Saturday, 28 September 2013

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS?


I get uncomfortable when the Arsenal receive praise of any kind. I don’t like our club being the centre of attention, I cringe when pundits extol our virtues, I groan when there is a consensus that we are going to do this or that. I like it low profile. Fortunately there has been more focus on DiCanio, Moyes, Mourinho and a host of others to occupy the media spotlight.

We are just quietly getting on with the business of winning games: pretty much adopting that cliché “one game at a time”. That approach suits this group of players. They seem a modest bunch who have grown into a resilient unit. That resilience was sadly lacking in previous seasons and now we see a galvanised team who at times capture the spirit of the Arsenal Way.

We have seen what a touch of real quality brings in Ozil’s contribution, his control and passing are a cut above and one can’t help but wonder what might have been had we added just one player of his quality each season. Having an injury ravaged squad seems to have bought the best out of those players who now have to be relied upon and we have seen Ramsey flourish, Flamini show real grit, Giroud gain confidence and Sagna recapture the form of the reliable player we have seen over the years. The rest seem to be digging deep at this early stage and it will be interesting to see how things develop as more squad members return from the treatment room. Some might say we are simply taking advantage of the instabilities elsewhere in the league but if so, what of it? that's like criticising a boxer for taking advantage of an opponents weaknesses.

Today we have the dreaded 5:30 kick off in a foreign field against a team who play the game the right way and have proved to be tricky customers in the past and I for one embrace it. We have to have the mentality that says ‘bring it on’ for every fixture and against every opponent: that’s the arsenal way.


Of course there is a long journey ahead of us in this season of optimism and adversity so nobody need get carried away but one couldn’t ask for much more with the start to the season we have had. Seeking perfection would be churlish so let’s just sit back in quiet satisfaction and see what “one game at a time brings” maybe opportunity has finally come knocking.


Thursday, 19 September 2013

SATISFACTION


Sometimes I can though
 
Yes I can be as negative as the next blogger but it's nice to feel positive now and again. The Arsenal's current form is good and yes, there are some minus points, but some folk seem incapable of feeling satisfied. i'm not talking about constructive criticism I'm talking about unconstructive moaning. I've given my opinions negative and positive and try to show balance. Lets just enjoy our current succes and look ahead with a smidgeon of optomism
Competing on all fronts is a footballing cliché associated with successful clubs and indeed that is the aspiration of most club’s that are of the requisite status. In order to do this luck is needed, good runs of injury free performance and above all squad depth. On this basis I think we can write off the Carling Cup, or is it the Capital Cup? Let’s just call it the league cup. Playing young aspirants with a smattering of first teamers has been our default in this competition but this season I can’t see how we can give the kids that smattering.
As for the Champions League I think we may be found wanting defensively when crunch time comes but who knows: if we get out of the group stage a knockout competition beckons. The FA Cup may represent our best chance of a trophy and it will require focus from our manager regarding its importance if we are to reclaim our place as serial finalists in this tournament.

But hang on, there’s the League, which at this moment in time we are as well equipped to compete for as a number of other teams: we just need to bide our time and see if players return and other plays stay out of the treatment room
This season already feels strange what with United out of sorts, Chelsea’s returning saviour yet to find his feet, Liverpool staking their claim, City being a bit six of one and half a dozen of the other, Sp*rs slowly integrating their new players and Everton looking compact. The Arsenal seem to have got into a groove of goal scoring and okay defending that lapses occasionally, with penalties being our paybackl. A curious feel about this season so maybe this time around it is anybody’s title.

Monday, 16 September 2013

ONE OFF THE ARSENAL

Arsenal One Off Unbeaten Season
 
Arsenal One Off Shirts
 
Arsenal One Off League fixture
 
Arsenal One Off Trophy sharing with Sp*rs
 
Arsenal One Off Champions following points deduction
 
Arsenal One Off Sporting offer of replay
Picture courtesy arsenalonetwofive.wordpress.com
Arsenal Star In One Off Proper Movie
 


Thursday, 12 September 2013

UNCURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM


 
Well I don’t know about you but it feels like the season is starting properly this weekend, thanks to the unwanted International break. All the clubs have the squads that they must rely upon until January now that the interminable transfer window has slammed shut and we have added four players to the ranks. Two of whom are unknown quantities, one a former employee who, judging by his cameo in the NLD has much to give and, of course, that rarity in this league: a genuinely world class player.
 
                                                          Courtesy: thebottomcorner.com
 
We restart the season with six points and qualification to the group stage of the Champions League secured so in that sense it’s been a pretty good three weeks. We’ve seen good performances across the board and downgrading the quality of the opposition is churlish in the extreme. Our injuries have been the downside of this period and yet again questions are being asked about our consistent list of casualties. But, it is what it is, we go forward with what we have available and one of those available is new boy Mesut Özil. In this league it has been proven that a mercurial individual can make a substantial difference over a season, Van Persie last season for Manchester United, Bale at Spurs and Suarez for Liverpool are recent examples so who knows what difference the quality that is Özil brings to the party.
 
 
Giroud and Ramsey have been getting rave reviews and credit where credits due, it is praise thoroughly deserved, Szczeny has looked more solid, despite the aberration on the opening day of the season, and similarly Koscielny has been excellent following the Villa game. Bendtner is making the right noises and I would say that competing in four tournaments requires all hands on deck and if Bendtner plays his part he's worth having on board. 
 
 
Winning is a good habit and we have won four out of five, scoring ten goals in the process, taking three points from a team that in all probability will be vying for a similar position in the league is always good and certainly silencing the braggadocio of the great pretenders is good fun.

The period between now and January will test our squad and put the manager under scrutiny perhaps more than ever before, but I get the sense that the players themselves now have a touch of the old Arsenal, a touch of the “we’ll show ‘em!” which was displayed against the happy shoppers of Seven Sisters. The Emirates faithfull also played their part and it's important that our home support are as enthused as our away support. Its a quid pro quo between the team and the fans and maybe, just maybe this is a time of synchronicity. Our backs are against the wall and the Arsenal we know and love often performs best under these circumstances. Let's see how we go.

Interesting times ahead methinks.
 
                                                        

Sunday, 8 September 2013

RHAPSODY IN RED AND WHITE


[music: the opening of 'Good Old Arsenal [Voiceover]

Arsenalism: Chapter One. He adored Arsenal Football Club. He idolised it all out of proportion. Eh uh, no, make that he, he romanticised it all out of proportion. Better. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a club that existed in Red and White and pulsated to the songs from the North Bank. Uh, no, let me start this over.

Arsenalism : Chapter One: He was too romantic about The Arsenal, as he was about everything else. He thrived on the hustle bustle of the crowds on a match day. To him,the Arsenal meant beautiful football and smart players who seemed to know all the angles. Ah, corny, too corny for, you know, my taste. Let me, let me try and make it more profound.

Arsenalism : Chapter One: He adored Arsenal Football Club. To him it was a metaphor for the decay of football culture. The same lack of individual integrity that caused so many people to take the easy way out was rapidly turning the club of his dreams in - no, it's gonna be too preachy, I mean, you know, let's face it, I wanna get some page views here.

Arsenalism: Chapter One: He adored the Arsenal. Although to him it was a metaphor for the decay of football culture. How hard it was to exist in a fan base desensitised by Football journalism, ill informed opinion, television pundits, MOTD,Robbie Savage - too angry. I don't want to be angry.


Arsenalism: Chapter One. He was as tough and romantic as the club he loved. Behind his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat. Oh, I love this. The Arsenal was his club, and it always would be.


Sunday, 1 September 2013

THE UNTOUCHABLE'S PRINCIPALS CREATE THE THINVINCIBLES©

...or can you?

Of all the clubs in all  the world he had to walk into ours: Stan Kronke that is. Another rich man looking to generate income from a big club in a big city, only this time without splashing the cash it would seem. I say 'seem' because no one can be sure about anything at boardroom and managerial level at our club, the whole shebang is cloaked in secrecy. Or perhaps that cloak is of obfuscation; smoke and mirrors if you will. Information is heavily controlled Politburo style thus leading to speculation and in some cases, gesticulation from the seats of the Emirates. This lack of transparency comes across as arrogance which makes supporters feel very much marginalised. There is almost a civil war of words between supporters with differing views on how this thing of ours should operate, such is the level of frustration and unrest.
We've seen tons of inaction and lashings  of transfer rumour piffle with very little comment about those bold words of Gazidis' about expenditure. Could this declaration have been an aural mirage perhaps? Or was the manager just not listening? Who knows, but sometimes the obvious answer to a complex question is the easiest and in the case of the thorny question regarding the Arsenal the answer just has to be “the manager”. The question being “what’s wrong at the Arsenal?” I am not going to spew forth a diatribe against Mr Wenger: I never have, but I am taking stock while I am sunning myself in beautiful Rhodes, prior to strolling to the bar to watch Arsenal take on that lot from down the road, and have looked at facts and drawn my conclusions based on that. My conclusions regarding Arsene are, to quote the Corleones “not personal just business”.

I think I’m right in saying that AW selects the players that he feels are of the required quality and has done so for the majority of his tenure. Of the players he inherited he clearly retained the services of those he thought matched his criteria. When I look at the players that he has bought to the club in the last seven/eight years I have to say that the quality has dropped year on year.

AW has sold good players and had to sell good players who wanted out. One can debate the validity of forcing players to stay but I do look at some of those players that were sold who didn’t want to go or could have been retained for longer: Pires, Gilberto, Lauren, Campbell, Lehman, Edu and Diarra and the timing of those sales. In selling good players and not trying hard enough to secure the services of the existing quality at the club I believe that AW genuinely felt that he had a group of young players who were going to produce and play the style that AW felt was the future: he was wrong in believing in Denilson, Bendtner, Vela, Merida, Diaby, Fabianski and the like, dead wrong. His belief blew up in our faces.

Yes the period since the FA Cup final of 2005 until now has had the press gloating at our lack of success and we have been unable to shut them up with a trophy, but the truth is we haven’t been good enough often enough when it mattered, and yes there have been occasions when we have been unfortunate come crunch time but there have also been occasions, big occasions to win Silverware, when AW has made big errors: The FA cup semi finals against Manchester United and Chelsea when team selection was mystifying to say the least. AW’s belief in Almunia being a top drawer Goal keeper that could replace Lehman was misplaced as was the faith he put into a goalkeeping squad of Almunia, Fabianski and Mannone as being of requisite quality to compete over the course of a season.

The deficit column of AW’s reign is now bigger than the achievement column. AW has lost more cup finals than he has won; he has finished out side of the league positions that represent a tussle for the Championship more times than he has been battling it out for the title. Yes, again, credit where credits due, the 16 year run of ECL qualification is excellent yet I have not felt that we were qualifying with a chance of winning since 2006. The new stadium is impressive and AW played his part in its creation but it is something of a soulless arena of underachievement and inflated pricing, as a result loyalty has been sorely tested.
Focusing on the good times gone by is all well and good and it is only fit and proper to praise AW for his achievements between 1997-2006 but by the same token it is fair to criticise the period 2007-2013; this is judging him by those standards which he himself set. I look at some of the players who have appeared at the Emirates in this period and I am at a loss as to why they were purchased, players like Bischoff, Park, Chamakh, Squillacci, Silvestre and Gervinho just weren’t good enough as we looked to replace the players of real ability that left our club each summer.

In the golden era of Wenger's tenure many irregular squad members showed their worth when called upon; Edu, Kanu, Wiltord, Manninger, Flamini all made major contributions and there were other who were less effective, for a variety of reasons, but who made positive contributions; Taylor, VanBronkhorst, Cygan, Senderos, Sylvinho, Inamoto, Garde, Grimandi, Reyes,Sûker and  Eduardo whose Arsenal career was cut short by thuggery. Just an example of how deep our squads used to be. All of them stepped into the breach alongside the illustrious first team and helped the Arsenal win games and trophies as they had quality alongside them.

Time was Arsenal players left to join clubs like Barcelona, Man Utd, Juventus, and Milan now they are going to Sunderland, West Ham and Europe’s outer reaches: that's the standard of player Wenger has accumulated.
It appears that there is little coming in the door and little coming through the ranks so what conclusions can be drawn other than a lack of basic footballing common sense is now ingrained at our club.

I've said it before that there is a good group of players at the club; good not great, who with some additions could really achieve something. These players are almost crying out for some quality to help them out as much as we the supporters. The manager doesn't ( or won't ) agree on this as is evident by his failure to bring that quality to the Emirates. As a result our squad has started the season wafer thin and at a disadvantage in what promises to be the most open of seasons, we've gone from the INVINCIBLES to the THINVINCIBLES© not by mistake but by the design of our seemingly untouchable manager.

I believe that there are ways and means to get the players you need if you make the right offers but wanting them in the first place may be the primary stumbling block for us. If the manager, who has total control over such matters, doesn't have an eye for a player or a belief that additional players will be a positive addition to the squad there is no point of raising ones hopes.


And that's what Gazidis' proclamation gave us; hope; the stuff that dreams are made of, which may well turn out to be false hope, shattered dreams.
 

*there is an excellent piece by whitehouseaddress.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/times-of-desperation-crisis-at-arsenal.html?m=1  that eloquently summarises our current situation.

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