It seems that it has been a long time since I last spoke to you and my there is a lot to talk about. We have had a decent win in the Champions league, the youngest ever ENGLISH scorer in the premiership, Silent Stan opens his mouth and; surprise, surprise even more injury news for the North London derby preview.
So without further ado, “Let’s get it on!”
Arsenal vs Olympiacos report
Oxlade-Chamberlain became the youngest-ever English goalscorer in the UEFA Champions League, beating the record set by fellow gunner Theo Walcott as we managed to hold on for a 2-1 win.
The big summer signing in terms of transfer fee has made an amazing start to his arsenal career. Having played in the Carling Cup just a week earlier and scoring the teenager then made a dream debut in Europe's premier club competition. The Ox controlled a difficult pass on his chest to take him away from the first defender before drifting past a weak challenge and firing into the bottom corner of the net in only the eighth minute. He had a little luck in the build up but capitalised like a seasoned vet.
And it was 2-0 to not soon after as Santos embarked on a surging run down the left where his cut back towards Marouane Chamakh was cut out even though Chamakh could have done better. This did not hamper Santos’ progress though as he won the ball back and exhibited a lovely bit of skill to take him past his marker and fired beyond the keeper at the tightest of angles.
Arsenal were seemingly comfortable up until this point but following the second goal, the tide turned. The visitors had the bulk of the positional advantage and swiftly reduced the deficit following some awful marking from a corner which allowed a free David Fuster to head into the bottom corner. Whilst the corner was a well-worked short-corner routine, the zonal marking meant that nobody in the Arsenal side seemed to understand who was doing what.
I have mentioned before that zonal only works when there is complete synergy in the team and that is something, a relatively new look back four does not have. I really hope we sort this out as we have looked more susceptible to set pieces the past few games than ever before, including last season. The number of times Olympiacos exposed our lack of understanding was there for all to see. This will give all our future opponents some confidence and have quite the opposite effect for us.
There were further chances at both ends and whilst the media portrayed this as a nervous display I felt we looked far more assured in the second half and did not feel vulnerable despite the positional advantage. Either way we saw out the match and Wenger will be happy to see his touchline ban over and without incurring a loss in any of the games.
Szczesny said this of our performance and I can’t say I disagree;
It was a very tough game… We knew before the game that it was going to be a very tough game. I think you have to give credit to our defence for keeping the result at 2-1 because they did put pressure on us. It was a great defensive performance in the second half. We did very well… We won the first half, we were 2-1 up, it was all about keeping the result that way and we managed to do that. I think we knew what we had to do. We had to keep the ball as long as we can. I thought we looked the better side in the second half and deserved the win."
In related news, Marseille had a fantastic win over Dortmund so this puts the group in balance. Hopefully when we next play Dortmund we will have some of that renewed swagger we had this time last season and we can give them a footballing lesson as well as win the heart of Mario Gotze.
Silent Stan No Longer Silent
I know I am late but I will give my thoughts on the main talking points on the two part Arsenal Ownership special in The Telegraph. A great coup for them certainly but one which suits all parties I feel. Stan was able to talk to the world through a objective party so could not be accused of propaganda in the way it would have done if it was on Arsenal.com. I would still imagine though that the questions and every facet of the interview was regulated by Team Stan to ensure that the message was focussed and there were no potential sticking points. I imagine that anyone that wanted the interview would have to strictly adhere to the rules set out or they can do one.
So Telegraph emerged victorious and probably agreed to all stipulations more readily than the other papers so have been the first media outlet in England to speak to the man since his takeover.
He was full of praise for Arsene Wenger and emphatically supported him through this little tough patch we have found ourselves in “You know something, Arsène is one of my favourite people I have met in the last 20 years. He is a great person and I love the way he handles himself. I love his focus. He is a very intelligent guy. You can talk to him about anything and, when he starts talking to people, I really love to listen to him. He should hold seminars he is so good at it. I have tremendous confidence in him. He is one of the great managers in the world.”
A glowing review of Arsene Wenger’s character then but what of his ability to manage the club? “He still maintains himself in tremendous physical shape. You have to have stamina and energy. It’s an energy business. You are coaching, training, travelling and in stadiums packed with pressure. It’s almost like you are training like an athlete. Arsène has great energy and that will always be his decision. [when he goes]… Sometimes you go through periods like that. Arsène’s our man. As an owner, that’s who we put our confidence in… Remember, five months ago, we were in a position to win everything. Everybody doesn’t need to panic. I have a lot of confidence Arsenal can compete, stay very competitive and hopefully win championships.”
On the Fabregas and Nasri situations he had this to say: “That was between Arsène and him. I like the kid but I’m not going to change his mind. Arsène made the decision. If we wanted to be really hard about it, we could have done but Arsène believed that it was the right way to do it. We talked about it when we were in London. I also get it on Nasri. If we didn’t do something on Nasri people would be looking at us next summer and saying, ‘Why didn’t you do this?’ We bought in a lot of resources that we can use on other players.”
The last part of that is most telling for me as most, if not all of the transfer proceeds was left unspent in the summer. I for one hope that we do spend it all on two world class players in the January window. More on this later.
When discussing our transfer policy in more detail though he says “Some people want their private benefactor. I don’t think it is sustainable. Maybe it is, maybe it [football] will always be the one place where there will be guys coming who are willing to pour money in. I don’t know. We have a self-sustaining model. We are committed to that model.” One thing I will say here is, that in the long term we should be committed to be self sustainable but in the interim if there is the need to improve our team, which there is.”
I do not think it is contradictory to put in some serious money to ensure we can maintain our position. If we were to buy two or three players, and paid them what they wanted to ensure we get the best players then I cannot imagine it toppling the balance to any detriment of our self sustainable model. I know it sets a precedent but for me it is a precedent I am happy with. If you are going to be a world class talent for the club then you will be rewarded. If not, you get fuck all. The number of fringe players making shit loads at the club makes me feel sick.
A lot of people say it makes them feel sick to hear footballers earn so much. I don’t agree. To be the best in one of the most popular things in the world you deserve it. It is an issue of supply and demand. If people are willing to pay their money to watch football than the people that make you want to watch are going to benefit. If a company makes something that everyone wants to buy, say a wii or an ipad, no one complains that the company is making millions/billions and so are the directors. It is the same principle, the players are what we want to watch, they are the product and we buy it so of course they will get paid. However when a Denilson earns in a week, twice what the average person earns in a year is something I understand people getting annoyed about. I think our wage structure needs to be anally fucked till it is split wide open. Lovely imagery for you for the weekend ;-).
Enough of the rant, back to Stan where he left us with this thought:
“I haven’t said a lot, I don’t know that I need to. We have really good guys out there in London. Sure, people want to know what we are doing but we are not going to do anything differently than we have ever done. There is no owner with as many years or as many hours in sports as we do. I don’t think so. We have had a good amount of success. I have a lot of respect for all of the other owners. I’m not decrying their way. What I am saying is that if you look year after year at sustaining it, Arsenal have done a pretty good job. Arsène Wenger has been the real reason for that and I like our future.”
In the second part they delve into Stan as a man and look at what type of owner he will be. Not much to report on so if you want to check out http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/arsenal/8800199/Arsenal-owner-Stan-Kroenke-is-in-it-for-the-long-haul-says-son-and-heir-Josh.html
His son does say that “I know my dad has a certain vision, he’s in it for the long haul in everything he does, from his wineries to real estate to his sports investments. He is a competitive person. My dad and I used to square off in the driveway and play basketball and baseball. When I was a little guy he wouldn’t let me win anything. There were some heated battles in a lot of different sports. He wants to win and that won’t be any different at Arsenal.”
North London Derby Preview
“How do you measure the dimension of a club? Success. Exactly. So if you look at success historically they have a lot of work to do. We have been in the champions league 12 consecutive years so once they have done that they can say of course that they are similar.” Arsene Wenger, 2009, Independent.
A lot of the build up to this game has centred around a shift in power in North London. Charlie Nicholas and Paul Merson have called Spurs strong favourites for the fixture and this is a sentiment that has been echoed by the bookies. This is exactly why I felt the need to have that quote at the start.
Whilst I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous because I am but to say that they are well above us at the moment is a bit crazy. In form terms and confidence yes they are but in terms of team when fully fit I think people are getting a bit carried away. So whilst in the short term they may look like favourites tomorrow to say they have overtaken us is ridiculous.
Team news again is not great as is always the case these days and Wenger said that for the Derby tomorrow we are looking at:
“Koscielny looks to be definitely out for Sunday, it looks short for him. He couldn't absorb any test today [Friday]. For Walcott and Gervinho a decision will be made on Saturday or Sunday. The most likely to be fit of the two looks to be Walcott. Benayoun and Squillaci are completely fit. Squillaci lacks match fitness, Benayoun does not.”
That suggests that Song is the player who is going to be stepping up to the Centre back plate and to be fair the lad he was pretty decent midweek, particularly in the second half. So this brings us to the central midfield area again. I would imagine Frimpong is a certainty given his strength which will be ideal for the fixture but who will play alongside him. Are we going to be cautious and play two holding midfielders with Arteta or Coquelin as the second one and Ramsey further forward as opposed to Arteta and Ramsey being free to venture forward. It may be a temptation but I think if we are to win it will need us to keep the ball in their half not ours.
It will be tricky but I think we can get a result and I hope everyone at the club agrees. We must go out to win as it is essential. The last time there was a international break we imploded so another one of those and suicide is definitely on the cards.
I expect Szczesny, Sagna, Song, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Frimpong, Arteta, Ramsey, Walcott, Gervinho, RVP. That is still a good side and one that in full swing should be able to beat great teams but confidence and circumstances dictate that things are not what they should be.
I would predict a victory with a decent performance but am just too scared to jinx things. I am quietly optimistic whilst being on the verge of shitting myself.
I briefly highlighted that Stan said we have got good money from the sales of Nasri and Fabregas that we can invest in the squad. I think it is essential that we do that and do that soon with rumours mounting of a RVP exit, Vermaelan, Song and Walcott all first teamers coming into the last year of their contract. There is nothing more important than sorting out RVP at the moment. He is world class.
It is clear he is hesitant and for obvious reasons but he has always stated he loves the club so his future is up to us. We must do everything we can and unfortunately it is not simply just a case of offering him as much money as he wants.
I know it is still early and I have been very optimistic throughout all the problems we have face, but without two world class players I fear we will lose a number of world class players over the next two windows and that will be to the detriment of the club we love.
We have a minimum of £60m to spend and can clearly buy 2/3 world class players so long as we pay them the right wages. I have touched on this already and it is clear that it is possible for us to do so. Especially with all the departing players and the savings made there should be enough to accommodate three world class players with ease if we invest the money earned back into wages and increase our budget as necessary. With Fabregas 110k, Nasri 60k, Bendtnar 58k, Clichy 58k, Denilson 52k, Eboue 50k gives us an extra 388k a week to spend before the arrivals this summer.
I know it is very early to speculate who we may buy but I am certain we need to buy two marquee names which will have an immediate impact on the club. We could buy two of Gotze/Hazard/Moutinho for around £60m-£70m which would be affordable as well as provide a boost to the fans but more importantly those players that may well be in a position to demand a transfer in the summer.
It is imperative we start acting now to avoid a repetition of the summer and cement our place back as a contender for the league. Add two of those three or even one of those three and bring back Wilshire and we have a team capable of beating anyone and I mean that. A lot of people are talking about Gary Cahill but it would be difficult to have 6 centre backs on the books and a lot of people forget how difficult it is to get rid of players. If we can get rid of another couple of buffoons this winter then him and two attacking players would be great. A nice cheap player is always good but I am not convinced he solves any defensive issues we have either way.
Anyway, I feel this could be a University essay at this stage so I shall stop. Hopefully the next post will not be so late.
Have a good day and enjoy tomorrow. Hopefully.