Archive for April, 2012

This is piece I wrote last summer on 7/9/2011 as a contributor on another blog…it is amazing how things have transpired over the last competitive year. In the end, everyone in these parts knew Pep was likely to leave, I don’t know what would prompt our former captain to walk, check that; RUN,  into the obvious problem of the tension and power struggle between Rossell and Guardiola. Now all may change as Rossell looks set to put his mark on that club. Funny how a few months later, Cesc’s move looks set for a disastrous turn. Losing the league and Champions may be the least of his worries. But alas, you reap what you sow.

 

Supporting Arsenal from Barcelona

I live in Sabadell, a suburb of Barcelona. The views are spectacular, and the beach is close, too bad it’s behind enemy lines. I say this in jest, but here they see it as reality. We are their enemy, by we, I mean us Gooners, club and supporters. Arsenal are the bad guys keeping their “son”, Francesc from coming home. Arsenal is also the EVIL club that is “stealing” their young up and coming players.

The rumour mill is in overdrive over here. The latest magazines show Cesc as a hostage. Arsene slip-sliding off a boat in a picture that was taken ages ago; it is reported as fact not only here but in the UK too.  Therein lays the problem. Too much sensationalist gossip is being transformed into fact rather than exactly what it is, opinion.

There is one particular show here that is two hours long and plays nightly, Futboleros, on MarcaTV. This particular show spends about 30 minutes nightly on the Cesc transfer. The topics oft include; Cesc’s dad, his friends, his “future” teammates, etc. This commentary comes from the pro-Barcelona part of the contingent. At least Arsenal have some allies, the pro-Madrid guests. They cleverly point out that if the selling team wants X for their player, then the buying team should pay X. WOW! Lunacy! Maybe that is why, when Madrid saw Barca balking at the price Arsenal put on Cesc, they put in their own inquiry. The pro-Madrid contingent also makes an interesting point. If Cesc is one of Barca’s own, how can they be publicly humiliating him by saying he is not worth as much as the Gunners want? That does not seem to be a very intelligent way to recruit a player does it?

A further point is that no one in the UK has made any report on the likelihood that Pep Guardiola is leaving at the end of this year due to falling out with Rossell (the Barcelona president). Why? Because Rosell has a different vision for the club, and that vision is in direct conflict with Guardiola’s. What is one sticking point of this conflict? It is Cesc! No one seems to write about that. How Rossell does not want Cesc in Barcelona colors and Guardiola does. One of the major reasons for Cesc wanting to go back to Barcelona is that he wants to be coached by the Barca gaffer. Maybe that is why we don’t see him publicly requesting a move? Who knows.

The funny thing is that what is given as opinion here magically becomes the truth when it gets translated and put on paper, or on the internet. Day after day I see the dreaded “source close to the player” regurgitating the opinions of the various panelists. I see very little due diligence or originality in the reporting, one media outlet copies the other, no allowances are made for translation mistakes, misinterpretation, etc. This lack of real journalism leads to what has happened over the last year.

I urge you, the avid Arsenal news seeking reader, to take each and every so-called report, news item or even just plain gossip, and look beyond it.

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Arsenal are set to play a very important three match stretch. A lot of people believe this stretch is important due to Chelsea making the CL final,  if they win; that eliminates the 4th place team and takes them into the Europa League, should Chelsea finish outside the top 4. While there is no doubt that securing 3rd place is the safest bet for Arsenal to punch a ticket to the CL next season, there are a lot of outcomes to this situation and it’s better for the club to focus on their results instead of others. This is a critical stage for creating the atmosphere needed within the team for certain players to make decisions about their future, and to finish the season in a strong display to set the stage for a busy and productive off-season. If Arsenal take care of their matches, the other situations will resolve themselves. So let’s take a look at the teams involved, their current standing, and their remaining schedules.

Arsenal –

Currently – 3rd Matches Left – Stoke(A) Norwich(H) West Brom(A)

These are not the toughest matches, but they won’t be a cakewalk either. Stoke away is always tough, Norwich give everyone problems and can be very dangerous if given too much space and West Brom on the last day seems to be the more manageable of the 3. The team needs 6 points out of this last 3 matches to secure 3rd place. 9 points would be great, but 6 will do nicely. Arsenal’s goal differential as it stands is +24; 13 better than Newcastle and 6 better than either Tottenham or Chelsea. The trio of NUFC, THFC, and CFC all have a match in hand over Arsenal, who would still hold on to 3rd should all of those clubs win those matches. Arsenal would actually be tied with Newcastle on points, but their goal differential would see them remain in 3rd. My prediction is 7 points out of the last three matches, with the toughest contest being this Saturday away at Stoke. If Arsenal win that match, I believe 3rd is wrapped up with ease. Final position? 3rd place for our Gunners!

Newcastle –

Currently – 4th Matches Left – Wigan(A) Chelsea(A) Man City(H) Everton(A)

NUFC currently sit 4th with a match in hand. The slimmest of margins separates Newcastle and Arsenal, but certainly the Magpies have the hardest run-in, add to that the goal differential and it’s a clear advantage to Gunners. Make no mistake, Newcastle deserve to be where they are and have done a masterful job in the transfer windows to secure signings that have been both economical and outstanding in performance. That said, it is hard for me to see how they will secure more than 6 points out of their remaining schedule. They face a resurgent Wigan team that will not be easy to beat, as Arsenal can attest. Chelsea will not rest on their laurels and will be looking to make a surge for the 4th spot. City, dependant on the outcome on Monday, may still have title aspirations and Everton will look to finish the season strong and as always, are tough at home. I see NUFC getting 6 points out of these matches, but even that may be a stretch, as 3 out of the 4 matches are away from home. I firmly believe Newcastle will retain 4th position.

Spurs –

Currently – 5th Matches Left – Blackburn(H) Bolton(A) Villa(A) Fulham(H)

Spurs have not been the same team since Arsenal took their spirits with that wonderful comeback in the North London Derby. The results of their last 10 matches? WLLLDDWDLL That streak has seen them go from 3rd place 10 points ahead of Arsenal and a stones throw from the top 2, to 5th place, 6 points behind us with a match in hand. Where there had once been talk about a run at the title hs now into a desperate fight to finish 4th. The matches they have left to play don’t seem tough, but Spurs have yet to win away from home in 2012, and have the look of a team in desperate need of answers. The fact that their top goal scorer and assist man is an ex Arsenal man who is on loan, Adebayor, says a lot about them as a team in my opinion. Even then, Adebayor has had a couple of run-ins with the manager and it has been reported he is unlikely to feature again for the team this year. With their current form, the matches left and their top goal scorer/assist man out, I see Spurs getting 6 points, if they are lucky, out of their remaining four matches. My prediction is that Spurs finish 6th.

Chelsea –

Currently – 6th Matches Left – QPR(H) Newcastle(H) Liverpool(FA) Liverpool(A) Blackburn(H)

Chelsea are a surprise entry in 6th place. This is unfamiliar territory for the Blues. The one saving grace in their season has been their run of form in cup competitions. They dismantled Spurs in the FA Cup semi’s and broke hearts in Barcelona to reach the final of the Champion’s League. Those runs aside, they have been underwhelming during the EPL campaign. In addition to having matches versus opposition in the relegation fight, they face in form Newcastle as well as Liverpool twice, with these 3 matches and QPR added, they face 4 matches in 10 days. QPR should be a win for them, with Taraabt out for QPR. Newcastle is an interesting match for several reasons. To make up ground, Chelsea must win this match, but it is a mere 4 days after the QPR match, but they also have the FA Cup final 3 days later. Will they rotate and play a weakened side for this match or lay it all out and sacrifice for the FA Cup final? Another question is, will they play their best available for both Newcastle and the FA Cup final and then trot out a weaker side for Liverpool away just 3 days later. So many possibilities. I see Chelsea stumbling in 2 of their remaining matches and securing a total of 7 points from them. I think they’ll win the match versus QPR and Blackburn and drawing either the NUFC or the LFC match. This brings us to the Champions League final. Should CFC finish outside the top four, which I think is likely, they MUST win the final to secure a CL spot for next year. Frankly, with the loss of Ramires, Meireles, Ivanovic and Terry for the final, against a Bayern team chock full of offensive fire power, that scenario seems unlikely, but not impossible. I believe Chelsea will finish 5th, win the FA Cup and lose in the CL final, leaving the top four to qualify for next year’s competition.

Arsenal supporters are very fickle on the social media pages of late. Every report, rumor and sensational bit of gossip can turn them for or against the team. The reality is this. At this late stage, Arsenal control their own fate. Win out or secure 6/7 points in the last 3 matches and maintain 3rd with no issues. With the players available, Arsenal should accomplish this task without much fuss. The worry over what every other team does is unnecessary in my view, the Gunners need to take care of their business and everything else will fall as it should. That’s what I expect to happen. I see the top four finishing with United as champs, again, with City, Arsenal and Newcastle following them. This is my prediction, could it change? Of course! But the constant in all scenarios I play out is Arsenal 3rd, I just don’t see the lads passing up the opportunity to finish this season off strong. There is way more character in this squad then there has been in quite some time and the likes of Szczesny, Sagna, Kos, TV5, TR7, RvP will not let us down.

So keep your head up Gunners, don’t let the media and the negative supporters bring you down. It’s been a tough haul this year, filled with ups and downs and everything in between. Even with all that has been thrown at us, we will finish the season with more points than last year, in a higher position, and with much better prospects for the year ahead.

See you lot on the weekend! Come on you Gunners!

As I sit here, reading the absolute drivel that passes for news I wonder how much more crap we may have to read in the next three weeks of the season, let alone the summer.

I am sure by then Arsenal will have signed Podolski another 8 times. Vertonghen will be on various private jets to parts unknown to have a medical performed by the Dharma Initiative from Lost, where presumably he’ll sit waiting with Podolski who’ll have yet another physical. Almunia will “quit” the club, wow, that’s laughable. Vela will continue talking about how he was suppressed at Arsenal and Bendtner will talk about how he is still the number one striker in all the land.  Arshavin will still be scratching his head and telling anyone that will listen that he has no clue as to why AW lost faith in him. Cesc will continue to sit on the bench and come up with ways to give Wenger compliments and still slight the club in the same breath. Nasri will attempt to make his stat line look better than the ridiculous aspect they have now for a 25m player. We are all hoping there will be news that they have managed to do a Wolverine type procedure on Diaby and Co. and made their bones unbreakable. To top it off, I read a so-called article today proclaiming to tell the true story about what happened with Mata last year, and it proved to be more crap, a recounting of what we already knew and some stats showing how Mata could have helped, brilliant!

I won’t go into the RvP rumors and speculation, in this piece at least. I’ll have something later in the week on that.

You want to laugh, I know you do. I know I am. So let’s take these one by one shall we?

1.) Podolski – He is coming, sooner or later this deal is all but done. There is no pre-contract but there is an agreement. This won’t be “official” until the start of the international transfer window, because it would be illegal otherwise. He is a classy player, it is a coup for Wenger at the price touted, so don’t fret that there isn’t a press conference tomorrow. Until then, brace yourself for him to be signed three times a week.

2.) Vertonghen & Co. – You know who they are, Vertonghen, M’Villa, Hazard, Dempsey, your little brother, Gaz from down the street. All the players Arsenal are linked to will be in a constant rotation to sell papers, get viewers or get hits on pages. Until it is on arsenal.com or touted by 100 media outlets like Poldi, just let these rumors go in one ear and out the other. The club will make signings, who, for how much and when are yet to be determined. How can anyone know when AW likely doesn’t know either.

3.) Our mental loanees and outbound players – Newsflash you lot, we don’t want you! Well most of you. Almunia is said to want to quit the club. He is unwanted at the club and has never been talented enough to be a number three, let alone a number one, how ridiculous. Arsenal couldn’t move him because no one would pay, the fee nor the salary. Vela is flourishing due to the fact he is playing in La Liga…he wouldn’t and hasn’t seen those results in the EPL for a reason. Bendtner is just, well, Bendtner. In his mind he is the best and should be the starting #9 at RMFC, FCB or a host of other squads, he must have hit his head on the dashboard during one of his car accidents. Finally, Arshavin. AA we loved you, supported you and wanted nothing but for you to perform at your best. You showed up unfit, unmotivated and finished unwanted. AW lost faith because you lost form ages ago and never regained it, simple.

4.) Delusional Ex-Players – Nasri says he was overused at AFC. He stated that the supporters had no passion and the club had no ambition, all ridiculous statements. We sold him for 25m after a good 3 month stretch out of 36 months with the club. He has 5 goals and 9 assists in league play, which shows a few things. First, City overpaid and we made out like bandits. Second, he was not overused, because being sat on the bench for most of the season, his stats are crap and his play erratic at best when everyone is injured or tired enough for him to be given a chance. Lastly, City supporters have been shown to certainly have less passion than Gooners and the club, well, haha. So Nasri, thanks for the transfer fee, and fail on the comments. Get your checkbook ready to pay off a certain 10k bet.

Cesc is another matter. He was at the club for eight years, did little to deserve being appointed captain, didn’t lead the team in any aspect and left Arsenal high and dry with less money than should have been paid for him due to his stubbornness. That said, he has a multitude of supporters still protecting him like he is a true Gooner, guess what, he’s not. He gives the club backhanded compliments, praises AW with one sentence and puts him down the next. How else could you interpret saying AW is like a father figure, but he was never taught any tactics at Arsenal. How can you say Wilshere is a great player along with RvP, TV5, etc and then say his teammates were not good enough to inspire confidence in them. All of this while he watches his new teammates play El Clasico from the bench…haha amazing. Stop supporting someone who smiles to your face and places a knife sharply in your back.

5.) Diaby & Co. – The Wolverine operation is one we all want for the injured…Jack, Merts, Arteta, Diaby, Gibbs, etc…I have some sources that say this one may actually be true, stay tuned.

6.) Mata – I will finish this blog entry with this subject because it is one I discuss with many fellow bloggers at nauseum, and some of you have chimed in from time to time on it. Basically this is what rumors, lies, innuendos, and tabloid sports journalism are all about these days. All these rolled into one to then be called “news”.

We all know the story given us. Mata was available for the right price, he had a magical release clause, Arsenal tried to pay that clause but the bank transfer didn’t arrive in time, that according to some bumbling Spanish journo who is no more than a tabloid peddler at best, you know his name, I won’t say who as he has enough publicity. Then a bidding war began which Chelsea won and it was where Mata always wanted to go, according to the player and his agent/father. Foolish for AFC to pass up on him no? Foolish not to fly the necessary funds in cash via private jet to secure the signing! Not so fast…

The release clause is a smoke and mirrors act that no one can confirm or deny, what I do know is this; before Arsenal, Chelsea, Inter, or the yids were offered the left footed winger, he was offered to FCB and RMFC, both passed on him. Mata’s dad came off badly to the brass at RMFC and in turn the early interest they showed was quelled. His father, was talking to everyone trying to get the best deal for his son, fair play to him, but he was pinning one club against the other. We will never know about the release clause, but we do know, and it is very public knowledge here that his father was always going to push for his son to go to the highest bidder, not the best opportunity. AFC were not late, they didn’t make a mistake and send a late bank transfer, they were simply outbid both in transfer fee and in salary. The Mata family along with Valencia chose Chelsea based on the figures, and they had every right. The journalists failed to mention the background of him being offered to the Spanish giants first, then being auctioned off after, of course they would, that story doesn’t sell as well. In the end, did AFC make the right choice in not pursuing this transfer more vehemently? Let’s simply look at the numbers. We all laugh at Nasri, 25m for 5 goals and 9 assists in the league. Mata has a slightly better 6 goals and 11 assists in the league. Hardly world beater numbers. Mata of course steps up where Nasri disappears and does more in all aspects of the game, but hardly worth the 23.5m Chelsea paid and on more or less 100k+ a week. I don’t see it as a failure by Arsenal to not go after Mata, we were always the better choice, so it’s Mata who lost out in my view. He will be in an FA Cup final yes, he may even be in a CL final so fair play to him and Chelsea on those two fronts, but he will also likely miss out on CL football next year, as Chelsea sit fifth at the moment in the league. While they may very well pull off a minor miracle and advance past FCB, they would be heavy underdogs versus either Bayern or Real Madrid in the final. So no, we didn’t make a mistake, and now we have 23,5m to spend on a couple of good players. My blog, my opinion of course.

So in conclusion Gunners. Brace yourself for everything in the coming weeks and months, because the so-called journalists will play with your minds and worst of all your emotions, to move papers, to get clicks, to get their voice heard. Unfortunately the majority of “news” being spewed will be utter nonsense, you’ve been warned!

See you lot on the weekend! Come on you Gunners!