try and may one marquee signing… after all the years of selling our best players, it may be just the tonic the remaining players, like Cesc and Van Persie need to give them a spark!

And if the rumours are to be believed then we may have already signed a little talent in Argentian midfielder Ricky Alvarez (although at 6′ 3″, I should refer to him as little)… The video does get better as it continues…

And finally, some great news…

“Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshere will not be part of the under-21 squad which travels to Denmark. Andy has been ruled out through injury. I spoke to Jack last week and he explained that while he told me in March that he wanted to be part of the squad, he now feels he is not in the best condition to take part in the finals. That is based on the number of games he has played for Arsenal this season, sports science data which Jack was presented with last week and concerns he has for his fitness looking ahead to next season.”

Jack isn’t going to the Under 21 tournament this summer… finally, sense has prevailed and the FA have decided that it’s too risky to play a broken and tired Jack through the summer as well as through the season as well as through next season and next summer… hopefully he will get a chance to rest now and prepare himself for his second season at the Emirates as a first teamer…

Hopefully with some new additions by his side.

The Season Is Over – Fulham 2 – 2 Arsenal, and Birmingham Get Relegated…

The only real plus point of this season is that Birmingham have been relegated.

I thought I’d start the blog with something positive…. because from now on, it’s all down hill. Yesterday we drew to Fulham in a game which summed up our season. Good in midfield, effective in attack, but completely all over the place at the back and a little confused when it mattered. The line up yesterday was:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Djourou – Vermaelen – Clichy

Diaby – Wilshere

Ramsey – Van Persie – Nasri

Chamakh

It was an interesting decision to play Ramsey on the right – perhaps Arsene was keen to give him as much time as possible, at the same time, keen to give Chamakh a starting role. I have been trying to push the 4-4-2 formation this season, as Van Persie should be given more of a free role and Chamakh is a player who can hold the ball up. Arsene kind of experimented with it in this game, although Van Persie did find himself often too deep and sometimes behind Wilshere and Diaby.

He did pop up when it mattered though and managed to score his 22nd goal of the season to equalise. We had conceded an early goal when Sidwell converted after some really bad defending and the ex-Gunner slid the ball past Szcznesy. Before that goal, we’d been on top and it was the symptom of our season. Gibbs and Djourou had nightmarish games to be honest and both have been in worryingly bad form for quite some time… something to note, that those two are the “home grown” players, whereas Sagna and the impressive Vermaelen were signings ready for action.

Fulham went ahead again when our defence completely mis-timed their jumps in tandem, with Zamora on hand to nod it past Szcznesy. Another defensive mistake. Walcott came on shortly afterwards and he scored a late winner, fine run and shot, after Zoltan Gera was sent off for a bad tackle on Vermaelen… It was a game that summed up our season – poor defending letting down the side and undermining our game.

Arsene found time to talk about transfers after the game and it was clear that it’s on his mind and on the fans mind too. Who we will get in. Who will make the difference.

We will try to do the right thing. I don’t know how much we have spent in recent years. We will try to buy the right players. The amount of money is not always linked with the quality of the player. We will spend the needed money but you first have to find the right players and then turn up with the money. If we find the right players we will spend the money.

I really do hope Arsene finds the right players. He has said previously that he hasn’t been able to find better players than we have got and I don’t buy it – there are better players – we need them. actually we need four of them, at minimum.

Arsene also spoke about Denilson and perhaps the assumption that he is going is not quite correct….

He wants to play. I have spoken to him already. We will see if he has opportunities or not. We have to face many comments but I have enough experience to know that the Club is in a strong position and we want to be stronger next year. Next year we will have the same opponents who will invest a lot of money. We have to make sure we climb up the table because I felt this year was the best chance for the last five or six years.

It’s a shame then, that we couldn’t take up the challenge.

Well, that’s that… the season has ended… it’s time for us to move on… Move on and perhaps pin our hopes next season on another teenager… Ryo Miyaichi…?

“I have only [heard] positive reports about him,” Wenger claimed. “He will be with us in pre-season. I think he is good enough, but if he is ready enough to have a place in our team, we will ask for a work permit and try to get him in. Everybody who went to watch him has been hugely impressed. Ryo is a character and a great football player. What I like about Ryo is that he has good timing with his runs, and understands when to go and where to go. That is something very important. He knows how to use his pace and he is an intelligent player. He is a boy who went straight from school football to professional football and straight away was the best player in Feyenoord.”

More tomorrow folks, more tomorrow.

Fulham vs Arsenal… The Preview…

Afternoon folks…

Today is the last day of the season, and we have just the one game left today – against Fulham away. There is a still a possibility of finishing 3rd in the Premiership – if Bolton beat or draw against Man City and we beat Fulham… although the possibility of us beating Fulham in our current form is quite slim!

Straight to team news today and there are quite a few “injuries” to certain players. I put “injuries” in inverted commas because both Nasri and Clichy are in the middle of contract disputes and Cesc is potentially leaving us and all three are absent today! Through in the out of form Abou Diaby and mistake prone Johan Djourou (although I do love the boy), the team could well be:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Song – Wilshere

Walcott – Ramsey – Arshavin

Van Persie

With a bench of Lehmann, Eboue, Rosicky, Henderson, Squillaci, Bendtner and Chamakh

Arsene was keen to stress the importance of today’s game and of course, the Bolton vs Man City could go our way – and I have a feeling it may – but do we have enough in our locker to win the game?

“We will try to win the game, it’s as simple as that. A draw could be good enough if Man City lose at Bolton. I do not want to have any regrets now and so I just want to win the game.”

It was interesting to hear Arsene talk about the challenge for next season and he was also keen to stress that we will challenge – he did have a dig at Birmingham on his way – I think he has to realise that other teams have different goals, but this is what the manager said:

“I promise Arsenal fans that we will give our best to win trophies. Who can guarantee that they will deliver trophies? We will give our best to do it and that is our main target.  And what is a trophy? Is to finish tenth and win the Carling Cup a trophy? No.  What I want to achieve is to keep the consistency in our quality, in our table position and deliver what I call trophies – the Premier League and the Champions League. You can say you will give the maximum to do it but you cannot guarantee that. You can only do that if you are crazy.”

But, why is finishing fourth a trophy for us – and yes, it’s hard to win, but Man United seem to win it, Chelsea seem to win it – they don’t bottle it. Fourth for me, in the manner of which we could finish fourth this season shows a massive lack of mental strength.

Arsene’s job is to challenge for the title, simple as that – and I really want to see him give it a proper go next season – play our strongest team and make it happen…

For those of you who think we’ll still have Cesc Fabregas at the club next season, as captain of our club, shouldn’t he be at Craven Cottage today? No, sorry, he should be at the Spanish Grand Prix with a whole load of Barcelona players.

Nice.

Big game today. Let’s finish the season on a positive note!

Arsenal’s Biggest Summer…

Afternoon all and it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon here in North London. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, there are smiles on people’s faces…. and that doesn’t happen that often during a season – especially where Arsenal’s season has been one of embarrassment. I’m not going to start ‘aving a go… but instead reflect on why this is Arsenal’s most important and biggest summer.

If you look at the current squad, there are a lot of very good players – but in reality, how many “world class” players do we have? If you think about it, we only have Cesc, Van Persie and possibly Nasri. Two class players, capable of winning games. Back in the day, Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Henry were all players capable of winning games from nothing – plus we also had the likes of Van Persie on the bench as well and a solid spine to back them up.

The problem is now, that the bench of game changers has turned into a bench of has-been’s – Rosicky and Lehmann, and a bench of kids, Ramsey, Gibbs, etc and a bench of fringe players who offer little or no substance when they come on, Chamakh, Bendtner, Denilson etc.

If anyone thinks for a minute that these players “will come of age” next season, they will be mistaken… When I hear Arsene come out and say this:

“We have enough quality to beat anyone in the world, even with the current squad. You have a Champions League Final and only one team has beaten both of them and that is Arsenal.

It worries me! He is right though, we have beaten Barcelona and Man United at home this season, so yes, we can all agree that there is a lot of quality in the squad. But then again, we’ve lost to Newcastle, West Brom and Aston Villa at home – so, what is the reasoning for that?

Arsene said yesterday that this is our biggest summer:

“[One of the most important summers of my time at Arsenal?] Yes, I think so, we had a few important ones but this will certainly be a big one, on all fronts.”

And I really hope it is… it has to be – the likes of Van Persie, Cesc and the emerging talents of Ramsey and Wilshere need quality players around them. Having a clueless Walcott on the right of midfield and a hopeless Arshavin on the left doesn’t help much – to have people like Bendtner, Chamakh and Denilson on the bench simply doesn’t inspire. I don’t agree when I say project youth has failed, it’s created a nucleus of good players – enough quality in the side to beat the top teams and compete until March / April…

Just imagine a team like this:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Vidic - Vermaelen – Marcelo

Nasri – Cesc – Wilshere – Hazard

SuarezVan Persie

With a bench of Fabianski, Djourou, Song, Ramsey, Walcott, Arshavin, Chamakh…

And the likes of Gibbs, Koscielny, Lansbury, Miyachi, JET, Watt in and around the squad…

This example of a squad has proved to me that we are 4 players short of team able to compete on all fronts – of course, the four players I’ve mentioned, Vidic, Marcelo, Hazard and Suarez are only examples of players out there that would transform our squad – but I don’t think for one minute we’ll possibly sign any of them. If you now look at the bench, you’ll see it’s relatively strong – with players available to change the game. That’s what we need.

Our left side is obviously in need of a full scale replacement – neither Clichy or Gibbs have really proved themselves and they need to be replaced. Out of the four players I mentioned, Edin Hazard could be a realistic £15m signing if we wanted him. Of course, Vidic, Marcelo and Suarez are out of our budget – they’re first team players and talismen for their current clubs – but if Alex Ferguson can find Hernandex for £8m and Vidic for £6m, then surely Arsenal – who apparently have the best scouting network in the world – can find players of that quality.

Many people say we need a big strong defensively midfielder… but it’s not the defensive midfield position that has let us down – United don’t even have such a player… it’s the team formation, the team defending as a unit and the individual mistakes that our back five his season have created that have undermined our season – confidence in our team mates and mental strength has been lacking.

I’m not an accountant and obviously not the manager, but for me, the exodus of Clichy (£10m to Juventus), Eboue (£6m to Athletico Madrid),  Diaby (£8m to PSG), Denilson (£7m to Sevilla), Squillaci (£3m to Villareal), Almunia (£2m to Galatasary), Bendtner (£12m to Bayern)… could easily raise £50m +… surely enough to get 4 quality players Arsene Wenger style… I’m not sure if you would agree with me, but who would your four players be, if you had a £50m budget?

Arsene continued talking about the summer and said:

“[That my first priority is to keep my squad together] is true [but it] doesn’t mean that there will be no movement. There will be some movement of players who have played less, who need to play and as well of course we will try to strengthen our squad again but we want to keep the basis and style of play we have. We are very very busy all over our Club, we are looking, analysing, talking to people. There are two steps in the transfer market during the summer, the first is very early and the second one is very late.

Considering it is late May now, do we think we’ll suddenly get a news of a new signing very soon? Hmmm, debatable… but fingers crossed…

Okay, back to the Arsenal Ladies game, it’s half time, they’re looking good, and we’re 2-0 up… come on you Arsenal….!

When The Players Start Publicly Supporting The Manager…

As the title of today’s blog states… the players have recently one by one, started publicly backing the manager…. and in all my years as an Arsenal fan, which is pretty much my whole entire life, I’ve nevere seen such a reaction to a season – especially not with Arsene Wenger. I don’t for one want to see the manager leave, of course, I don’t – up until the end of March, the team was challenging for the title – up until the Carling Cup final, the team were on a great run.

One loss, against Birmingham (who may actually be relegated this weekend) spiralled out of control to see us in the worst form under Arsene? Why? I ask… you may ask… and perhaps even Arsene has asked himself. Why? The reason for our loss? The reason for our decline? Well, I think our form is down to confidence and motivation rather than ability. There is no way on earth we’d be able to beat the likes of United, Chelsea and Barcelona if we didn’t have the ability. The problem is down to confidence.

You can see it in games – we start well and if we score, we get stronger but if we concede, we get weaker – and if we concede when we’re winning, we go mental to the point that we literally always lose or draw. Confidence within the squad and perhaps with each other is low and after the Birmingham game, it crumbled to unimaginable proportions. I believe it stems from the leadership from within the squad and that is linked to the lack of experience in the squad.

The current squad is young by most standards – and with the youth and lack of experience comes individual mistakes and plenty of them – and they breed. I’m not excusing the team with the whole lack of experience thing – but in reality, every year we excuse players because they are “learning their trade” – we forgive Walcott, Bendtner and Gibbs because they’re young – we understand that Djourou and Ramsey have come back from massive injuries. Yes, Chamakh and Koscielny are new and will make mistakes. The Carling Cup final was a mistake by keeper and defender – against Stoke, Djourou played the ball to the opposition striker… the list goes on.

Next season, we need to get rid of these excuses – no more 18 year olds in the squad next season. No more young prospects from the French league. No more golden oldies (Squillaci, Campbell, Lehmann etc)… none of this. In order to keep our nucleus of exciting players happy and keep Arsene challenging, we need experience – and players who can make the difference immediately.

The weird thing at the moment is the public backing from the manager…

“Everyone is 200 per cent behind him. He’s done a lot for the team, for the players and the club as well. So we just want to keep working hard and give our maximum….”

And just to put a frown on your face before I leave you…

…direct from the Arsenal.com site, a guide to who we could play when (sorry, if) we finish fourth….

  • The five winners from the non-champion section of the Third Qualifying Round (expected to include Benfica, Dynamo Kyiv, Twente and Rubin Kazan)
  • The fourth placed team from Spain (Villarreal)
  • The fourth placed team from Italy (Udinese or Lazio)
  • The third placed team from Germany (Bayern Munich)
  • The third placed team from France (one from Marseilles, Lyon, Rennes, Sochaux and PSG)

Ridiculous, hey?

Aren’t you glad we’re not West Ham?

Morning All…

The last 48 hours has been pretty emotionless. It seems like Arsenal have really sucked out all the emotion that I had this weekend. When that first goal went in from Darren Bent – the way he just waltzed into our box, the way he wasn’t tracked, the way he then did it again 10 minutes later summed up our season. In fact, Squillaci is a player for me who has summed up our season – potential, a good player in his hey day, but simply out of his depth.

For me, the mixture of kids, fringe players and proper players is in a weird balance at the moment. There is too much discontent in the squad – it’s obvious that Arsene has taken a dislike to Almunia and Denilson and even Eboue – three players who have found themselves outside of the first team – albeit it with some reason, but Denilson and Almunia have completed vanished. Interesting, considering how many games they’ve both played – is their treatment right? It’s like Arsene has finally realised that they’re not very good players and decided they’ve both played their last games.

Talking to the fans at the close of this season, it’s clear that there are a few more players who the fans aren’t happy with – and the fans are now voicing their concerns more than ever before. To see the behaviour on the weekend, some of it correct, some a little out of character, it’s clear that the fans aren’t happy. People marching before the game, banners around the ground, people chanting in the ground and moreover than anything, booing the announcement of the 60,000+ tickets sold.

It’s clear that fans are getting upset with the way the club has become – profit, money, budgets are the most important thing – directors and shareholders make considerable money, millions of pounds, and then the fans get lumbered with a 6.5% increase – it doesn’t seem right. The team seems unmotivated, they coast. The fact that we have such a high wage bill for a group of young players who barely seem interested in some of the games is in fact very worrying.

Arsene has to win back the fans, and it’s probably the first time he really lost the majority of them.

We’re a great club, with a nucleus of talent – Van Persie, Nasri, Cesc, Wilshere, Sagna and Szcznesy are very good players. In fact, they’d all get into nearly every team in the Premiership. But for those players, we have the likes of Bendtner, Denilson, Squillaci etc who are simply not the calibre that Arsenal should have. Do you remember the days when we had such a formidable team that every one of our players would get into every team. Don’t those 6 players deserve to have a better team around them?

Are Arsenal fans demanding too much? Perhaps we are. We’re used to success, and we’re used to winning things. The stadium has definitely paid it’s price on our squad – and if you look at clubs like Newcastle and West Ham, it’s quite amazing that we’ve managed to do what we’ve managed to do. West Ham have spent more money that us this season, and they’ve just been relegated. They’ve sacked their manager and just had a massive brawl at the end of season dinner.

Man City take on Stoke tonight and baring in mind the FA Cup result, I can’t really see past a City win – it suddenly looks more increasingly likely that we will finish fourth this season and considering where we were 4 weeks ago, it’s quite unbelievable. I’ll be a Stoke supporter tonight, that’s for sure.

That’s all for now… my brain has melted…. I need to get my emotion back…

The Race For Fourth (Arsenal 1 – 2 Villa)

Last home game of the season, end of a disappointing league campaign, planned lap of appreciation… and yet yesterday, I sat and watched the game with total disinterest. Arsenal have let me down in recent weeks. I believed. I believed we could have won the league (and I still believe we should have done), I believed we should have won the Carling Cup, and I believe that this Arsenal team should have finally done something to prove themselves. Instead all they’ve proved is that they still have no backbone, no real fight.

The most frustrating thing is, I still believe just one player could of made the difference. One Roy Keane / Patrick Vieira type player who dragged the team with him.

Our form since the Carling Cup final has been dreadful: LWDLLDDWDDLWLL. I think that is no coincidence, the Carling Cup final (and probably the 4-4 against Newcastle) must have utterly destroyed the team’s confidence. This is a team who haven’t won for 6 years and conspired to lose their greatest chance of silverware in that time to a horrendous mistake. Mistakes happen, but they also destroy confidence. In fairness to Koscielny and Chesney, the two players involved, they both seem to have put the mistake behind them and improved throughout the remainder of the season – but the rest of the team looks, well, fucked.

Fabregas, struggling with injuries, no longer looks like the predatory midfielder he’s been in the past. Nasri seems to have regressed since his scintillating pre-Christmas form. Arshavin’s legs seem to have deserted him… looking around the team it’s easy to see problems, and not successes.

Even Wilshere, a shoe in for my player of the year, looked tired yesterday and slightly off the pace. That he will be playing through the summer is madness, don’t expect him to feature next season anywhere near as heavily.

Robin Van Persie seemed to be the only other player (Wilshere aside) who gave a shit, and unfortunately the weight of the world on his shoulders doesn’t suit him. Arsenal need him free and ready, able to shrug off the game and score, not be sat in the middle of the pitch trying to run the game for a broken team.

I know we were bad yesterday but despite a promising start the referee was awful. He made two excellent decisions to play advantage and go back when play stopped to book players. After that he lost the plot. Dunne should have walked twice, Petrov should have had a second yellow, Chamakhs goal should not have been disallowed, and obviously the penalty was as clear a penalty as you’ll see this season… but still, we spent all match passing sideways and losing the ball. A good team will win, regardless of the referee. If he disallows your goal, score 2 more, don’t retreat and cry…

Anyway, who knows what the future holds. I’m certainly not in the anti-Wenger camp, because no one has managed to convince me that a) it’s all his fault and b) there is a better alternative. The players have to take responsibility here, a team full of internationals and talented individuals should not conceded 4 goal leads. There is nothing the manager can do when that happens.

Besides, would you rather have Avram Grant, he’s free after all.

Arsenal vs Aston Villa: Vermaelen Starts!

Afternoon Guys,

It’s Friday and it’s a scary, scary Friday… it’s Friday the thirteenth… Wo ha ha [scary ghost noise] ha ha…. Okay so, it’s just like any normal day… but a day where Arsene announced that Vermaelen is back and will most likely start against Villa this weekend!

Here’s a snippet from Arsene Wenger’s press conference today:

“We have lost Laurent Koscielny with a thigh strain from Sunday against Stoke. It opens the door for Vermaelen. I have not completely decided yet but there is a probability he will start. We have question marks against Fabregas and Nasri. They will be late decisions. During the week we lost Tomas Rosicky with a thigh strain. Diaby will be out but I believe that Clichy will be back.”

Exciting times… as Arsene likes to say, the return of Nasri, Cesc and Vermaelen will be like three new signings… Personally, I think both Nasri and Cesc will return to first team action. Ramsey will drop to the bench and Vermaelen will start… this is my line-up for Sunday:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Djourou – Vermaelen – Clichy

Song – Wilshere

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri

Van Persie

With a bench of Lehmann, Squillaci, Eboue, Ramsey, Arshavin, Bendtner and Chamakh

It’s the final home game of the season and with Man City only two points behind us, it’s essential that we win this and the next game. It’s been such a dire end to our season that we need to win our last two games to avoid finishing fourth – something we simply couldn’t conceive a possibility 2 months ago. With Vermaelen and the rest of the team back, we’re actually fielding our best team. No one who would make it in is injured or suspended, it’s a real test of this squad.

The eleven I’ve mentioned are the best we’ve got – and we’re at home, playing against a Villa team managed by Houillier… surely we must win!?! I won’t go into detail on who I think we should replace on the bench or replace in the first XI, we’ll have plenty of time for that in the summer! Chamakh has been linked with a move to Lazio, but I think there is more to come from the Moroccan – I don’t think he’ll ever be a top class centre forward. He’s a cheap man’s Adebayor, who in himself is a cheap man’s Drogba! But he has said there is a lot more to come from him too…

“It’s huge here. In the way you make a run, the way you position yourself and your defending. I’ve always been good in the air, but I can still do better. As for the physical impact of the Premier League, I was expecting it and I had prepared for it. I worked very hard in pre-season and with all the French players it was very easy to settle in. I have naturally more affinity with the French and with the Francophones in the squad, like Song or Eboue. It’s my first transfer and I was a bit worried. When I was with Bordeaux, I used to do everything I could to put the new players at ease. This time it’s they who helped me a lot. But you can’t hide from it, with the injuries to Van Persie and Bendtner, I found myself at the forefront of things from the outset. When they came back, people said I had lost my place. Well, actually it’s more that Van Persie logically got his place back! He’s an excellent player, a phenomenon. I still have a way to go yet and I’m here to learn. That said, if I can bring that little bit extra to the team, all the better!”

You’ve got to feel a little bit for Chamakh, as he did well earlier in the season when he was getting games and consistently the first choice. It’s been unfortunate for him that he’s not played much at all and of course, without games, it will make you a little unfit. If we do look at changing things around this summer, I’m pretty sure Chamakh will not leave – I’d expect more from him next season. Personally, I don’t think he is actually the perfect fit for us – I think our game is built more on pace than anything else, but he does give us an option. Our formation only allows us to play 1 striker, and for that reason, it’s not an ideal solution for him.

On the transfer mill, Scott Parker has been heavily linked with a move to us this summer. He looks very tired and quite shattered, will he be able to give as much as he gave to West Ham this season to us next season? And he’ll be a year older. Apparently, we had a table at the awards dinner – specifically for Scott Parker… yes, I know, it’s all rumours and I know it probably won’t happen – but Parker has proved that he is a leader and a work horse. No-one can deny he wouldn’t be a good player to have!

It’s a big day at the Emirates, and there is a march pre-game – many say it’s a protest, but I say it’s a march! The focus is for change at the top – for fans to be taken more seriously, appreciated more and for certain things to change! I think it’s a good idea… The “She Wore” site explains more on the march:

It is a peaceful walk, not a protest,not a demonstration. Scaremongering by certain newspapers and blogs saying the club and/or police worried about it getting heated is at best a misquote at worst its a lame attempt at undermining all the BSM’s good work over the last year, it will be peaceful. This is not Anti-Wenger or Wenger out and on the day of the march no chants of that nature will be allowed. This in not even an Anti-board march, they just need to change and not lose touch with the support.

Let’s see what comes of it…

Until tomorrow Gooners, until tomorrow…

Where did it all go wrong?

Today, I’ve woken up to the news that Alex Ferguson was very close to becoming Arsenal manager before he took over the realms at Man United… Interesting news, but for me, I think I’ve heard it before and in reality, it doesn’t make a difference now. It does show that we have decent pedigree when trying to pinpoint good managers, but in reality, that is it! I don’t think Alex Ferguson would have lasted as long at the Arsenal as he did at Man United. It took him a while to get their squad into a title winning squad. The story is similar to Arsene saying “I nearly signed Cristiano Ronaldo”… etc… which we don’t have to worry about, because it didn’t happen.

The question I have for everyone today… is… where did it all go wrong?

There are three major reasons that I am going to explore today.

  1. The stadium
  2. The transfers
  3. The manager

Let’s start off with the stadium

Back at Highbury, things were absolutely fine. We were sold out (and I mean sold out) for every game, queues outside the stadium every week… The ambition of the club was to be the biggest and best club in the land… and to be the richest club in the land. To do this, a new bigger state of the art stadium was required. We spent the £400m to get that stadium and it forced a change of policy. Gone were the days of signing the likes of Thierry Henry, Jose Antonio Reyes etc for club record fees, and into a new era we dawned. The era of not buying, the era of managing our squad and of course the era of selling.

No matter how good a manager you think you have, if you sell the entire first team over the course of a few years including the players who won you the title and then continue with sales of players like Adebayor, Kolo Toure etc… you’re going to find it hard to compete – when you replace them with free transfers and home-grown talent, you’re going to struggle.

Next up… the transfers

Briefly touched upon already, the transfer policy has been much different in the last 5 years than the previous 8 or so years. The questions have to be raised about our prudence in the transfer windows. In recent times, we’ve tried to buy players and embarrassingly failed – cite the failure to bring in a goal keeper in the summer before last season. Cite the inability to secure the defensive midfielder we believed we needed, believed to be Xabi Alonso, the season before. We are actually terribly bad at negotiations, and pretty much have been since the departure of David Dein.

But, the annoying thing about all the transfers is the ones we let go. Gilberto Silva was definitely sold before his time was up, and has continue to play for Brazil and in the Champions League for Pathanaikos, quite impressively since he left us. Was he worth selling for a couple of million and sacrificing all that experience? Flamini and Gallas are two players whom we let leave us on free transfers. Why? We’ve seen in recent seasons that we lack that “bite” in midfield – a bite that Flamini proved he still had with his games in the Champions League this season… And of course, this season, we’ve been one key defender short – a defender with experience and know how… and surely Gallas’ performances at Sp*rs have shown yet again that Arsene and the team made a mistake in letting him go prematurely? Lassana Diarra is showing the world how good he is, he cost Real Madrid £20m… and yes, we bought him for £2m and sold him for £5m… Arsene?

Then, if we look at the incoming, we’ve brought in Chamakh, who has yet to convince us that he is a Premiership player. We’ve brought in Arshavin, who despite being a good player, doesn’t really fit that well with our team, work ethic etc… and if we look at the likes of Vela, Diaby and Silvestre, Squillaci etc, then it’s obvious that we’ve not done that great in the market.

When was the last time you were genuinely excited about a signing?

And finally the manager

The manager has done us proud over the years, but he’s surely taken on too much? He even sent out the renewal letters this year for the season tickets – the first time the manager has done this! He’s involved in the pennies, which hampers his ability to focus on the team, motivating the team and enhancing his squad. Arsene is too close to the financial side of the club, the business side. He needs to detach himself from the money side of things. We lost Flamini because we wouldn’t pay him £60k, but instead wanted to offer him £50k, the money situation also made Ashley Cole leave us too (I know there is more to it than just that!)…

The manager has a lot of faith in the youth project – players like Bendtner, Walcott, Denilson, Diaby, Djourou etc are backed a lot and given their fair amount of chances. They aren’t actually good enough and none of the aforementioned players would get into any of the top four teams at the moment. Yes Walcott and Djourou have been better this season then last, but will they ever become the players that we need?

The managers stubbornness to change formation or vary tactics is also very worrying. Seeing us trying to accommodate Bendtner, Van Persie and Chamakh into a rigid 4-5-1 formation is worrying. See us not use the tried and tested 4-4-2 at all this season is equally worrying. With Pat Rice retiring this season, we have a to make an appointment that will challenge the manager. Someone who will force him to think more about formations and tactics. It’s not the end for Arsene, by any meaning of the words, but is it the beginning of the end? This summer and next season will be one of the biggest periods of Arsenal’s history.

The question is then… how do we change it all?