Stone Cold Friday: Litmus Test Of Arsenal’s Resolve

He’s fat, he’s round, he bounces on the ground, no wait that was Sammy Lee. This is the infinitely more mobile Darius:

Even at this early juncture in the season, everybody is chipping in about Arsenal’s chances of grabbing some silverware.  From the self-proclaimed ‘special ones’ in the Iberian Peninsula to the landlord of the Britannia’s local public house; from smug pundits to the tea lady at White Hart Lane – the consensus seems to be that Arsenal still don’t have what it takes to shake off the ‘also-rans’ status hammered to our forehead.

It’s the age old cliché about the spine we don’t have. The spine made of steel, grit, height and filled with Neanderthals built like brick shithouses – I sometimes forget what it is exactly we need.  If you asked Professor Meerkat of the ‘Compare the football market’ legend, he would suggest that what isn’t in doubt is that Arsenal needs to score more goals and concede less – Simples!

In the grand scheme of things, last season’s league table suggests that we weren’t far off the mark.  The manner of our concession to the title challenge caused acrimony and disquiet within the Gooner nation.

While many would suggest that this unhappy state of affairs is universal, a significant proportion of Arsenal fans around the world remain disappointed but still recognise and acknowledge the virtues that the club continues to uphold and the steady progress we are making, on and off the field.

Nevertheless, Wenger and the players clearly recognise that they are walking a tightrope of expectations. There is an added urgency to bring the bacon home after the long haul of development, goodwill that has been handed to this young cohort of players over the last few years.

Even Government spooks at GCHQ looked at the Arsenal blogosphere as it went ballistic this summer. Imagine their surprise as a handful of rabble rousers were responsible for the noise, compared to the millions of moderate, well-rounded and positively expectant Arsenal supporters around the world.

New signings were demanded, but some are still underwhelmed by the signings that Wenger has made so far.  The only reason I can point to as an explanation – and I’m speculating here – is that for those who believe that enough is enough and something has to give, only the signing of established, YouTube profiled and media-recognised players who come with a hefty price tag and huge wage demands will do.

“We need an experienced and established centre back”, the cries came from far and wide, and to his credit, Wenger has done what he said he will do.  Sort out our defence.  There’s that age old burning issue of the Arsenal keeper, but that’s a story for another day.

On the defensive side, it’s time to park the ‘we need another CB’ conversation and get about the business of settling the new recruits in.  I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that we’re lacking for experience and quality in this area.  If we use United and Chelsea as a simplistic but practical comparison – our defensive personnel of Sagna/Eboue, Koscielny/Squillaci, Vermaelen/Djourou and Clichy/Gibbs – is better equipped and better resourced for the coming campaign than both United and Chelsea.

It’s time to knuckle down and get about the business of navigating the many challenges of the season.  Five more days until the transfer window is nailed shut and boarded up is five days too long pontificating about the PlayStation choices in personnel that the manager could, should and won’t make?  We are where we are as they say.

For me, passing our litmus test to judge whether the necessary improvements have been made depends on three areas of our game: our patience and maturity during the game; the decisions we make during the transitions when possession of the ball changes; and the mental fortitude to overcome the numerous obstacles that will be thrown our way.

The recent hammering of Blackpool and West Brom by Arsenal and Chelsea are a template of what can happen to teams who decide to play football against the top sides.  Let’s face it, not all clubs will come to play football, clearly content with throwing the virtues of the beautiful game out of the fourth floor window in a bid not to be given a good hiding and a cricket score to boot.

It’s for this reason that patience is a virtue as many teams will either stop us from playing by any legal means necessary, or park the coach in front of goal.  In addition, there are good teams that are content with letting us have the ball and hitting us on the counter, because it’s a strategy that has worked in the past.

In both these cases, we must be patient in controlling the game and waiting for our opportunity.  Arsenal has the players with the fitness and stamina to wear down such teams before licking them to submission.  Despite the suggestion that possession football without penetration leads to frustration and the anxiety of not making the three points, there are games that we most definitely need the patience and maturity to overcome the anti-football.

Closely linked is my second point that we need to be better during transitions.  If you analyse our games last season, especially the ones that we suffered devastating counter-attacks; the key issue is that we were caught in no-man’s land when we lost the ball.  It’s like the players got a mental block just trying to decide whether to attack the ball or fall back into defensive formation as opposed to chasing the opponent.

The system we play is significantly dependent on our ability to retain possession, and we arguably have the best ball carriers in the league.  The naivety we have occasionally shown is that we have been impatient and tried to force the issue, cheaply losing possession in some of these cases.  Compound this with not making the right decisions at the very moment of losing the ball and you have a chain of events that easily ends up with Almunia collecting the ball from the back of his net.

We are the best at turning transitions of defence to attack with devastating effect to the opposition.  We need to be better during the transitions where we lose the ball.  We need to be more consistent in defending as a unit starting with the players up front. They are crucial in buying time for us to get back in defensive shape or winning the ball outright.

Naturally, the application of what seems easier said than done in my first two hurdles of the litmus test can only come together by the team showing that they have the mental fortitude and discipline to go the whole nine yards.  With each new season, the expectation is that the team will start providing the returns for the emotional investment the fans have made in them over the last few years.  We know that the team has everything – stamina, technique, intelligence, panache, desire, belief and hunger.

The missing ingredient is the mental strength to bring all these attributes to fruition.  It’s the wiring that joins the different dots together to get this team through the last mile of this roller-coaster of a journey.

’til Tomorrow

Posted on August 27, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 251 Comments.

  1. What what what??!!

  2. 2nd

  3. Interesting post Darius/

    Transitions, transitions.

    I think the ‘mental strength’ Wenger talks of almost weekly is a huge factor aswell. The players know how close they are to proving all the doubters wrong, but need to be tactically focused for 90 minutes (..or 97 minutes if its away at OT) week in, week out. Sometimes the weight of expectation makes men crumble. Not Eboue though.

  4. Pez…it’s President Eboue – get the facts straight….LOL!

  5. Clerkenwell Gooner

    Mascherano to Barça – told ya!

    I for one welcome our new defensive overlords, Squillaci + Koscielny. Kos seemed to manage OK with Torres, albeit a slightly under par one.

    The test is Chelski I suppose.

  6. Ok, if you wanna compare defences with manure and chavs fine. We r in a great place. But look at there goalies? Or even spurs? If in 5 days time we have no new goalie we stand littl chance of winning ANYTHING. And Almunia i actually feel sorry for him. He’s like an ugly girlfriend at the moment (ok till something better comes along…..a real confidence builder for a goalie)

  7. Les…pray tell. What will you do in 5 days time if Arsenal don’t sign a new keper?

  8. DS – good read as always. Yes, all of your above points are going to be tested against the fat walrus’s charges very shortly & again during the entire season. As far as the mental strength is concerned my personal opinion is that we are close if not there already.
    On an aside, I was going to accuse FC Barcaloaners of bribing their way to getting an easy group, but then I realised they so skint that they have to sell their skirts to buy a pair of undies

  9. DS – Good post. Especially the thoughts on the “transition” which I agree is where our main problem has been. If we are completely out of position when we lose the ball I would like to see more of our players comitting fouls to stop play. We can be too nice for our own good sometimes I feel.

  10. Zimpaul.

    That was a lovely piece of writing by your son. He’s good.Good piece of research too.

    I don’t see the need to translate cricket terms like ‘doosra’ and ‘googly’. They are surely written in the universal language of cricket!

  11. Wow. Tottenham have been awarded automatic qualification from the group stages of the CL???!!

    The news broke late last night on a number of blogs and has been gathering pace today as Sperz fans awake to realize that they were not dreaming and that they are, in fact, going to be competing amongst Europe’s elite.
    A short period of contemplation preceded a statement from the official supporters association. ‘We, the sperz, are going on a european tour. Bremen are useless..we’ll beat them home and away. Inter we’ll definitely beat at home and maybe draw in the San Siro. And Twente?.. What?.. The number of false dawns in the last twente years?.. Or the amount of times Harry has been investigated by the FSA?.. Oh?.. They’re Dutch?.. Finished above Ajax as champions of Holland you say.. Erm.. er/… they’re shit!.. We’ll beat them home and away!. Gareth Bale is Pele blah blah blah’

    By Christmas those jokers will be mid table and out of the competition. For Eboue hath decreed it.

  12. 1 loose cannon

    No one has given us any hope this season but also they did not say we will drop out of the top 4 as they did last year so I guess they really don’t know what to expect from Arsenal. it will all depend on how Kolscieny and Squilaci do. If they proved a master stroke then we have every chance. Chelsea and United have lost key players, Cavalho who was by far chelsea’s best defender and united have a problem with Rio I do not see him recovring to his top form, he seems injured all the time. against top sides they will be tested. the problem has always been defensively we will score everywhere but can we win 1 nil ? One thing we did not do last season is change tactics when we played united and Chelsea we simply attacked from the word go and they hit us on the break, against top opposition we need try deferent tactics.

  13. I can’t wait for the end of the transfer window so the morons like les will fuck off! We will be more than fine!

    Goal conceaded don’t go down to goalkeeping errors a good defence will help us reduce the goal conceaded and Almunia will continue to make stunning saves but those morons will keep on going with their shit moaning! The worse thing, is that if at the end of the season we get our hand on some trophies there will be the first saying we have the best squad when they thrashed the players all year long!
    We are better equipped than the two manshiter and chelski in the defensive department!

    On the CL draw travelling fans will need to be careful when going to Belgrade as 1 year ago a Toulouse fan got killed there by skin heads! I’m surprised UEFA has allowed them to take part in the CL with incidents like that!

  14. I think it’s fine for Arsenal to be underdogs, we’ll have less pressure and will stun them come may!

  15. Darius, once again as always, your writing breathes ‘calmness’ into the nostrils of a Gunner Nation gasping for breath as the new season swings faster.I dare say that one thing I expect is that ‘guile’ to meet each EPL team on ‘their own turf’.We meet teams like Blackburn and in spite of what they did to our dear Flappy last season, you wonder if AW gave specific instructions to our players about Fat Sam’s ‘rugby approach’ as THE SAME errors may cost us and these teams/manager have come to knwo that AW rarely changes his approach to the physical duel and other ‘peculiarities’ of the English game. Our GK, already lacking in confidence, gets pushed, crosses are allowed to be made, Clichy and Sagna push so high and leave their backs exposed, etc. Ditto Stoke, Man U & City, Chelsea, etc. We want to be champs ahead of these guys? I say, quoting Paul the Apostle now, “become ALL THINGS to ALL MEN”-play them the style that unsettles them! Fashion an approach that accurately matches what they are bringing to the pitch. We cant beat Chelsea with the same game plan that beats Utd or City or Spurs;specific instructions our players and about their ‘star’ players,etc. Messi said Pep warned them about Theo(of all people!) ahead of the CL 1st leg and see what he did when he came on…that’s my take on this.Great day!

  16. Interestingly according to the BBC website 59% of Blackburn’s goals last season came from set pieces, we can’t say we haven’t been warned. I’m looking forward to seeing how equipped Kos is for the battle. I’ve got a feeling he will surprise a few people…

  17. Bob Wilson has said on the Radio that Shay Given is in the frame as well but City refusing to let him go to Arsenal.

  18. good post darius and all round analysis of the arsenal game, I agree wit u on our transition. From defence to attack, phenomenal, bt vice versa lies the problem. For the mental aspect of the game, though different for every individual in the team, i believe collectively the team is getting more mature on dat level.

    @goonerandy 9:12
    I like the idea and dats a good solution to breaking down attacks of opponents but wat happens when the ref starts dishing out cards

  19. VP10 – Better than goals against mate. Most pro’s do that sort of thing anyway, I would just like us to do it a bit more.

    Can’t say I am looking forward to us defending set pieces whatsoever. Hopefully we will stand up and do well agsint them, but there is no doubt they are a threat from set pieces. A very big side.

  20. I remember the days when we would be 2 goals up with 15mins to go after being kicked all game and Grimandi would come on to extract retribution, get a yellow card or maybe a red, and go off with job done.

    We need a designated kicker like they have in the US.

  21. @GoonerAndy…

    “Can’t say I am looking forward to us defending set pieces whatsoever. Hopefully we will stand up and do well agsint them, but there is no doubt they are
    a threat from set pieces. A very big side.”

    Have a bit more faith. In the last 4 games against Blackburn we’ve scored 15 goals against their 4. Not a bad return at all.

  22. Has any analysis been done as to whether we are more or less prone to conceding goals to the counter attack when Song is on/off the pitch…?

  23. Darius – I do have faith, and are confident we will win the game. It is sjust ometimes painful to watch teams almost “picking on us” in that fashion. It is like collecting your child from school only to see him/her being bullied by the school thugs.

  24. With Chelsea playing Stoke and Man U playing W.Ham,the Spuds playing Wigan nothing less than maxium points will do at Blackburn.RVP and Cesc must start, this is a big test

  25. Darius-San I have another message from Yogi –

    ‘Very good post Darius-San, Obi-Wan and myself have taught You well, your training is almost complete. Now, please begin todays training, and remember, I like two coats of wax on my fleet of classic automobiles, the chammy’s are in the garage, Banzai’

  26. GoonerAndy.

    4-0, 4-0, 6-2 and 1-2 to the Arsenal against Blackburn in the last 4 league games suggests that we do more of the bullying.

    It may have been true in past years, but Arsenal isn’t necessarily bullied as much as the media say we are. It’s too simplistic an explanation in situations where we don’t play well. The truth is that we lose the games that we don’t impose our game plan and that’s not necessarily as a result of being bullied by the play ground punk. When we apply ourselves as we should do, teams like Blackburn end up chasing more shadows than they kick people.

    Granted, they’re better at anti-football, but football will always reign supreme.

  27. Supercod

    We should also be wary of Blackburn’s gorrilla of a player: Samba. He’s 185 lbs and 6ft 5ins tall!

  28. Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger added: “Sebastien has many qualities that will add to the strength of our squad. He is quick, hugely experienced with an aggressive edge to his game. His signing will give us some variation at the back as we look to build on last season’s campaign and fight for silverware this year.”

    Excellent, agressive and quick.

  29. @ goonerandy
    I feel the same way you do when arsenal needs to defend set pieces bt dnt necessarily think all big sides will score when it comes to dat, i feel the ability to keep ur eye on the ball and good leap like chamakh did on saturday is needed, which comes down to technique bt some of this teams lack dat even wit the height they possess they would rather like to infringe our goalkeeper and allardyce was good at doing dat wit his teams even at bolton.

  30. Darius – Oh I agree, but you know what I am getting at. Don’t tell me you don’t cringe every time Blackburn/Stoke get corners or the opportunity to put in a long throw. Arsene is right, a strong ref is what is needed to stock the shananagans with the blocking of our keeper.

    I fully expect us to win, and win well I think. They are a physical side, with a definate goal threat from set pieces, but we are far and away the better footballing side.

  31. Good point on Chamakh, I think he’ll improve our defending of set pieces, how many times was Shearer seen heading the ball away from corners and free kicks throughout his career…?

  32. Darius, i’ll do what most fans will do and get behind the team. And darius i get your point the defence is looking a lot better, but i feel that alumni cannot be happy if the manager/fans and possibly a team sport. Football is about confidence to is it not? gunnerluc, its an open forum and i’m allowed concerns about a team i’ve supported since george wood played in goal for us (go look him up).

  33. cannot be happy if the manager/fans and possibly a team sport. Football is about confidence to is it not?

    Spazzed out. Meant to say
    Alumni cannot be happy if the manager/fans and possibly are not behind him and that footy is about confidence.

  34. Goonerandy…I’m more worried when we’re sloppy and we don’t apply ourselves, as opposed to the set pieces from other teams.

    When we play well, set pieces are not the threat to us that they’re made to be. Even Stoke have struggled to impose their game when we play well and don’t let them anywhere near our box. Last time even Arshavin the pygmy run riot against their neanderthals when we hit them 2 nil, and that’s with a penalty miss too.

    We can’t change their tactics on bullying or on set pieces; all we can do is focus and play our game – and by default, it will make us respond better to what they throw at us.

  35. If we deal with the first few with confidence and presesnce the whole issue will become a non-entity. It is when we look unsure, and every set piece results in scrambles. The whole team suddenly seems on edge.

    To be fair to Almunia though, the ones that stick in my mind involve Fabianski and not Manuel.

  36. He lives and breathes cricket CBob, since he was little. He’s one of those nuts who, when you say something innocent like “I like the look of this new quick Amir”, will tell recount in thrilling detail an obscure 1983 test in Lahore, a long-forgotten incident on the second session of day 4. His hero is CLR James, the historian and cricket writer.

    I’ve tried to encourage him to become a famed cricket commentator, so he can invite me to the best matches, and we can be the only father-son cricket commentating team. He can do the ball-by-ball stuff, and I will pitch in with wise and knowing comments, mainly about Arsenal. He grins.

  37. My predictions for this season …

    1. Arsenal
    2. Arsenal Second String
    3. Arsenal Youth
    4. Arsenal Ladies
    5. Maria’s ACLF Team
    6. Arsenal Reserves
    7. Arsenal Bits and Pieces
    8-22. Nobody
    23. Barca
    24. Chelsea
    25. Rest of the World

    You read it here first.

  38. It will be a thrilling battle between 1, 2 and 3.

  39. The new boy is on the website, seems to own a good ‘nutter’s stare’….

  40. This is a game I would realy like to see Squillaci start.

  41. ZimPaul, my moneys on 4.

  42. Arsene has already said he will not be involved.

  43. Eduardo relishing Arsenal return with Shakhtar Donetsk in Champions League

    “It will be fantastic for me to come back to a club I will always love and respect, to see all my old team-mates and to play again in front of the best fans in England”

  44. No worries though……we will have a very very strong team out on satuday. We will be no mugs at set pieces with Chamakh up front. Theo will terrify them for pace.

    RvP hasn’t got a bad scoring record against them- 10 goals in 9 games.

  45. ZimPaul, that excerpt of your son’s cricket writing was great. I’ve been reading Beyond a Boundary this summer and CLR is fast-becoming my favourite sports writer.

    I’m an off-spinner (of sorts – more like trundling little off-cutters really, but at the level I play at I do take lots of wickets because there’s not many slow bowlers around to net against) and I thought that the googly was the same thing as the doosra i.e. that it is simply a contrasting delivery to your stock one, whether it be slower, straighter, loftier or quicker (‘the other one’).

    Anyway… really good writing I thought. Pinter’s got it wrong though – sex is much better than cricket. But he is right about the two being at the centre of everything.

  46. Lovely post.

    Too true about not getting stuck on the counter. I can’t count the number of times I saw us concede while our players were either running back but not being decisive enough (3 of them got back at home to Utd and no one saw Rooney!?) or getting frozen in the headlights and not tracking back at all!

    It goes hand in hand with us not making teams pay for sitting back against us by sticking a few goals past them but you’re bang on that it’s one of our biggest single defensive frailties.

    That said, the long-fabled mental strength was in show last season and the feeling that they are there or thereabouts is tucked in the back of these players’ minds.

    I think it’s a stronger, more professional Arsenal we’ll see this year, here’s hoping they can start it off at Blackburn…

  47. can see that we have now been linked with landreau & hazard. as much as i would like this to be true (particularly hazard) i just really cant see it. would be nice from a developmental point of view but cant see how either would make a real difference to starting 11 at this point in time…although it wont stop much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth by disgruntled doomers saying that wenger bottled it and was too stingy to bring them both in.

    quite looking forward to transfer window closing so can just concentrate on the season with the players we have

  48. By the way, Graham Poll is a complete and utter c*nt.

  49. Well les for someone who has followed the team for that long you seemed to be listening a bit to much the football so called experts who just hate arsenal and will invent any thing to dismiss our team.

    I might be a glass half full kind of guy but when I think of Almunia I remember the amazing saves he did for us, the penalty shoot out against Roma, the many penalty saves over the years, the first half against Barca where they could not believe how he could make all those saves.
    You might not be one of them as I don’t recall you as one of the doomer brigade but I am so tired of all those guys that came on this blog and repeating again and again Almunia and Fabianski are shit they are the worse keeper in the league, Wenger should stop being so stuborn and splash the cash blablabla

    The fact is the goalkeeper we have been linked to whole summer are no better than Almunia and the ones that would be better are unavailable which makes it pointless to repeat over and over again the same rubbish about kicking out Almunia.

    I think Wenger has been looking for another GK over this summer but not to replace almunia but to have an healthy competiton for the number 1 position. Fabianski is a good keeper but it’s public knowledge his confidence is down and I think he needs a loan away to get it back and Manone and Sczenzy are good but a bit too inexperienced to give a real competition to Almunia.

    When I look at our squad I see one of the most potent attack with a variety of option to shoose from, one of the most technical midfield and now probably the best overall defensive unit in the league and a good experienced goalkeeper so it just makes my blood boil when I hear some fans coming on arenal blogs to slate our players, saying this guy is shit or with this guy we won’t finish in the top four or wenger is tight stuborn coach who must go when I see one of the most exciting and complete squad and a coach that sticks to his beliefs and steadily improve the teams in a difficult environment.

  50. Blackburn’s approach tomorrow will be thoroughly anti-football. Expect them to play a 4-5-1, trying to be compact and to hit us on the break with the intention of getting a goal from set pieces. Man-mountain Samba will be thrown into our box as often as possible to roughhouse our defenders and GK on the way to nicking a header. He will be aided and abetted by the stringy Nzonzi and thugs like Roberts and Diouf. Long throws, corners and free-kicks are their only weapons.
    It will all be in vain because this is an older, more mature, better equipped Arsenal FC. Normal service will be restored. They will be whipped. Have no fear!

  51. Last year they nicked a goal via a David Dunn breakaway and they still got stuffed.

  52. David Dunn was lucky his shot got deflected by Gallas. It was going nowhere.

  53. just checked out the new lad squillaci on the site his got d no nonsense look, which i like and find a bit funny, though looked like a rio ferdinand with more hair in the last exclusive pix list

  54. I’m just going to take a quick moment to explain why Graham Poll is a complete and utter c*nt.

    Arsene made some comments in a press conference yesterday basically designed to protect us against Allardyce bundling the ball into our net with his belly. I don’t know if you remember the game at Ewood Park last season, I can’t find any highlights of it but basically Blackburn employed about three players to surround Fabianski, punch him in the kidneys, kick him in the boll*cks, shove him into the net and then nick a couple of goals. One of them was Christopher Samba who is about 20 times bigger than Flappy. It was cheating. Referee Martin Atkinson let both bogus goals stand because, one can only assume, he was surrounded by fat pasties he bottled his pants, forgot his job and fell in-line with the ‘Arsenal are knock-kneed tippy-tappy triangle-football playing foreign ponces and they don’t like it up ’em’ – brigade.

    So to stop it happening again Arsene has rather cleverly commented on something similar that happend to sp*rs the other weekend:

    “You cannot say that is football anymore.

    “If the referees allow that you cannot accept that because that has nothing to do with the game. Apart from that, when a team plays long ball and heads the ball and becomes physical I accept that completely and I respect that.

    “But it has to be in respect of the rules, that is all.”

    “I believe that in some situations the goalkeepers are not protected. You cannot have players whose main role is to stop the goalkeepers from catching the ball and not even go for the ball.”

    Fair, I think you’ll agree – seeing as he is talking about enforcing actual laws of the game. At any rate, it should force the referee to take a little look at Blackburn during corners which might just save us on Saturday – because you can be sure they will try it again – and that is what this seems intended to do. Good old Arsene.

    Meanwhile, at c*nt headquarters… GRAHAM POLL: There’s nothing wrong with using your physical presence in the box, Arsene

    Arsene Wenger’s complaint centres on Stoke opting to play high balls into the Spurs penalty area to put Heurelho Gomes under pressure from their athletic players. (No – it centres on their ‘athletic players’ bundling the goalkeeper into the net without going for the ball – which is a foul)

    There is nothing wrong with that tactic, of course, (yes there is, it’s a foul) and it certainly seemed to unsettle the Brazilian keeper (rascist).

    What is wrong is when that physical presence (?) becomes physical contact (have you ever played football, Poll, you infuriating, flat-topped w*nker?) and that is the referee’s job to detect and punish it. (Ask Martin Atkinson what his job is – he doesn’t know).

    If he does then the rough house tactic tends to change. Last weekend, referee Chris Foy wrongly allowed contact — mainly between Stoke’s Robert Huth and Gomes — to go unpunished. (So you are in agreement with Arsene Wenger then. In which case, I don’t understand the purpose of this article. Is this you being intentionally obtuse?)

    That culminated in the controversial incident in stoppage time when Stoke appeared to score after Huth had fouled Gomes. (‘Appeared to score’?! What are you, coming round from an opium dream? …Appeared to score!’)

    Foy gave neither the foul nor the goal which angered both managers — and, it seems, Wenger. (At the press conference Wenger’s mood was one of zen-like meditative contentedness. I’ll show you angry, Poll, you contrary prri….)

    Perhaps he is still angry at the injury to Aaron Ramsey (f*&%$!! k$£pieceof!!^u#c~fatherless!!!cx!?\?67!!&N!!k(*??!!**£) or maybe he fears that Blackburn will try the same tactics against Manuel Almunia.

    Wenger really should leave the referee to decide the legality of aerial challenges on keepers, even if he has a point this time. (So he has a point. And if he has a point – what the f*ck do you have, Poll?! F*ck nothing, you obstinate wind-up prat. And it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with the ‘legality of aerial challenges’, it’s the c*nts on the floor armshousing our keeper, stopping him from contesting the f*cking cluster-f*cking c*nting aerial challenges in the first place you…………………………. W*nker.)

  55. We play ‘backyard’ cricket Limpar and the annual Boxing day Zimpaul’s family versus the world match, since our various family offspring all play, including the 2 girls (both excellent), and our 5 month old (little does my wife suspect this is possible despite my assurances of his DNA), so we make a team of 11. I am a threatening fast bowler, exhausted after 3 balls, followed by off-spin, and a stealthy mid-order batter, followed by wild and expansive hoiks that I think are graceful.

  56. As good a journalist as he was a ref. Idiot.

  57. I’m really sorry. I have a really sore head and Graham Poll hasn’t helped.

    That’s basically spam. Do try to ignore me please. I just needed to get that off my chest.

    We’ll be fine against Blackburn.

  58. gunnerluc I’d like to respond.
    Firstly, I never called almunia ‘shit’. He’s adequate. Nothing more, nothing les. Dissing your own players is a waste of time and counter productive.
    Secondly, titles are won from the back and especially the goalkeeper. If you remember after the 1989 title, Graham went out and got a new keeper a year after. Lukic was an ok keeper, but seaman WAS better. A year later we won the title with the least goals conceded 16 goals that season.Its called improvement.
    Thirdly, as said (poorly) before, Almunia is on a hiding to nothing. He knows Wenger has lost confidence in him (he hadn’t chosen a no.1 before the seasons starts and spoke of other keepers coming in). A goalie needs support from his manager.
    Fourthly, using the Roma penalty shoot out to say he played well? he saved ONE penaltly, when he sat on his arse and kicked his foot out. If I wanted to praise his saves its the pen. against spurs.
    Fifthly, there are goalkeepers out there to buy. If Wenger wants to buy, he can. He has the money, but I don’t think he wants to spend beyond the clubs means.
    Finally, i’ll agree on the attack. Rosicky looks good, rvp stays fit and chamakh as a battering ram is up there with my all time favourite striker Smith.
    One last thing, I don’t like arguing with fellow gooners (i leave that to my spurs mates), so apologies.

  59. I hope this is the line up tomorrow;


    Sagna TV Kos Clichy

    Walcott Cesc Song Rosicky Arshavin


    I fear it will be:


    Sagna TV Kos Clichy

    Eboue Song Diaby Cesc Arshavin


  60. I’ve been desperate to find out what the official line is on Blackburn’s tactics.

    So I couldn’t resist clicking on that Daily Heil article. I wish I hadn’t. It’s like he avoids dealing with the meat of AW’s argument because he knows there’s no way he could disagree.

  61. I’m looking forward to more of what we did last season. Is everyone forgetting but we stood up to a damnsite more physical stuff than previous years. We’ll do fine and there is no way Al will let people push him around. To be honest i’m now more worried about us giving pena’s away. You can see it happening can’t you.

    We’ll be fine. Especially with our facking awesome defenders. This really will be the perfect test on how valuable competition for places is.

  62. Thank you, ZimPaul – you words are having a wonderful, calming effect on me.

    One of my very favourite things about cricket is our ability to patch together an enjoyable game of it using almost anything that comes to hand.

    Some of my favourite cricketing memories are of gravity defying catches of a tennis ball.

    The universally beligerent defence of one’s wicket – even if it happens to be a wastepaper basket – is one of life’s beautiful constants.

    And the spin that be can produced from a ball of rubberbands and cellotape is quite remarkable. Especially on the shiny lino surface of a post depot on a night shift (where the bat is a cardboard poster tube).

    And speaking of wickets conducive to spin… a campsite pock-marked with thousands upon thousands of age-old cowpats makes for a thrill-a-minute game. Wickets a-tumbling!

    The ZimPaul Boxing Day Special sounds like the perfect form of cricket. The very soul of cricket.

  63. Dick – I think you might be right.

  64. *your words*, *belligerent* – can’t type.

  65. Your son could have a future there ZP.

    I went to a talk given by CLR in London at Oval House sometime in the 80’s. He was absolutely fascinating. He was with some other luminary whose name escapes me.

    Limpar? That was brilliant but don’t hold back next time.

  66. Catenaccio Arsenal:

    Diaby (SW)
    Sagna (RWB)
    Koscielny (CB)
    Vermaelen (CB)
    Clichy (LWB)
    Song (DM)
    Denilson (DM)
    Cesc (AM)
    Arshavin (AM)
    RvP (CF)

    But I fear that AW will go with something sensible. Who wouldn’t love to see Diaby storming out of defence though?

  67. LIMPAR,The coment about pole was the best in the history of blogs

  68. Speaking of stealthy middle-orders, Zim, ours seems to have slipped right under the radar.

  69. I don’t know about that, dennis. It was just a swearier version of diarrhea.

  70. Team to face Blackburn’s aerial & physical threat:


    But I fear Wenger will- etc.

  71. Darius

    In the ACLF spam bin this morning, a trackback on your post from “Mental Disorders 101”. Seems somehow appropriate…


  72. Super tiny team that will inflict looking-down-too-much neck injuries on Blackburn’s humungos, as well as bumped noggins when they collide comically with each other.



    Merson’s view. A bit pesamistic, but it would be hard to disagree with anything he has said.

  74. Les just to end the discussion like I’ve said:

    “You might not be one of them as I don’t recall you as one of the doomer brigade but I am so tired of all those guys that came on this blog and repeating again and again Almunia and Fabianski are shit they are the worse keeper in the league, Wenger should stop being so stuborn and splash the cash blablabla”

    “it just makes my blood boil when I hear some fans coming on arenal blogs to slate our players, saying this guy is shit or with this guy we won’t finish in the top four or wenger is tight stuborn coach who must go when I see one of the most exciting and complete squad and a coach that sticks to his beliefs and steadily improve the teams in a difficult environment.”

    After so many guys came over the summer saying those stupid comments I’ve stated above, my blood boils and I have an automatic response which explain my first comment. What triggered this response was when you said:

    “We r in a great place. But look at there goalies? Or even spurs? If in 5 days time we have no new goalie we stand littl chance of winning ANYTHING.”

    Which implies our goalie is shit, maybe I misinterpreted but that how I understand your comment.

    I agree that title are won from the back but you can have an average goalie and still win stuff if you have a good defence or that the whole team has a good defensive discipline.

    As an example I will give you the barca cunts. Valdes is average at best and I think Almunia is better than him but they still won six title in a year and won the league last year!

    As for you saying they are good GK available I have to disagree!

    Given might be available but MAn shitty do not want to sell him to us and we probably won’t pay his current wages.

    Schwarzer is not better than Almunia but would be a good number two but £2 million for a number two with his age is probably even too much.

    That are the two I can think of who would be available.

    Otherwise the price quoted for Akintev is just a joke, Buffon is injured for another few months and Lloris and Mandanda are not available or at an exorbitant price.
    We’ve been linked to Landreau but he played in the Europa league for lille and I doubt they would want to sale.

    I’ve been thinking all summer if a GK would be available but I can’t think of any other. If you have other name that are available for a realistic price I would love to hear them but so far nobody has been able to give me any other name so therefore I stand by it.

    Almunia is good enough and with an improved defence in front of him, he will be even better so I don’t see any reason to think that with him we will not be challenging for honours.

  75. Gunerluc –

    “but you can have an average goalie and still win stuff if you have a good defence or that the whole team has a good defensive discipline.”

    No examples of this spring to mind mate.

    To say Almunia is better than Valdez is just crazy. Almunia has never even been in the Spanish squad where Valdez is a fixture there (just an example).

    Les was simply saying it is doubtful that we will win a trophy with an average keeper, and I for one agree with him.

  76. gunnerluc. fair comment.

  77. goonerandy

    I’d suggest Arsenal title winning side of 1989 with Lukic in goal as a starting point. Leeds winning title in 1992-93 with Lukic, Blackburn 1995-96 with Tim Flowers as prime examples of average goalkeepers in title winning sides.


  78. Goonerandy

    Valdes was never called upon for the spanish squad before the WC 2010 as shown in this article the first and only time was the 3rd of June 2010.

    I have seen a fair amount of match of Barca as some of my mates are Barca fans and until this summer I liked watching them for the good football they produce and Valdes has ALWAYS been there weakest link ask any Barca fans and they will tell you that.

    He is no better than Almunia at dealing with crosses and Almunia is a better shot stopper than him therefore I think Almunia is better than him.

    The success of Barca is that they don’t give many shooting opportunity to their opponent because they press all over the pitch in order to prevent their opposition to get into shooting position but I can tell you Valdes is not a good keeper!

  79. Also

    Valdes is not a fixture in the Spanish squad. IIRC, South Africa 2010 was the first time he had been called up into the full national squad although he has represented his country at junior levels. I believe he has won but 2 caps for his country.

    TBH, you could add Valdes to the list of average goalkeepers who have won titles as a result of being behind an excellent defence.


  80. So we all agree then, Almunia is a average keeper.

  81. Personally, I never liked Fabien Barthez, but he played in some massive sides.

  82. Sebastiano Rossi was pretty bog-standard too.

  83. YW – I will agree Lukic was an average keeper, but he was behind an truely excellent defensive unit. Maybe if we had that Almunia would suffice…but we don’t and even with massive improvement s won’t get to that level as our style of play won’t allow it.

    I don’t agree that Flower was an average goalkeeper around that time either. He was a very good keeper during that period.

    A agree that Barca could do better than Valdes, but I doubt they will be considering Almunia as an alternative though.

  84. Hard to disagree with Merse, goonerandy? I pretty much disagree with everything he said. He is a prat.

  85. How about Dudek, He has also layed in some massive sides. He remids me very much of Fabianski

  86. I wouldn’t say he is average nor world class just an experienced good enough keeper and more importantly there is not a better keeper currently available for the reason stated in previous posts.

  87. Stefan Klos

  88. Paulie Walnuts

    Very savvy comments from Arsene yesterday, particulary using a game involving other teams to illustrate his point.

    It`s obvious what we`re going to get at places like Blackburn & Stoke & having a ref applying the laws is a must.

    What Arsene`s comments have also done is to ensure the Blackburn fans will be up for it, so I expect a cup tie of a game with lots of niggle.

    Batten down the hatches at the back & our football will be too good for them

  89. Limpar – Which bits do you disagree with exactly. The tone of the article is not great, but what he actually says is fairly accurate.

    On our keeper situation; Wenger has also obviously decided it is time for a change as well. And as he seems to know what he is doing I will side with him. Not is not looking to bring somebody in “for competetion” as he already has that. It is obvious he wants a new No1 as he does not trust the current crop.

  90. OneOfUs – Heh, Klos. Pub football does not count.

  91. I would suggest Paul Merson take a leaf out of Paulie Walnuts’ book if it wasn’t for the sad fact that Merse would not be able to read it.

  92. Is that a slight at Rangers or the Dortmund side that battered Juventus in the CL Final?

  93. Limpar – But what do you disagree with?

  94. OneOfUs – Rangers.

  95. Man City would do well to take Borussia Dortmund as a cautionary tale. Fantastic attendances that deserved better financial care.

  96. Almunia will deny us the title once more. He’s been average for years since Jens left and last season was his worst. I can’t understand why Arsene Wenger continue to have faith in him. A GK whose only CV is as a reserve GK with a second division team, Celta Vigo.

    Is Almunia any good? Check his last season howlers:

    Manu v Arsenal-gave away a cheap penalty

    City v Arsenal-headed the ball into the net

    Arsenal v Manu-parried Nani’s lob into the net

    Chelsea v Arsenal-Drogba’s near post goal

    Arsenal v Chelsea-Drogba’s near post goal

    Birmingham V Arsenal-threw the ball into his own net-the game that ended our title challenge

    Spurs v Arsenal-unchallenged punching of the ball that ended in a goal.

  97. Paulie Walnuts


    Yes , Merse appears to be playing his village idiot role to perfection these days.

    When he`s on with Jamie Redcr&p it`s like Dumb & Dumber.

    Is he still bitter at Arsene ? I think so

  98. goonerandy, it’s the worst kind of conjecture. I’m fine with it because I know it’s ghost-written by a Daily Heil hack and designed to wind Arsenal fans up.

    “Arsene Wenger should look at this game as a chance to make a statement… I’m just not sure if they will.”

    What was that, Paul? You’ve just shat yourself? Do us a favour and keep it to yourself.

  99. But Paul Merson is a bitter little man who has never recovered from the humiliation of being the first player Arsene Wenger let go….

    Just as an aside – he also talks a lot of shit.

  100. Limpar – He comes aross as an naturally pessimistic bloke I think. Every time I see him interviewed he is like that. He did not say anything particularly wrong though. He just said it a bit glum.

  101. I don’t think he is the sharpest tool in the box either.

  102. Goonerandy.

    Maybe it’s the fallout from the alcoholism and the gambling. They do a number on any enthusiasm you might have you know….couple that with his resentment to Wenger and it’s not a surprise he’s that sad most of the time.

    An example of a difference – Merson will say Arsenal has no chance of winning the title; Ray Parlour will say Arsenal will challenge and won’t give up. Subtle but very powerful difference.

  103. Darius – Sounds about right.

  104. African fan
    Until you can name an available GK, better than him who can replace him you are just another moron who secretly want to support man shitty.

  105. Darius:

    Great post!!

  106. Gunnerluc – That is bizzare logic.

  107. It’s amazing the way people re-write history to back up their wn views!
    Almunia “threw the ball into his own net” against Birmingham?
    As I saw that game the bounced back to Al from a clearance that hit a birmingham player. Almunia tried to parry it over the bar.
    If you equate that to tennis it’s like trying to return a mishit shot, when you can’t predict the path of the ball from the way the stroke is played. But all those experts talking about who have never played in goal themselves find it easy to criticise. The same with most of his so called howlers. Would you prefer Reina who has made a genuine howler and wasn’t braze for City@s 2nd goal?
    To me the whole pre-season seems to indicate AW has had faith in Almunia. Fabianski played the games pre-season because he was the one AW was worried about. Looking to buy Swarzer and offering him a player csaoch role suggests he was going to compete or be back up to Al while Fab went out on loan to gain experience and rebuild his confidence

  108. If we buy Shwarzter I would wager he will not spend one second on the subs bench. Wenger wants a new No1. It is blatently obvious.

  109. anyone who saw Chesny AKA Wojech play for Brentford last season must hope hes given a chance as number 2 behind Almunia and once he gets a first team debut I think that will solve the GK problems he is a shop stopper like Almunia but hes better at crosses and set pieces and his age should not be a handicap.

  110. Over and over again you get to read statements implying that by bidding for Schwazer, Arsene has shown he has lost confidence in Al.

    Why dont we just bin VP10 then, after all hasn’t Arsene lost confidence in him by signing Chamahk.

    In all his statements concerning the position of the gk at arsenal, never has AW indicated he wanted to replace Almunia. The best indication he ever gave was ‘competition’.

    And I do agree with him if he feels any sum above £2m is too steep a price for a performance-inducing bonfire under Al’s ass.

  111. Merse shat himself in public. He does it every weekend.

    It’s not that subtle a difference, Darius. It’s the difference between being a total fucking plank and not.

  112. Fabianski played the pre-season games because Wenger wanted to see if the potentially very good goalkeeper was now ready to displace a man he has lost confidence in. Unfortunaetly he was not, and still just jittery under pressure. Therefore we need a new keeper, which is why Arsene is looking.

  113. This Squelchy looks like a typical Wenger signing. While the media was waiting for Arsene to show up in Harrods, he was rummaging through the skip behind Morrisons. Everyone knew we needed a £15M centre back, but according to some reports Squelchy was only £3.2M, £6M at best.

  114. He is a great signing.

  115. Agree with GoonerAndy about the keeper situation. I suspect all gooners will be glad when the transfer window closes. Rationalizing that Wenger is looking to buy a new keeper just to give Al competition is a nice example of how distorted the world looks wearing the thickest of rose colored glasses. I suspect we will see Almunia in goal this year. Hopefully a better defense in front of him will somehow help him improve his form and bring back his and the teams confidence that was clearly lacking at times last year. The mystery injuries and the loss of his position as #1 last year did not happen for nothing.

  116. Poli’s back.

    Had a good summer Poli?

  117. Spot on JohnN and SlimShay

    That’s what I’ve been saying all along but it seems no argument will change the mind of those Almunia haters even when Wenger stated over and over that he has faith in Almunia but wants to give him some competition ie a good number 2!

    my comment that seems illogical to you is aimed at all those pple who rate someone at the money spent on the transfer window! That is not the way arsene does it so the person who wants their team to splash the cash should go and support man shitty!

    Splashing the cash does not mean success! look at the amount spent by the spuds, by Florantino Perez,…

    I prefer a gem found at some 2nd division club that turns out to be the next big thing than a big name 30 million flop!
    ie Ramsey from cardiff or Robinho signed for almost 30 Million and 200k/week in wage.

    Well I prefer the former!

  118. Great post, DS – I see you’re rising to the challenge!

    @ gunnerluc
    You’re on a roll today with your comments. And your logic is impeccable.

    @ John N and Slimshay
    I agree with you. With Schwarzer, Wenger was keen to “provide competition” in the gk position. He keeps saying so, so I don’t know why some people won’t believe it.

    Anyone read Arsenal Column? The Brain has a really good piece about our new defensive strategy.

    How nice that Skillers has finally had a proper unveiling. Chamakh, Koscielny, Squillachi – very good business has been done, especially since AW commented on how frustratingly sclerotic the market has been.

    Impressive win for our reserves v Bolton. I am so excited about the CC this year.

  119. Gunnerluc

    Almunia will never play for Spain because he’s shit. He often spends holidays while his colleagues play international games. He’s mediocre at best.

    I’ve not been to the Emirates nor at London Colney but on the television screen in my African village, I can see him winning nothing for us.

    I was heart-broken last season because of his incompetence and mediocrity.

  120. Gunnerluc – I not heard anybody say they want Wenger to “splash the cash” and spend like M City. I have heard some people say that we need a better keeper than Almunia to realistically challenge for silverware. Therefore your little outburst seems a bit strange.

  121. FunGunner – Wenger is not going to come out and say he has lost faith in his keeper is he? Be realistic, any signing the club makes is to “provide competition”, but if we sign a keeper it will be the new No1. Stop deluding yourself.

  122. Looking at Squilliachi’s factfile on, he has won some sort of trophy almost every year since 2004.

  123. Goonerandy,

    I agree with Slimshay. I’d say it’s far from obvious that Wenger’s wants a new number one. If he did, I doubt he’d be so reticent and lackluster in his pursuit.

  124. Sol

    I saw Szczesny play last season and I hope he is not made Number 2 this season. He has bags of potential but he is not ready yet. He needs another season or two before being considered a realistic challenger for the top spot.


  125. African Fan,

    Almunia’s incompetance and mediocrity prevented Barcalona from being 6-0 up at half time at Emirates.

  126. But he was at fault for Ibrohemovic’s goal in the 1st leg which set us back.

  127. @ goonerandy

    I’m not deluding myself. As so often, you are unable to distinguish your opinion from Wenger’s. Wenger said recently he understood that MA would find the talk of signing another keeper unsettling, but that he should accept the idea of competition as a part of top-level football. The clear implication of this is that MS would be competition, and not a replacement.

  128. FunGunner – So you think Wenger will come out and say “yes I want new No1” do you? Of course he is going to talk about competition. He is a good man manager.

  129. Goonerrandy maybe not today but the fucking whole summer yes!

    It just pisses me off when pple call themself a fan and then come and say we have no chance or our player is shit! This is real life not fucking Football Manager and african fan with his stupid comment at 2:50pm just prove he is just another troll who would be better off supporting another team!

    It is easier to convince a brick wall than some of these brainless people!

    Thanks to JohnN, SlimShay, Fun Gunner and Les who who can have a normal discussion and showing me I’m not alone in beleiving in our team and supporting our players!

  130. Yes thank you, els. The news that Fabregas is staying was a great relief, and made Spain’s World Cup win seem less horrible than it did at the time.

  131. Gunnerluc – To be fair I have not seen many on here ask for that sort of spending. I am sure there will have been some, and I 100% agree with you that this is not the way to go.

    For people to give their opinions saying they don’t think our keeper is quite good enough has no bearing on them as a fan. It is just an opinion, and what which there is plenty on evidence to back up. If there wasn’t, why would so many people have this opinion?

  132. @ goonerandy

    He is indeed a good man manager, but read what I said properly. AW said MA should accept competition. That statement is meaningless unless he intends both players to compete in the same squad.

  133. Not good enough to fool you, though, is he goonerandy? Let’s hope Almunia doesn’t possess your penetration, or Wenger’s man-management will just add insult to injury.

  134. Spot on FunGunner
    His comment clearly implies that if another goalkeeper comes in it is to have a competition for the number 1 not replace him

  135. Gooner Andy,

    No one’s infallible and you shouldn’t be so churlish. Almunia made stunning save after save in that first half and kept us in the game. I’d put good money on a lot of keeper being unable to replicate that effort

  136. Goonerandy well now you’ve agreed they are to COMPETE in the same squad?

    We are almost there mate 😉

  137. My Word! Squillaci’s got THE stare

  138. goonerrandy
    I fully agree everyone is intitles for an opinion and as you can see I had a discussion with les and accepted his argument and he accepted mine. What I think is pointless is to come on an Arsenal blog and start saying we will win nothing with this guy he is shit, blablabla without a constructive argument.

    Like I said many times over the summer I never said Almunia is the best in the world, I simply said he is good enough, that a good defence will help reduce the goals we ship in and that there is no better replacement available ATM and asked may times for those slating almunia to give me who they thought could replace him but I’ve never received a response which proves they are here just to insult an Arsenal player without any alternatives to give which is just pointless.

  139. “I went to a talk given by CLR in London at Oval House sometime in the 80′s.”

    Some people have all the luck!

    Saqlain Mushtaq, the inventor of the term ‘doosra’ in cricket, also had a ‘teesra’ (‘the third one’) tucked up his sleeve for unsuspecting batsmen, before injury took him away from the top level. Tendonitis again.
    He’s settled in Blighty now, coaching some lucky kids at Surrey, and been playing for clubs with names like ‘Old Whigiftians CC’!

  140. Poli. Yeah great he’s staying and we seem to have adequately covered the departures. Creating some great competition in doing so also.

    Cham looks like he’s got good spirit, once his first touch is sorted he’ll be in the goals me think’s.

    You’ve been away for ages, didn’t realise it was from before Cesc’s decision.

    Have you seen Frank on your travels?

  141. @ goonerandy

    “It is just an opinion, and what which there is plenty on evidence to back up. If there wasn’t, why would so many people have this opinion?”

    Have you heard the saying “Eat shit – 50 billion flies can’t be wrong”?
    The answer to your question is that many people’s opinions are formed by others with a higher profile or strong personality, or a persuasive manner, that people jump on bandwagons, that people love to have a scapegoat… Any number of reasons, many of which do not involve examination of ALL the evidence. People have a habit of editing out any evidence that does not conform to their prejudice. I expect Wenger uses stats so much to try to eliminate partiality and get closer to an objective viewpoint.

  142. Football fans across the globe are having to come to terms with the fact that keepers just aren’t as effective against the new football as they were against a football of ten years ago.

    Look at punching as an example. What was once seen as a ‘continental style’ cop-out for a goalkeeper that was too ‘scared’ to catch the ball, is now widely regarded as the only real way of dealing with certain types of deliveries.

    No use getting your knickers in a twist about these things, they will be happening indiscriminately to every keeper. The usually reliable Tim Howard is the latest example.

    We’ll concede a few because of it, and we’ll get gifted a few because of it. It all comes out in the wash and our superior control of the new quicker ball at the other end will win us the matches.

    Fear not, goonerandy. While he is more Chris Woods than Dave Seaman, more Mark Crossley than Tafarel… Almunia will do us just fine.

  143. I’ve been back home for a while. No internet. I needed a break anyway. The end of last season was the most sombre I can remember, and the World Cup was full of disappointments. I wanted to get back to enjoying watching football matches, instead of getting involved in peripheral issues.

  144. I used to watch a lot of cricket at the Oval in those days as I worked across the road Finsbury. I spent a couple of tests ducking sixes smashed by Botham and Lamb as well! Lunch in the Archbishop Tennyson School and then back to the bar.

    Great summers.

    Unlike this one…

  145. Darius, I think it might be wise NOT to write about goalkeepers for a while 😉

  146. @ LA
    Good points. Like the way people say, “A GK should never be beaten at his near post.” You could argue that that sort of maxim just isn’t valid any more because the ball does weird things and the keeper has to cover more possibilities in his positioning.

  147. I don’t think Almunia did all that well last season, for whatever reason, but he was fine the two years before that. If all the personal problems are behind him then there’s no reason why he can’t recapture his 2008 form.

    Taking LA’s point, I can’t really think of a Prem keeper who stood out last season. Hart did well, but there was also a lot of media-generated hype surrounding him, which I’m sure had nothing to do with his nationality.

  148. That near-post thing probably only applies to low shots. Above shoulder height is another matter though. I remember Batistuta absolutely belted one past Seaman at Wembley a few years back. I don’t remember anyone complaining much about that one…

    Although, does anyone else remember just how much stick Seaman started getting from about 1999 onwards? If blogs were popular back then he’d have been a massive scapegoat online for three or four years.

  149. I’ve always preferred The Oval to the stuffy Lords ground.
    Lords is a great venue, nice stands too. But the crowd composition has been ‘corporatized’ to death.

    A raid on Fat Sam’s cave is the ideal way to prepare for the winter ahead.

    Come on Arsenal!

  150. Limpar and CBob, pop down to your local second hand bookshop and get a copy of ‘Penguins Stopped Play’ which is the best and funniest ‘soul of real cricket’ book I’ve read.

    Our wicket has tended to be a tree, which makes for interesting decisions over the height of the wicket, usually solved by that strange quirk of cricket ‘fairplay’ where even the batsman agrees, asking the nearest fielder “was that out? or was that plumb?” and if he doesn’t agree he’s given out for being disagreeable. Now I live on a hill, and the first thing we did was decide where the pitch ‘naturally’ was (every house has one). This boxing day is going to be interesting match.

    Well, Arsenal. Blackburn. Almunia. Set pieces? Yes, I agree and Chamakh will score twice (headers) from them, and RvP once (free kick). Almunia has perfected is punch so expect the ball somewhere in the third tier. 1-4.

  151. Bob,

    You know any links to a good football blog?

  152. Our local cricket ground is still one of those, thankfully, where you can pass the time of day with the nearest fielder, who might be the little master, although he missed India’s latest tour, since they sent their wannabe team.

  153. Err.


    Good cricket blog?

  154. You don’t have the le-grove address, Ateeb?

  155. My last remaining decision is whether to put Walcott or Eboue on the bench. Decisions, decisions, how can a fella make up his mind when there is so much to choose from?

  156. Damnit – too slow! I knew that one was a race against time.

  157. Oh btw LA, I laughed like a drain at the joke about the dyslexic Satanist!

    My guess at the team for tomorrow:
    Sagna – Kos – The lovely Thomas Vermaelen – Clichy
    Song – Diaby
    Eboue Chamakh RvP

    + Rosicky, Walcott, Gibbs, Djourou, Fabianski, Denilson, Vela.

  158. Ateeb, you mean you haven’t heard? … The putchists? … la nouvelle regime … new dispensation … italic uprising … strange cat incidents … two Theos … subcomandantes, presidents, captains and … um … now cricket …

    ACLF = A Classic Leg Flance

  159. While many would suggest that this unhappy state of affairs is universal, a significant proportion of Arsenal fans around the world remain disappointed but still recognise and acknowledge the virtues that the club continues to uphold and the steady progress we are making, on and off the field.

    Thanks for the post, the above sums up my feelings. We have to accept that some people, particulally those in the media, dont get what the club has been up to for the past 4-5 years. It doesnt sell copy, only when it is critisised and scoffed at. But I get it and other intelegent people get it. Im as disapointed as the next person that we haven’t won anything for a while

  160. How do i have the nerve to call myself inteligent with my spelling

  161. I know, you’re wondering, a flance is between an ‘edge’ and a ‘glance’.

  162. Forward Ever, Backward Never!

  163. ha ha boomer, don’t worry. We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt!

    What do you think of my starting line-up? Maybe Rosicky should start instead of Diaby or Eboue? He is the complete midfielder and is pacy and direct, but I worry that someone like Samba will just sit on him and squash him.
    Also I didn’t put Walcott in to start because I figured he isn’t going to get the space to do damage.

  164. Ateeb,
    You could try, but you might find it too negative.

  165. LA. Just don’t. You know what will happen.

  166. Goonerandy,

    It might not have occurred to you that your opinion might not even be the majority opinion.

    If you read the newspapers and anti-arsenal Arsenal blogs, you’d think Arsenal fans were sick of Wenger, and in real life I don’t know any gooner, haven’t met any who wants Wenger gone. I met of lot of US gooners last weekend, none of them wants Wenger gone. It was amazing just how much the style of play is a draw to the club.

    We have a lot of idiots with personality disorders (like the best of us) who sound off to each other in an echo chamber, and jerk one another off.

  167. FunGunner on August 27, 2010
    at 3:46 pm

    Every keeper I know now, and for as long as I can remember gets beaten at his near post at least a couple of times a season. Name the keeper; Shilton, Banks, Bats, Schumacher, Zoff, Buffon, and I’ll find you lots of clips of them being beaten at their near post

    Typical commentator bullshit akin to “he got the ball”

  168. Thank you Ole! I am so tired of jackasses like African Fan and gunnerandy thinking that keepers should never be beaten at their near posts. It is a great shot, actually, if you are not taking it from the touchline, as most keepers will assume far post. It is also a smaller target to hit so the finishing needs to be excellent. That’s often why you see spectacular shots in the roof of the net or not at all.

    African Fan, you should review those goals again that you cite as being Almunia’s fault in your list with a careful mind. I can only assume you didn’t actually think carefully about them before posting.

  169. LimparAssist on August 27, 2010
    at 3:35 pm

    Very astute. The quality of delivery, the pace of the game, and the number of players who get in the box on set pieces are some other things that have changed from the old days.

    Poor Almunia. A lot of what he gets blamed for is coming for difficult crosses that are maybe too high, and then he gets caught under them. A lot of the time, these crosses go right over him for a throwing or corner. Or God forbid to a spudlette who flukes a goal. He tries to be positive, where some of the keepers who get plaudits, Shay Given especially would not even leave his line.

  170. I remember going to see Arsenal play Leeds at Elland Road when of course Leeds were still in the Premiership. That game was the first occasion I had arrived especially early and was treated to a feast of goal tender warm up prior to the game. This is an especially difficult position to play!

    I would imagine that early in a player’s career, his fondest desire is not to play in goal. No child wishes to become responsible for all the games that are lost. What brave characters these young lads must be to take on the position of Goal Tender. Psychologically, these lads must deal with a lot of issues other than their own matters related to development. They also deal with all the ill mannered, twisted, ‘cluster fucking’, ‘flat topped wankers’, who attend the games.

    After a goal is scored everyone looks at the GK in absolute disgust and annoyance. From their position on the field the GK observes the looks of disgust from every angle and this is usually accompanied by a groan or a comment like go back to your day job ya mug!

    Who ever goes into goal has my undiminished support and that includes Almunia who I think is better than any of us and is far from being a “delicate flower” as he was described yesterday. He had a death in the family. That usually means that someone is out for the count for some lengthy period of time.

    Unfortunately, last season was an occasion during which I howled like a sick wolf at Almunia. I can only hope that the Great Spirit forgives me for treating one of his own so poorly.

  171. Actually Ateeb, I bet your team are getting the wind up already. 234 -7. Looks like a good 1st innings total against you to me.

    Could be a great weekend.

    I’ve read that book ZP. Excellent. Sad ending. I loved the story about the Cape Town captain who told off the oppositioon WK for slagging their own player! He then bowled hittable deliveries to make is point. Only in cricket.

    ‘England, Their England’ has a wonderful cricket passage in it about catching a high ball. It goes on and on…and on.

    Our wicket is an old sundial. Out of the garden is 4 and out.

  172. ‘his point’

  173. While I agree that Almunia isn’t one of the best goalkeepers in the league (I read somewhere his shot to saves ratio was the lowest of the top teams? ) I don’t agree with the thinking that his perceived lack of quality can affect our title challenge. Look at Barca ffs. Is Valdez much better?

    Imo a keeper has to be really really bad to cost a team a title and Almunia really is isn’t that bad. If we don’t win the title this year, it won’t be because of him

  174. ateeb @ 4.08 pm, try this:

    impressive rearguard action by england. i wonder if we should’ve started gul instead of riaz. asif is having an off day as well.

  175. Henristic, good point. Al looked good when he unseated Jens but the shape of the team was different. Defensively we were more ‘stay at home’ with Sol and in gilberto had a more disciplined presence in the middle of the park. He’s not the greatest and if he came on the Market now from Spain now even the most die hard fan would struggle to make a case to buy him but he has the ability. I suspect the problem is the confidence the players and possible more impotently the crowd have in him. Wenger is no fool and knows if he does make an error there will be grief flying his way from the stand that a new signing would be insulated from during his honeymoon period.

  176. Hopefully Neves gets a run out tomorrow would be surprised if he gotta more than that considering he hasn’t played a minute of competitive football since April 14th..

    The Masters return is beckoning..

  177. loved the gaffer’s comments on atvo about mozart:

    “he’s a great player. i love tomas and i love the way he plays football. he’s completely an arsenal player. to see him back with full power now, slowly coming back to who he really is…it’s why I am very happy to have him back.”

  178. iPhone = crap spelling

  179. Wow Two Owls that was touching, such delicate understanding of other man’s psychology, so much sensitivity. You are just as brave to voice those opinions.

  180. I’ve got a favourite coment from the ’06/07 season (I think) after another virtuoso performance from Rosický. Usually, AW seems to deflect such questions about individual performances:

    Hack: “What do you think of Tomáš Rosický?”

    Arsene: “He is a player I like to have in my team”

  181. quote > coment

  182. leg flance Classic!

    My childhood love of cricket, including the instant ability to roll off any obscure bit of statistic, was well and truly destroyed by the WICB has done everything to destroy the legacy of those glorious teams captained by Lloyd and Richards. The lack of truly developmental work in an age when cricket faced enormous competion from football, and more recently basketball, is an act of near criminal neglect that has wiped away the legacy bequeathed to us by a great writer and political activist C. L. R. James. In an era when the black man in the West Indies was not rated good enough to captain a WI team, James almost single-handed forced the WICB to make Frank Worrell the 1st black man as WI captain and the commencement of the era of the West Indians as the Brazillians of world cricket. For a region with barely 5 million people and the burden of under-development, a shallow talent people and limited resources has made cricket a luxury the region can barely afford.

  183. Finsbury, I was just watching Arsene Wenger’s interview and I was very touched when he was asked about Rosicky: “I love Rosicky, I love the way he plays football, he’s a complete Arsenal player”

    I too love Rosicky.

  184. YW, help. I’ve unleahed the italics monster.

  185. Shotta! You brought the curse of the italic back. I think it’s the talk about cricket.

  186. Hey all. Darius, thanks for the solid post.

    The pessimism is strange to me…I’d think everyone would be encouraged by what they are seeing. We want to win the league and we have had some chinks in our armour in that regard. I look at the team and I see these concerns being addressed. We are getting what we have asked for.

    1.We have struggled against the other big clubs.

    We’ve needed to commit forward in order to win and then our defense has been hit on the counter. Each of the big teams has done it to us. Our defense was older, and hence a bit slow allowing them to catch us out. Solution? New faster center backs.

    2. We have been bullied and capitulated to low and mid-table teams.

    We have struggled against teams who have stormed us in the last phase of the game where we have led. We have at times lacked for no-nonsense defending. Solution? Same.

    3. We have struggled with breaking down teams that park the bus against us.

    We have lacked for another option in front of goal because of a lack of height and aerial prowess. This is, in my opinion, a fallacy. Nevertheless, the perceived weakness has allowed teams that are playing for a draw to force us into a predictable mode of play that has allowed them to focus their attack on the center of the pitch when in front of their own goal. they pack the center of defense and dare us to beat them with crosses, which is not how we want to play. We want them to have to commit to defending wide as well because it opens up the center for our forwards. Solution? Chamackh.

    4. Our Keepers have struggled with dead ball situations.

    This again, I believe is a fallacy, but no matter. Teams have been allowed to focus on catching us out in these situations, and perhaps more importantly, our defense has begun to feel vulnerable in this way. Solution? We are looking for a new keeper.

    Anyway all of this is to say that the talk that Arsene is not addressing our weaknesses seems unconsidered. It would appear that he is adjusting the team to compensate for the tactics used against us. Arsene is in fact systematically addressing each of our concerns/perceived concerns one by one.

  187. Don’t worry shotta. I’m sure that Limpar is to blame.

  188. I think we have an awesome squad for the season with much stonger depth and variety.
    The issue is less about quality and more about application, that could be said about a number of our players.
    In terms of keepers, I’m sure almunia is a decent keeper and maybe he isn’t the greatest but frankly
    I don’t care, the issue for me is organisation and communication at the back, too often last season players
    would be looking around at eachother almost in panic and that caused the uncertainty. With clear leadership now from
    Verm he and almunia have the opportunity to get the defence solid esp at set pieces. Let’s just be positive, if our players apply themselves consistently we have the quality to beat anyone. Great keepers are hard to come by, just look at Manure’s efforts between Schmeical and VDS.

  189. Just read on that we haven’t won away to a team managed by Allardyce since 2002! WTF!!

    It’s certainly about time that embarrassing record is broken. Makes me look forward to tomorrow’s game eve more.

  190. Will it, won’t it?

  191. Sorry, just trying to stop the italicization.

  192. * even. I blame the italics P)

  193. Ole,

    Did you manage to check out the young guns blog yesterday? One of the more reliable and respected blogs out there according to Tony Attwood anyway.

    Apparently – the “press the ball high up the field” mantra is being instilled into all the youth teams with remarkable effect. Lessons from the “Barca masterclass” at the Ems last season in the CL by all accounts.
    Of course there were some of us on this blog who advocated such a change in attitude all summer long – and then there were others like you who thought otherwise.

  194. Hmmm


  195. How about…

  196. {/[no italics]/}

  197. |:italics go away:|

  198. preach on, stewart robson!

  199. $#@%#!$ italics

  200. terry IS shit

  201. F*ck Off Italics

  202. @ Joe

    Your memory is faulty. The arguments from you and Bill were that:
    1) Wenger had no defensive strategy, your evidence of that being (illogically) that it wasn’t working
    2) Wenger was not attempting to correct the problems (barely credible – why wouldn’t he be?)
    3) We did not have the correct balance between attack and defence.
    4) The solution was to buy a different type of defender, Bill wanted big lumps or stoppers.

    Most of us argued that:
    1) We did have a defensive strategy which included pressing and regaining possession high up the field, but while we had started well, we had not been executing it properly since around the time that RvP was injured.
    2) Wenger was working on the problem, but it would take time. He has refined the strategy – see The Arsenal Column for a more detailed analysis than in the Young Guns article.
    3) We agreed that the balance between attack and defence was not right but said that getting it right is not something that can be solved overnight. That balance is a problem for any attacking side. Much of what Bill in particular proposed was jsut another way of saying he doesn’t want us to be an attacking side.
    4) We have new defenders, but they are broadly the same type of defender as Gallas – skilful, ball-playing CBs. They are not big lumps or stoppers.

  203. I just could not believe the comments Wenger made regarding Stoke thugs yesterday. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE LACKING IN. WE HAVE NOT WON ANYTHING SINCE THE DAYS OF THE ENGLISH SPINE AND TONY ADAMS. Instead of all these foreign players, who let’s face it, are wimps, we need players who can mix it. I thought Vermaelen was exactly that, until I found it he was belgian. We passed on the opportunity to sign Milner, and english player who could have helped our cause, or Taylor, a spinal player from Newcastle. But no, we have to go for 3 more french players, which means no more trophies I’m afraid. I am becoming disillusioned with it all as we are powder puff and know that all we are going to get is pass pass pass, instead of shoot shoot shoot, for christs sake, when was the last time we had a shot at goal. We are going up to Blackburn and all the french guys will not be up the fight as it will be wet and cold, but on a sunny day in the Riviera they would be able to move the ball around.

  204. Sorry to digress, but did anyone see Inzaghi’s goal vs Farcelona? Really worth the time to look it up-fantastic control and finish, even if it was a preseason friendly.

  205. Didn’t see it, Harsh, but any goal against Barcaloanus is a good one in my book.

  206. LOL Muppet.

    You sound exactly like a caller on Talk Shite who was on while I was driving home earlier on.

    I’m sometimes amazed how a radio producer can allow so much xenophobia and racism masked by Ginger Durham and a pie eating punk called Mickey Quinn to be broadcast as – well, entertainment.

    If this thing called the English spine was a thing to reckon with, how come England haven’t won anything for 44 years.

    Get rid of the bloody foreigners they say….

    As for the accusations labelled at Arsenal for not being English enough, we should create a day tour for the media for London Colney for them to see the ridiculous dearth of English talent coming through. But then again, do they really care?

  207. @Muppet
    It is not shoot shoot shoot, it is lumpforward lumpforward lumpforward. (Bonus: say it fast three times and it sounds a bit like Lampard!)

  208. Yes, that was it Darius. A rendition of the caller you heard – I heard it too.

    What a knob.

  209. That probably was Muppet, Darius. Come to think of it, I reckon all the callers on Talk Radio are Muppet.

  210. I think he was either a spud or a troll on the radio. Either way, it had to be a wind up. I know some arsenal fans are as thick as shit, and xenophobic to go with it, but he sounded a bit too articulate.

    Even ginger tosser was gobsmacked.

  211. Nah Poli, if I got on that radio show, all I would be doing would be using a rather rude word, and directing it at Adrian Durham.

  212. They are all just taking the piss.

    They must be.

  213. Evil 🙂 lumpard !

  214. This italics problem is a mystery. The problem seems to have been caused by using two closing italics tags, but I can’t work out how to fix it.

  215. italics disappear

  216. italics

  217. I tried everything…I give up

  218. ø

  219. italics

  220. I definitely used the closed italics tag after “flance”
    But I think that’s what got the italics all confused.
    Blame ZP.

  221. We italicise as a team, we un-italicise as a team. No pointing fingers.
    But having said that, I am going to unreasonably and irrationally blame Poliziano. Because he is Italian. And that sounds a bit like Italic.

  222. lol FunGunner… Poliziano it is, and fixing it back should be like a piece of cake to him….what’s taking so long Poliziano?

    On a serious note, it appears that this is a common problem for blogs on WordPress.

  223. Two Owls on August 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Post of the day!

  224. I’ve tried, FunGunner; Arsene knows I’ve tried. Nothing seems to work.

    From my experiments, I’ve found that WordPress automatically adds closing tags in some cases when they are omitted. Perhaps this is to prevent the problem we are witnessing happening every time someone forgets a tag. On the other hand, it might be WordPress’s very cleverness that makes the probems that do arise so difficult to fix.

  225. wordpress

  226. anti-lics?

  227. Ital Vibration?

  228. good shout Harsh that’s the most ridiculous finish i’ve seen since the eduardo beach ball volley, the old devil’s still got it..

  229. Did anyone see Julio Cesar give up a goal on his near post to Jose Antonio Reyes? I wonder if Inter has a D&G brigade calling for Cesar’s head, and demanding the club purchase Mark Schwarzer.

  230. Fungunner:

    I believed and still do that Arsene has always been a offensive coach who believes that defense takes care of itself if you maintain possession. According to Lee Dixon and the brain, Arsene has never spent time on the training pitch coaching defense. I still believe that our lack of organization is related to our coaching staffs relative lack of emphasis on defending. The idea that our entire defensive scheme broke down because we lost our center forward seems ridiculous. If our defensive scheme was that fragile then it was clearly not adequate. The fact that our defensive record (table position for goals conceded) has gotten worse every year for the last 6 years clearly speaks volumes. The problem is not new last year.

    I do not want us to stop being an attacking team. I see many attack oriented teams that still play excellent defense. I do not understand why our coaching staff can not come up with a strategy that balances attacking and defense. Any strategy that makes it this difficult to defend will not be able to hold up for an entire year.

    I like the changes in personnel that we have made at CB. My hope is that Arsene and staff have finally decided that defending does not take care of itself. His rhetoric after last year was much stronger in that regard. This team has soooo much talent up front that I believe we can still score plenty of goals without giving up our shape and organization at the back to constantly push forward. So far we have given up 1 goal in 2 games which is obviously excellent. Time will tell if we can maintain this organization for the whole season or revert to our old habits. It will be up to the coaching staff to not let them revert.

  231. Bill, although I hate to make the comparison…but do you think Barca spend too much time training on how to defend?

    I assume most likely not, if you have the ball the majority of the time most likely you won’t concede. Having said that, Braca who are bandied around as the possession masters still concede goals.

    Our problem was either giving the ball away in key areas were we got hurt, or in freak circumstances.

    Having argued that, it’s not much as training to defend as much as communicating as team when we defend. Maybe we should train on communicating better.

  232. G4E:

    If we are not good enough at doing those things then the coaching staff needs to make the players communicate. If the players lack disipline or fail to communicate then the blame has to fall on the coaching staff and much more time needs to be spent making sure that the team does what it is supposed to do. Again I hope that the coaching staff will make good on their promise to improve the areas that we fell short in the last several years.

  233. Wake up and smell the coffee dupsffokcuf

  234. LIMPAR,

    OMG you had me in snitches on the bus everyone must of thought I was crazy!!

    For me post of the day.

    Good to see Pz back he had me giggling too.

    I see Bill is still trying to make us all self-harm.

  235. I like the look of the new guy. Very refined. But has those eyes. Me like.

  236. Attack of the italics again I see.

  237. Joe 6:31 PM

    FunGunner’s response really covered your

    But wait a minute. Arsenal pressed all of last season. It did not always work. AW changed his tactics for whatever reason. Without having spoken to AW I can imagine very good reasons for not pressing all season;

    1. As you saw from the Barca games last season, in which they pressed us but ran out of gas by the 70th minute, it requires high levels of fitness to keep going. Arsenal play some 10 more games than Barcelona each season. That’s a massive load. Given Arsenal’s injury situation last season, not pressing in every game would have been a very prudent change to make as not doing so would have made even greater strains on an already strained squad.

    2. Even when we pressed we conceded 4 to Money City, and 2 to Man poo. That shows you it’s not a magic bullet. Pressing is very effective in squeezing play and winning back possession, but once the press is broken, you’re actually quite open. I laugh when Robbo on Arsenal TV goes on and on about pressing as if it’s a magic bullet it’s not.

    So stop being silly Joe.


  238. Ole Gunner @1:42 am – Very insightful Ole. Very, very insightful. (Bill: Are you reading?)

  239. Our pressing is the thing that left us exposed after set pieces leading to easy goals. Unfortunately, if you play a high defensive line AND press usually every mistake is going to result in a dangerous chance for the opposition. Case in point Barcelona, we started conceding goals AFTER we pressed and tried to attack the ball as early as possible. (which does not mean that I am against Pressing. It is just a very risky tactic that can help dominate a game completely…or make you concede stupid goals quickly because of the space that the tactic frees up for the opposition)

  240. Darn it. Here I was using Robbo with the nice suits analysis for my local under-11 girls team.

    I will take our chairmans advice now and I dunno, maybe adapt tactics as needs must. Just a thought.

  241. Ole:

    I agree that pressing is not a magic bullet. I think the critical point is organization, positioning and just playing smart. Under pressure we tend to revert to our bad habits and we lose track of our positioning and our marking and that costs us. OUr management has never been “hands on” with regard to our defense. The players are required to figure it out themselves and the GK and usually a CB take command and make sure everyone is in the right place at the right time. Seaman and Adams could do did that. Mad Jens and Sol did that. Almunia does not have that personality. Gallas was not a great captain of the defense.

    Hopefully this year our management will break its tradition and take charge and demand organization and perhaps TV will take over in the back. Again time will tell how we do.

  242. Since when did guys become mindreaders here?how one can claim wenger is looking for a new no.1 and not one to compete with MA is beyond me.
    Bill your argument abt defence has become tiring.have u ever been to colneys training ground for you to categorically claim we dont train on defending?
    31st cant arrive faster enough!let’s see how some people will handle no new signing of the saviour keeper

  243. Bill,

    When Seaman & Adams played for Arsenal, the team they played in conceded more goals than Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal (not counting when they did play for Arsenal). Fact

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