Category Archives: World Cup 2010

World Cup Thoughts As Barcelona Players Get Shirty With Cesc

A day away packing up the house and what did I miss? Not a great deal actually.

So Spain deservedly won the World Cup for their performance in the Final. The nature of tournament football is such that you are only as good as the match you play and whilst they have not been the best team in South Africa, on the night they were better.

Will this sound the death knell for the functional football which has been in evidence in recent months? No. Internazionale proved you can win titles and trophies by being unadventurous, beating ‘footballing’ sides along the way. Indeed, had the Dutch taken their chances, the outcome might well have been different. However, it seems that going against the grain of their national team’s style through the years, attempting to shore up a defence which has been found wanting in previous tournaments, stifled them somewhat in the final.

That and an inability of his team-mates to utilise the strengths of Robin van Persie, cost them dearly. His spell out of the game last season appeared to be some hinderance but the tactics of the team did not help either, the movement he is used to at Arsenal was only sporadically evident for his country.

Cesc set up the winner and post-match immediately consoled Robin van Persie immediately afterwards. Nothing can be read into that aside from it showing the friendship between the two, the decent act of a well-brought up young man. Likewise, the media are making something of a prank by the Spanish team and one that Cesc found amusing but did not participate in, to the extent that he did not co-operate with the attempt to put a Barcelona shirt on his body. Some have got bent out of shape over it but let’s be honest, it was doesn’t even begin to register on Ince-scale.

I don’t think that anyone has doubted the affection he has for Arsenal – simply the desire to return home has never, understandably, been hidden whether that be now or in the future. He re-affirmed his appreciation of the club and supporters in his speech in Madrid last night:

All I can say is that this World Cup victory is for all the Arsenal players and fans — they are a world-class club.

I am an Arsenal player and proud to be.

It might have been a good weekend for Barcelona on the pitch with a large number of players contributing significantly but off it, matters were not so clear cut. Well, they were actually. Depending on which media outlet you believe, Cesc bought a property in England for a couple of million or a flat in Barcelona, which seems more of a crash pad for a weekend away than a commitment to the city. More pertinently, despite reports of a meeting, Wenger and Gazidis have both declined to meet Rosell and his entourage with the message clear that they are not going to sell. The ball is firmly in the player’s and Barcelona’s court. If he wants to go, he will probably have to ask for a transfer or (and?) Barcelona offer a sum of money that they have publicly stated is far too much.

The player asking for a move seems unlikely as that is a rarity in the modern game, prinicipally down to money forsaken in doing so, although I hasten to add that there is no evidence that this would the case for Cesc. Whether that is hurt pride over the manner of his departure to Arsenal or they are brassick, nobody knows for in the same way that you decide the clothes to wear each day, Barcelona has so many faces that it chooses which one each morning for the day ahead.

Back to the World Cup. Overall, it was a disappointment. There were some good games, teams from all continents gave us entertainment, some through good play, others through being so awful that unless you laugh, you will cry if you follow those countries.

The key thing is that the big stars failed to live up to their reputations. Few of the ‘media favourites’ brought any joy to the screen or stadia; it was left to lesser lights to brighten the sky. Fifa will proclaim this World Cup a success and for the hosts, in terms of organisation, the fears printed or broadcast beforehand never played out. There were other aspects which render this a failure, the stadia are beautiful but what happens to them now.

A forlorn hope is that Fifa learn lessons over ticketing. Never more should they bow to the corporate buyers who dismally failed to turn up for the latter stages to the unsaid huge embarrassment of the governing body. Pricing for tickets must be aimed at the local market because if they fail to turn up, empty seats will remain forever a problem.

A final wish is for football commentators and pundits to cease stooping to the lowest level. A commentator should describe the action adding authority to embellish the action. Those who were forced into English homes during the tournament would have had Peter Jones and Bryon Butler spinning in their graves. As for the pundits, the only hit was Roy Hodgson, a rare twinkle of sanity in the grey skies of banality. There have been lucid individuals who have a genuine analysis of the action before them. Too often the depth could be skimmed with a spatula such was the flimsy nature of their comments.

’til Tomorrow.

Will Arsène Take His Cue From Germany?

The transfer window has been officially open for one month and eleven days with little but speculation to show. There have been some transfers but nothing yet which has whetted the appetite for the new season, itself a little over a month away. Like a ferris wheel whose motor has just been started, the gossip is slowly cranking up about to reach a speed when it will be whirring and humming in the background.

A minor international tournament has made that the case. Tonight it reaches its climax with the new name of España or Netherlands gracing the roll of honour on the trophy’s base. The Spanish can become World as well as European champions. A minor record will be set if they win, Spain would be the first nation to win the World Cup having lost its opening match.

For the Dutch, the opportunity to live up to the weight of expectation, to put behind them the defeats in 1974 and 1978, a time when they should have ruled the world and would have been gleefully and perhaps greedily accepted as worthy champions. Pragmatism has encroached on the model of Total Football, the missing ingredient from their two previous finals. They can also match Brazil in 1970, winning all of their qualifying matches as well as those in the finals itself.

Three of the last four Final’s has seen an Arsenal player start – Gilberto would have made it four had he joined a month earlier – with Robin van Persie the more likely of the two to be on the pitch at kick-off. Cesc’s World Cup has been less successful personally and any playing time this evening could be considered a bonus. Like many of the superstars of the era, neither has enhanced their reputations; no damage inflicted either. Like the tournament as a whole, they have been rather ordinary.

Rarely does a final live up to its billing. Both sides have major plusses in their midfield and attack; their respective weaknesses are defensive. Neither goalkeeper has covered themselves in glory, spasmodic moments of brilliance have been overshadowed by their nervous opposites, much the same as every other goalkeeper this time around. van Persie has the speed to cause problems for the Spanish central pairing whilst Villa has been a rare striking success at this tournament.

Of the nations who participated in the 2010 World Cup, the one which provided the biggest surprise was Germany. They swept aside Australia, England and Argentina with a glorious mix of style and efficiency, as well as beating a good Ghanaian side. They succumbed to Spain but given that they were dismissed before the tournament began, the achievement of third place should not be underestimated. They are a work-in-progress, Spain are already the finished article.

Last night’s win over Uruguay was probably the most entertaining game of the tournament with both sides loosening the shackles. Arguments can be made either way as to whether or not there is any point in this fixture but it does prove occasionally to be a bright spot,  a moment of lighter relief with goalmouth entertainment along the way.

Arsène has been effusive in his praise and provided an insight into the impact that the Germans have had on him:

The Germans were the only ones to give you the impression they could score at any time. They have rehabilitated the dribble. It is a major lesson of this World Cup.

It was a strange position for most of us to be in. Germany has not had an entertaining side for a while. The mix of youth and experience is one that Arsène has sought to develop at Arsenal. The playing style of the Nationalmannschaft is a refinement of the 4-3-3 formation used at Arsenal, more suited to the Premier League than the tiki-taka Spanish play.

Transfer activity is defined as much by necessity as amending the team’s style for the coming campaign. There will be changes to style to avoid predictability, the roles of the players will evolve. Subtleties is this area can be as effective as massive changes.

I suspect Wenger will try to incorporate the defensive discipline of the Germans; the movement on the counter-attack is already utilised. Were Chamakh to play centrally, then perhaps the formation might reflect the Germans more fully. It is not that the Germans were tactically innovative; they were far from it. They were efficient in their application.

The biggest impact upon Arsenal will be in the players minds. They need to learn the defensive discipline, tracking back is not enough, numbers mean nothing if a tackle or interception is not made. At times last season, the defensive work was shoddy, players unable to pick out whom they were supposed to mark. Goals were conceded with a large number of Arsenal players in the penalty area.

Every team makes defensive mistakes. The optimum position is to minimise them, to stop repeating the same mistake time after time. Arsène likes his players to be intelligent on the pitch; this season is the chance to prove it.

’til Tomorrow.

Cesc Talks World Cup While Others Talk His Future

Cesc has resisted the temptation to discuss his future preferring to hope that he is involved in tomorrow’s World Cup final. It must be incredibly frustrating for him to have witnessed possession football that yielded little result in the group phase, only to see his opportunity in the semi-final given to Pedro and the pace of the Spanish team go up a notch.

It seems that Cesc is unlikely to be more than a substitute unless injuries strike beforehand. Many have commented that this World Cup has given him a taste of what awaits if he joins Barcelona. The flip side of the coin is that he knows if he displaces Xavi or Iniesta at Barcelona, he does so in the national team as well.

He did mention Arsenal though in a positive light:

It is great for us and it is great for Arsenal to have two players at the World Cup final. It is a little strange too… Arsenal are back in training getting ready for the new season and we are out here still finishing the last season.

Barely stifling a laugh,he gently rubbed it in the noses of those whose World Cups never started or ended prematurely:

I know where I prefer to be and I’m sure that goes for Robin, too.

A world renowned expert in chatting sh1t, Xavi has begun to admit defeat ungraciously:

I am not sure if Cesc will move this summer although I know he wants to. Arsenal cannot keep hold of him for more than another 12 months. His heart and his head is in Barcelona and it would make sense for them to sell him now.

They could then use the money on a player, or players, who want to be at the club long term, rather than keep a player whose heart is somewhere else, no matter how good he is.

From a position of arrogance, Xavi has been reduced to a rather pitiful whine. Yet I should not mock for his expertise in medical science knows no boundaries. His previously displayed ambitions in the field of DNA have masked his abilites in psychology and cardiology. What a truly amazing guy.

There is an element of truth in his words about player retention and replacement. Commitment is an issue in modern football, or rather the complete lack of it.  To suggest that Cesc will be less committed to Arsenal next season does the player a gross disservice. Everything about the player tells you he is a proud man and a winner. To slacken off in terms of effort is inconsistent with those traits. Even though I still think he will leave, were he to stay I would not suggest he will give anything less than his best.

The problem for Cesc is that Rosell has backed himself into a corner, noting publicly and consistently that the price is too high. It will only go higher if a Premier League title is under his belt; stratospheric if the Champions League is there.

The transfer gossip this summer has been more selfish and brat-like. There’s a lot more of the “I want my own way on my own terms” from clubs and players alike. It’s always been the case but that was more of an unwritten assumption. Not any more.

Take Barcelona for example. And I for one would be happy to take them and dump them in the biggest pile of guano the world has ever seen. Still they order Arsenal around, telling them it is “now or never”, we want a definitive “yes or no” so that planning for their team can be completed before their pre-season tour starts on August 2nd. I am absolutely certain, that Arsenal gave them that answer on June 2nd. Indeed, they did so right here. Resolutely.

Now the patronising media-obsessed “leaders” of the club are telling the world that they are going to stalk Arsene and Ivan in South Africa, meet them and get the definitive answer to the €40m question. Here’s a clue: follow the link above.

But this is New Barcelona, that is the message they want to convey. The one that replaced the old, nasty Laporta era. “We want to be your friends” is said with the sincerity of an evil clown in a horror movie, just before he slashes the victim into millions of pieces.

And still the implied threats come from their media puppets. About how the chatter from players will not stop; the meetings behind Arsenal’s back will continue. Sadly, Barcelona officials have been too ‘cute’ to admit it but now the media has ‘confirmed’ that meetings are taking – or have taken – place, the initial detective work has been done for any complaint to Fifa.

However, once the World Cup is over, Cesc has no place to hide, no reason not to talk about his future and I doubt he will be allowed to rest until he states clearly his desire, no matter how unpalatable that may be for Arsenal supporters. The ‘get out clauses’ for him are already in place:

It is flattering that Barcelona want me but it is a matter for Arsenal to decide. I have never denied my desire to return home one day but until Arsenal decide to sell me, I remain committed to the club.

None of which contradicts his previous stances but nor will it staunch the flow of the media.

Felipe Melo‘s Mr15% telling the world that the player will sort out his future in15 days. Having told everyone that “no-one from Arsenal has picked up the phone“, he proceeded to infer that they had better get their cules (yes I know that it means cabbages but the urban nickname is so much more fitting) in gear and make an offer. Might be a long wait.

The world of football is rapidly becoming more protozean.

’til Tomorrow.

Spain Through, RvP, Koscielny Signs And Other Gossip

Spain deservedly qualified for the World Cup Final on Sunday, a meeting against the Dutch which will be intriguing encounter and be the first time a European nation has won the trophy outside of the continent. For Arsenal, Cesc will no doubt have  a good view from the bench barring injury to others. This World Cup has not been good for the captain in terms of playing time.

Germany were unable to break through the Spanish defence and were well beaten. For the first time this tournament, Spain hit form consistently throughout the ninety minutes, the margin of victory should have been greater with opportunities not taken, Pedro failed to cap a good all-round display with a second goal for the Spanish.

Ahead of Sunday, Robin van Persie has spoken of his own desires and downplayed the long-standing rift between himself and Wesley Sneijder, instead emphasising the relatively unified nature of this Dutch squad. The opportunity to outshine the 1974 and 1978 squads is a key driver for van Persie to succeed, to have their name in lights. It is a tough result to call with neither of the finalists at their best although the Dutch seem to be in a higher gear than their opponents. Pragmatic in their victories, the confidence will be high with six victories behind them.

Onto Arsenal. Laurent Koscielny has finally completed his long-drawn out move from Lorient. Surprisingly he has not been a fan since childhood but has pledged to do his best for the club. Arsene highlighted the reasons for his signature:

We identified him as a very strong centre half, who has made big progress very quickly. He has shown he is mentally strong, he’s a fighter and a very strong competitor. Koscielny is a great addition to our squad.

There are doubts cast over the signing, principally because few of us have seen anything of him other than grainy YouTube clips as well as a career that is short and has been played out of the Champions League eye. That should not be a reason to dismiss him or his abilities. These questions will be answered in due course.

What is apparent is the requirement for another centre back. With Senderos, Silvestre and Gallas released, whilst Campbell possibly joining them, numbers are short and experience at the highest level evaporating, a wiser head might be needed to add to the mix of youthful exuberance in the centre.

Like Vermaelen, he is going to be fondly remembered by a colleague. van Persie and the Belgian had an altercation in the Amsterdam tournament whilst Koscielny was apparently sent off for a challenge on Chamakh in Ligue 1 last season.

Elsewhere, Gael Clichy is to be lured to Turin, the promise of the Europa League Third Qualifying Round surely too much for anyone to resist. A new name, for this close season anyway, has arrived in the form of Shaun Wright-Phillips who wants out of Manchester City, an Asda carrier bag with £6m is apparently enough to make him move. Quite why Arsenal would be interested is beyond me with midfield well-stocked and a number of players who can fill the same role rather better than SWP would. But then who can fathom the reason for half of the transfer gossip that goes around?

Back on the subject of William Gallas, who vaguely turned up earlier in the post, he has had his say admitting that none of the French players including himself were good enough in the World Cup but if they were bad, Domenech was worse. Far worse, although the much-maligned coach did get one thing right:

I realised when I entered the changing room prior to the friendly with Costa Rica that the captain’s armband was placed beside Evra’s shirt. Domenech told me: ‘In any case, you would not be a good captain’

Having seen his stint as Arsenal captain disintegrate into a complete shambles, it is hard to argue with Domenech’s logic, a train of thought that might take a while to recover from.

Goonblog is reporting that Mark Schwarzer has passed a medical at Arsenal, his second after a knee problem was identified in the first. The signing would fit in with the theory that Wenger is waiting for one of the two Polish youngsters to come good. The assumption is that it is Szczesny but it may not be.

Elsewhere, there is a Kenyan interview with Wenger doing the rounds that has doubts cast about its veracity. Some of the comments are typcial Wengerisms but the issue seems to have arisen over the observations made about Almunia and his nerves, the point being that it is almost unheard of for the manager to identify one individual for criticism publicly. But then again, a few years ago, we were surprised when he commented on players at other clubs. The truth will no doubt come out.

WIN £50 IN ITUNES VOUCHERS

Answer the following question correctly and win £50 in iTunes vouchers from VoucherCodes.co.uk:

Which song should Arsenal take the field to in the coming season

The best answer in the opinion of the judge (i.e. me) will be the winner. Send your suggestions to aclfcomps[at]btinternet[dot]com with “Teenage Kicks” in the subject line. Include your name and contact details. Competition closes at midnight, Sunday 11th July 2010.

’til Tomorrow.

Dutch Courage, New Centre Backs & A New Definition Of Skint

The Netherlands progressed to the World Cup Final last night, the 3 – 2 scoreline suggesting a closer match than that which unfurled. The Dutch should have been comfortably clear of the Uruguyans before a late strike made for a nervy five minutes until the referee brought proceedings to a halt.

Thunderous strikes from Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Forlan retained parity at the interval but the Dutch moved up a gear in the second without ever getting to the level that they showed in qualifying or at Euro2008. That has been perhaps the disappointment of their World Cup thus far but the squad would argue that it has not been necessary since they are in the Final itself.

Some of their passing this time around has been laborious with the fluidity in counter-attack diminished as a result. Robin van Persie has worked hard for the team but is missing the speed of thought and movement which he has from his Arsenal team-mates. If Arsene is minded to change formation slightly to mirror the 4-2-3-1 which is favoured at this World Cup, van Persie might be better suited to being one of the three support strikers with Chamakh or Bendtner playing the lead role, for the Dutchman was reasonable as a ‘battering ram’ but it does not utilise his talents fully.

One question that is perplexing is what hold does Mark van Bommel have over the officials? In the knockout phase alone, he has done enough to warrant a red card in each game yet picks up a yellow for an apparent dissent? The inconsistency of officials is guaranteed to frustrate supporters as much as a wrong decision and it is a situation which Fifa must address.

Having concentrated on central defence before the World Cup, centre backs are queueing up like Routemasters to come to The Emirates. Laurent Koscielny‘s move to Arsenal is complete subject to international clearance which could take ‘hours or days to come‘ according to Lorient, Serdar Tasci‘s rumoured flirtation gathered a bit more substance yesterday with Arsenal reportedly in talks with the German club over a £10m move.

The media don’t know if Ozil is coming or going, the reports making it clear that everything surrounding the wunderkid is pure speculation. Not going anywhere today seems to be Cesc, a situation that is rapidly becoming so farcical that Fifa must be sitting in their offices absolutely wetting themselves with laughter at the sheer amateurism on display. Any charge of tapping up is doomed to fail as the whole charade could well have been scripted by Brian Rix.

At their media outlet, Sport, yesterday Sandro Rosell re-affirmed the position of the club; short-term liquidity is a severe problem but player sales and money from their TV deal by the middle of next month will solve the problem. The full extent of Laporta’s attempted Galactico policy has been laid bare for all to see.

Yet the paradox of football finance is there for all to see. Skint but they have a transfer budget of €89m and this after they have spent €35m on David Villa. The plaintive cries of Rosell that they will not pay £50m-£60m for Fabregas sends a very clear message; as much as this is about a world-class player, it is more about a world-class corporate ego.

Crucially, the pressure is cranking up on Fabregas himself. The point is now being reached where he has to either ask for a move or put the move to bed, until 2011 at least. Personally, I think he will come out and ask for a move once the World Cup is over; he will be in Catalunya or with his family on holiday, away from the storm when it breaks.

Bridges are being burned on his behalf but no apparent attempt is being made by Team Fabregas to repair them. Arsenal has been made to look a fool in the past with Reyes, denials issued in haste were later shown to be hollow, PR lessons learned. Fabregas though may yet have to come back to Arsenal. He will be respected, his skills admired but I sense a little less loved than before.

WIN £50 IN ITUNES VOUCHERS

Answer the following question correctly and win £50 in iTunes vouchers:

Which song should Arsenal take the field to in the coming season

The best answer in the opinion of the judge (i.e. me) will be the winner. Send your suggestions to aclfcomps[at]btinternet[dot]com with “Teenage Kicks” in the subject line. Include your name and contact details. Competition closes at midnight, Sunday 11th July 2010.

The prize has been provided by VoucherCodes.co.uk, a money-saving website providing vouchers for discounts, such as £25 in M&S vouchers when you join Sky TV online. Check out their Sky Offer Codes here: http://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/sky.com.

’til Tomorrow.

Arsenal Need German Team Ethic As Spain Get Lucky & Gossip

Germany and Spain progressed with an almost reverse comfort level to a semi-final clash on Wednesday which will see the winning credentials of both tested. Germany are in-form, Spain in-luck; both characteristics will be needed by the eventual champions.

Argentina’s demolition by a four-goal margin should serve as a warning to the Spaniards, whose passing game has been too easily neutered by the opponents. The Italians almost made a virtue out of scraping through to the knockout stages and beyond, Spain are following that route albeit without the defensive assuredness of Azzurri gone by. Spain were livelier once Torres was withdrawn and Fabregas entered the fray but collectively they are a shadow of the team that triumphed two years ago.

Paraguay should have won last night. A rightly disallowed goal and missed penalty would in all likelihood have led to a different outcome had they counted but that is pure conjecture on my part. Spain looked anything but European champions, too easily was their play disrupted.

The penalty given away by Pique was down to stupidity; what possessed the Barcelona centre back to hold on to an arm for grim death? At any level a player is going to tumble in those circumstances. The surprise, I suspect, was that punishment – of sorts – followed. Cardozo’s penalty kick will haunt him in much the same way that Gyan’s from the previous night will.

Within a minute, Spain had returned the compliment, the referee requiring Alonso to retake his spot kick for encroachment, missing the second attempt before Fabregas was cut off at the knees by the goalkeeper in the melee for the rebound. Another penalty, this time not given. Lady Luck turned out to be a señorita in disguise, the woodwork favouring Villa. Nothing aside from the tenacity of the Spaniards will unduly concern their German opponents, their slackness will encourage.

The Germans were hugely impressive once more, swatting away Argentina with more style than against England which is seemingly incredible. The work ethic that they have, the defensive discipline, the technique and comfort on the ball allied to intuitive counter-attacking make their extremely difficult opponents to beat. The speed of passing and thought are the traits Arsene no doubt wants to see in Arsenal, modified for the Premier League.

An early goal put them in the ascendency but stifling the Argentine attack required all of the team to press their opponents and to track back, something that Arsenal do not always achieve. This lesson has to be learned to make the step up from top three to Champions next season. It is no doubt a message which will be driven home this pre-season.

Currently the media darlings, it will be interesting to see how much of chorus for replicating the DFB initiatives in England remains should the Spaniards win in midweek.

In the other semi-final, Robin van Persie decided that he had been injury-free for long enough and had a scan on arm-knack (makes a change from knee or ankle-knack) which proved to be nothing to stop him playing on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, Gael Clichy is to be tempted by an in-house pharmacy that puts the NHS to shame and join Juventus in exchange for Felipe Melo whilst Riccardo Montolivio’s Mr20% says categorically that Arsenal is not negotiating for his client’s services but omitted to mention that he is looking to secure a new deal on the back of his client’s World Cup performances. Unusual for a player to want a pay cut but there you go. Finally, reports based on an unofficial Lorient website suggest that Koscielny will be joining on Monday.

’til Tomorrow.

Dutch Get Melo, Theo Gets Ready & Gossip

The World Cup sprang back into life yesterday with two absorbing matches. Everyone’s Favourite Football Nation (© the media) exited as a porous defence failed dismally against a solid Dutch team who underlined their credentials as one of the pre-tournament favourites whilst Uruguay proved cheats do prosper but at some cost, defeating Ghana as last minute nerves sent a penalty onto the crossbar and broke a nation’s hearts.

Brazil were a pale shadow of their more flamboyant predecessors. Robinho scored a simple goal, highlighting the Dutch weaknesses at the back whilst the midfield and attack of their European opponents were stifled for the opening quarter of the game. After that, it was the limitations of the Brazilians which were exposed, culminating in a Felipe Melo own goal, a deft header into the net.

The afternoon got worse for Melo, a senseless red card for stamping on Robben. His temperament was questionable beforehand but to be so easy to wind-up raises serious doubts about him. To counter that, he is one of the few from Brazil who prior to yesterday had enhanced his reptutation with his performances. His pass to Robinho for the goal was exquisite.

Robin van Persie had a busy afternoon; hard work with little individual reward, a fair summary of his World Cup thus far. To be honest, I doubt that it is bothering him unduly. He is playing reasonably well, lacking goals for his endeavours but that is the only thing missing from his game. The feeling I have is that he will be the one to pop up in the Final, whilst attention is devoted to Messi or Villa, to be the difference.

In the evening match, Suarez committed handball in the final minute of a mistake-strewn match, giving his team a lifeline. Gyan hammered the ball onto the bar, penalties ensued. Nerves steadied, Gyan scored Ghana’s first but some of the rest of his colleagues lost theirs with awful penalties. Abreu’s final kick showed steel and experience with cojones the size of watermelons to drift the ball into the centre of the net. Fantastic if you score, beyond humiliation if you miss.

So to Suarez. His punishment is to miss the semi-final and in his absence much rests on Forlan’s shoulders. He scored a cracking freekick but for Uruguay to win, they needed their best player at their disposal. To the neutral his actions are worthy of condemnation to a degree, highlighting the inherent hypocrisy of us all as football supporters. If I were Uruguayan, Suarez did what I would have expected of him. Were I Ghanaian, it is utterly rephrensible, cheating. Such is the life of a football fan.

Onto Arsenal, Theo Walcott has told ATVO that he is targetting an injury-free season to get over his miserable time last campaign:

Hopefully I can have an injury-free season – that is my first target, and to try and help this team win something. I think it is difficult to have a whole season without any injuries, but that is football and we have got to live with that. I will just be trying to concentrate on having a better season than last year, because it was a disappointment not to play as much as I wanted to. Hopefully I can give something more to the fans this year.

Enough people are suggesting he should move so to give less would be the flimiest of excuses that they need to become more vitriolic. Yet Walcott does need to deliver more; he needs to be fitter than ever to do so. Competition for the right side of attack is as strong as it has ever been at Arsenal with Bendtner maturing and the chance to have left-footed players cutting in from the right to provide a different potency to the attack.

There is a case to play Walcott on the left, to develop that part of his game to allow him to fulfil his own aim of being a central striker. He is some way off that aim at the moment and Wenger could help that by playing him centrally in FA Cup games, fitness permitting.

Theo observed of the team:

We want to win something now instead of using the excuse that we are young players. We were very close [to winning a trophy]. We always tend to be that touching distance, but we have dropped quite a lot of points where we should not have.

Wenger has a great deal of faith in his players. It has not yet been fully repaid. Last season, like 2007-08, indicated that the potential is on the verge of being realised with the final step to be taken. However, key to this is not repeating the step back of 2008-09. That is the nature of a team which is evolving; steps forward are accompanied by a step back.

Criticism of the squad is going to emerge possibly from the opening day if defeat arises at Anfield. It is the toughest away trip on the opening day since well, last season’s was deemed to be. A positive result gives the team something to thrive upon, a chance to instil some confidence in clashes with teams deemed to be ‘top four’ although the Liverpool claim to be in that clique is tarnished.

Meanwhile, Sandro Rosell is trying to prove he is ‘THE MAN’ by engaging the Arsenal board in a game of chicken, telling the world that they will not pay daft money for Cesc. It’s like panto season; the big villain – Laporta – has left the scene and now one of his minnions is picking up the reins. A shame that no-one at Arsenal is listening to the Catalan twaddle which is being spouted.

How transfer rumours build and circulate was highlighted yesterday. Real Madrid were identified as suitors for Robin van Persie, an English-based sports site reported that this story was in Marca. Except the story in Marca was that part of the Sportingo network reported that £35m would be enough for Arsenal to sell the Dutchman. This morning, Marca reports that Real Madrid – unnamed source, of course – thought £35m too much so would not be following up the bid unless Arsenal dropped their asking price…

’til Tomorrow.

%d bloggers like this: