The Big Four

The Big Four is a phrase coined by many publications in the past few years. The term represents Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United. The way that the phrase is bandied around nowadays, they make it sound as if it has been around forever. However, that’s simply not true.

Before Roman Abramovich decided to take up a rich hobby, there were only two teams that were frequently contending for the Premiership crown. Those two teams were Arsenal and Manchester United. While one cannot really deny the powerhouse ability of Manchester United (they’ve won by far the most titles since the creation of the Premiership), Arsenal were always in the mix. The odd surprise being Blackburn’s triumph in 1995.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea finally broke the domination of Arsenal and Manchester United when they triumphed for their first league title in fifty years. But prior to that, the concept of a “Big Four” just simply didn’t exist. Teams like Leeds United and Newcastle represented England in the Champions League. And even after, it only took a “miracle” in Istanbul for Liverpool to make it to the Champions League the year after their triumph because a plucky Everton pipped Liverpool for a 4th place finish.

The press likes to think and shout that the Big Four may dominate English football for a long time coming, but it’s simply just a trend. One that was made possible due to the deep pockets of wealthy owners who jumped on the bandwagon of the English Premier League.

There will be a day when there won’t be a Big Four. Journalists and pundits routinely speak about how Arsenal are the most vulnerable to being bumped out of the Big Four. Apparently, even players look at it this way. Ledley King repeated those sentiments in public just a few days ago.

But why do people feel that about Arsenal? Is it because Aston Villa almost knocked us out of a Champions League place? Wrong. Aston Villa didn’t even finish fifth. Is it because we don’t spend money on our team? Wrong. Look at how much we spent on Samir Nasri and Andrey Arshavin while giving hefty bonuses to key members of our squad. Is it because of our consistent 4th place finishes? Wrong. Two years ago, if Eduardo and Rosicky weren’t paralyzed and we had beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford after taking a 1-0 lead, we would have won the Premier League and shocked the world.

So what really are the reasons? And who’s to say that another team is incapable of falling out of the Big Four? Let’s take a look at the teams who comprise the Big Four and those contending to break up the powerful quartet.

Manchester United – Get ready to feel the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo. Call him a twat if you want, but the team’s tactics were built around him. They could float by without the input of Carlos Queiroz for one year, but that’s because they still had Ronaldo to punish weaker level opposition. Manchester United last year consistently failed to show up against the big sides. Without Ronaldo, good luck. Their tactics will be a shambles this year.

Chelsea – Ancelotti knows how to get it done in the Champions League. Too bad he has no idea how to challenge for a league crown. Only on the back of Kaka, on Ballon d’Or form no less, could they squeeze out a Serie A title. They have powerful players, but they still lack Mourinho’s ruthlessness. Abramovich wants style, but he doesn’t have flair players on this team. This quest may backfire in their face, but they can challenge for the league.

Liverpool – The trendy pick to win the Premier League this year. But what happens if Javier Mascherano leaves for Barcelona? Oh, that’s right, Steven Gerrard loses the ability to maraud forward and Xabi Alonso is exposed for the luxury player he really is. What am I saying? Xabi Alonso himself is off to Real Madrid. Torres can take them far, but I don’t trust his hamstrings.

Aston Villa – So, this is the team that thinks they can knock us out of the top four. Let’s examine this for a moment. They finished ten points behind us. Their best defender and captain retired from football. Gareth Barry, the heartbeat of the side, left for the literally greener pastures of Manchester City. Agbonlahor’s goals dried up once everyone found out that if he can’t beat you with pace, he can’t beat you. And Martin O’Neill says he needs to sign five players. Yeah, okay.

Manchester City – We sold them two players, and their conflicting attitudes tell you all you need to know about those players. Adebayor says they can challenge for a top four finish, and Kolo says they can win the League. One was a player for Arsenal, the other a Legend. You can figure out which is which. They have tremendous firepower, but a shoddy back four. And don’t ever underestimate the tremendous task of trying to have a team win a title. There is a big difference between trying to win the Premier League and trying to avoid relegation or finish mid-table. Mark Hughes has yet to prove himself.

Everything I just wrote could come true, they could easily be proven wrong. The only thing I’m sure of is this: Don’t count Arsenal out of the title race. Wenger’s teams are best when coming off a quiet summer without a major tournament.

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Say What?

As we get closer to our first official match, many people have been expressing themselves. There is no shortage of quotes at the moment – a few of which have caught my attention.

“But unfortunately I cannot tell you that we are close to signing anyone at the moment.” AW

This could also mean that something is happening, but he can’t reveal it. That would be bad business practice and very un-Wenger like. Luis Fabiano anyone?

“I’m hearing Vieira, pay-as-you-play, back at Arsenal,” [Ian] Wright exclaimed on his Talksport show. “That’s what I’m hearing, and that’s what I’m hoping.”

I loved the man as a player but as a “journalist” I have as much respect for Ian Wright as I do for the fans who shout instructions to players on big screens at pubs. Generally, these are people whose analysis is fuelled by liquor and anger. Come to think of it, sometimes I wonder what fuels Ian Wright’s analysis?

If Patrick does make a return to Arsenal, I will have no problem with it. If for no other reason, it kills any hope that Harry Redknapp has of signing our legendary former captain.

“Arsène Wenger, along with the board, had weighed up the potential downside to selling Touré, along with Emmanuel Adebayor, to the club who have designs on Arsenal’s place in next season’s top four.” Oliver Kay, Football Correspondent The Times Online

I’ve read this notion that Arsenal are the vulnerable ones among the “Big Four” many times. It’s largely based on spending power (or the assumed lack thereof) but also on the fact that there are plenty of people out there who want to see Arsenal fail. Don’t be surprised if an unexpected club fall out of the “Big Four” before we do.

“The question is how much longer Arsenal can keep doing this, how much longer they can remain truly competitive while selling established players every summer…the past 18 months have seen them lose Lassana Diarra at 22, Mathieu Flamini at 24, Alexander Hleb at 27 and now Touré and Adebayor at 28 and 25 respectively, while the word on the Spanish football grapevine is that Fàbregas, the club’s captain at the tender age of 22, will rejoin Barcelona next summer. Oliver Kay, Football Correspondent The Times Online

o Lassana Diarra lacked the heart to fight for his pace at Arsenal. He has hardly been an “established” player at any point thus far. Maybe he’ll become one at Madrid but I haven’t seen that man establish anything but a path of moves from one club to another.

o Mathieu Flamini wanted to be in Italy, which means he didn’t want to play for us. A year later, we can question the move based on how infrequently he has started matches for Milan. And again, where’s the “established” player. He was probably more “established” at Marseille before having one good season at Arsenal.

o Alex Hleb has been quoted that he now regrets his move to Spain. He could end up back at Stuttgart. Make your bed, sleep in it…Established???

o As for the “Spanish football grapevine,” even the best grapes can produce vin aigre. Let’s get through this upcoming season before speculating on what Boy Wonder will do next summer.

Let’s be clear; we’ve sold two players and netted well over £30mil. Will we miss them? I want to believe that we won’t miss Adebayor’s goals but that remains to be seen. I am convinced that even if moving to City could rejuvenate Kolo, he hasn’t played well for Arsenal for three seasons. At times, he’s been awful.

We could do with that tall, cunt of a CB who’ll take no prisoners but again, we’ll see what happens. The manager has stated that if there is a need to supplement the squad with further additions, he will do so as long as the right players (as always) are available – it’s almost cliché now. Don’t forget though that we reached the last four in Europe last season and were forced to play that tie with a subpar defence. Adebayor’s goal vs Villarreal was tremendous in that effort but this time around, the addition of a fully fit Andrey Arshaviin will make us a problem for any side.

Let’s not forget that we’ve also got rid of two players who spend a good portion of the winter away on national duty for the ACN (African Nations of Nations) every other January – and a further two weeks recovering. If rumours of selling Eboue (a good utility player, IMO) are true, then we’d have just Alex Song left as an African international. That’s less to worry about squad depth-wise. Things are not as bad as some have tried to convince you my friends.

The best part of the recent transfer activity however is that there couldn’t be a worse nightmare for those who want to see us fail than Arsene Wenger with two fists full of money.

I trust Arsene. Quote me on that.

Kolo Habib Touré

A great man asked me yesterday whether or not I believed any of the reports linking Kolo to Manchester City. Based on the papers that were reporting it, I was fairly certain that there was some legitimacy to the reports.

The advent of NewsNow has produced a massive amount of resources available for Arsenal stories. Most of them re-hash the same stories, and there are numerous silly blogs on it. I read roughly half of the stories on there, and I’ll even read the same story on different news sources. My roommate follows Wigan, and their NewsNow page updates maybe four times a day, as opposed to the constant stream of Arsenal information.

Generally speaking, the Independent, the Guardian, and the Times are fairly reliable. They won’t publish complete rubbish. That being said, more and more, I read stories in the Guardian that attribute their source to shit papers like The Sun and The Daily Mirror. Let’s just attribute that to the downward spiral that sports journalism in England has become. When I read literally all of the papers reporting the potential transfer of Kolo to City, I knew it was going to happen.

Of course, being the Arsenal junkie that I am, I do read publications like The Sun, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, and others. Most of the time, when they’re talking about a player linked to us (a player that could logically fit), I’m convinced they’re usually fabricated 85% of the time. However, when one of these publications posts a story so outlandish that they almost have to be true, it’s of interest. That has happened three times in the past twelve months.

The first case is the reported transfer of Mikael Silvestre. This link came completely out of the blue, and I hated Silvestre with a passion cause he’s associated with Manchester United. I remember my roommate saying, “that’s almost so ridiculous that it’s probably real.” He was right.

The second case was the story of Emmanuel Adebayor getting ripped by an Arsenal fan at an airport. I immediately dismissed this as being completely fabricated. I remember talking about it at the pub and when somebody suggested that it was obviously fabricated, I thought to myself, of course it is, but why would they make up a story like that? Usually, when papers make up stories, it’s usually about transfer gossip. When they report on personal lives of footballers, it’s always usually a drunken affair or things of that nature. There are lots of stupid things that footballers do. I don’t think these should be reported, but it’s the world we live in. I’m not saying this event actually occurred, but I’ll say that I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually did happen. I’m also not writing this to rip Adebayor. I liked him as an Arsenal player, and I hold no grudges.

The last case is the transfer request put in by Kolo. It was reported that Kolo put in a transfer request because he was upset with his playing time and because he hated William Gallas. I, of course, rejected this immediately. Kolo is a player who bleeds Arsenal, and has never shown anything other than 100% effort on the pitch. Then, Wenger came out and said that players do not need to get along in order to play with each other. That was followed by Kolo saying that he did put in a request, but he’s fully committed to the club. This rubbed me the wrong way. It gave me the impression that Kolo was a quitter. Where was the fight in him that made him an Arsenal legend in the first place? He wanted to leave because he didn’t get along with Gallas? That’s juvenile, and what’s more, the animosity towards Gallas increased due to it.

The truth is, Kolo has not been the same player since he contracted malaria while playing for the Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations. At that point, we were still top of the league and flying high. When he returned, he was asked to fill in at right back due to the ankle injury that Sagna suffered. If you look back at the crucial stretch of games, you’ll see that most of the goals were created or conceded through that right hand side of defense. Now, Kolo was playing out of position somewhat, so we can’t completely pin that on him.

Last year, more of the same from Kolo. An inconsistent reading of the game, in which he was frequently bailed out by his athleticism and all out hustle. The problem is, he’s no longer as fast as he once was. He now looks like a mountain as opposed to a tank.

As it remains, he is not an automatic choice in the first team XI. And the truth is, I’m more than happy for Kolo that he’ll be able to reap so much financial reward from City’s moneybags. If he can make 120,000 pounds a week, start for Manchester City, and we’re willing to sell him, everybody benefits.

Now, I’m reading some criticism of Wenger from certain Arsenal boards. They claim that we’ve just made City stronger and that we’ll finish fifth. That kind of talk is both silly and counterproductive. What we know is this, Manchester City has equipped us with the funds to acquire the players that Wenger wants. Now that the heavyweight transfers are out of the way, Wenger has time to do what he does best. I’m sure he has targets, and I’m sure players will come in. If not, that means we are in some financial trouble, but I trust Arsene to get it done.

A final word on Kolo Touré. The man is an Arsenal legend. Losing him is a bittersweet proposition. But, I have experienced the departures of Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, and others. The only man who stayed until the end in recent times was Dennis Bergkamp. All of these names mentioned are proper legends. I salute Kolo for his service to our beloved club, and the world will know that his best years were with us. I wish him a happy life, but I hope van Persie and Arshavin clown him on the pitch when we play City twice this year.

PS A few days ago, I wrote that you should only trust what proper legends say. Yesterday, Thierry had to say this:

“I am Arsenal through and through. I’d never advise anyone to sign for Tottenham. I can’t have Arsenal fans thinking I am helping Tottenham in any way.”

I love Thierry.

Round-Up

You know you’re a redneck if the Salvation Army declines your furniture.

Well, this maxim can also be applied to Phil Brown and Hull City.

You know you’re Hull City when Daryl Murphy blanks you and chooses to stay at Sunderland even though he’s only a reserve.

Daryl Who? I hear you you ask!

Exactly!

It seems that no-one wants to join Hull City or play for Phil Brown. Frazier Campbell snubbed them for Sunderland. Marc-Antoine Fortune opted for Celtic and Bobby Zamora has decided to stay at Fulham even though he only scored 2 goals in 35 appearences last season.

Hull City and Phil Brown are the rednecks of the Premier League.

KOLO TOURE

If you think that Arsenal are crazy for selling Kolo to Manchester City for 15 million then watch Man United’s goal in the semi-final first leg at Old Twatford. Watch Kolo carefully as the cross comes in from Almunia’s right hand post.

Now go back to the start of last season. Kolo was recovoring from malaria. He was also fat. He didn’t look the same Kolo from the Invincibles.

Last January, he handed in a transfer request citing a falling out with William Gallas. Bollocks! I’m sure the 120,000 pounds a week that Man City were offering you was the real reason.

Now consider this: for 6 weeks next season Kolo will be absent. In February, he will be playing in the African Nations Cup. So will Eboue and Adebayor.

15 million now seems like good business.

NEWCASTLE UNITED

They have no manager. Their owner wants to flog them to anyone. Cristiano Ronaldo costs more than buying them. They’re about start the 2009/10 season in The Championship and just lost 6-1 to Leyton Orient.

Yep, there’s always someone worse off than you.

HARRY REDKNAPP

This twitchy cunt is telling anyone who wants to hear him that Patrick Vieira wants to play for Spurs. Harry thinks this is a great PR stunt especially after Celtic reserves comfortably beat Spurs 2-0. I have a message for Harry and any Spurs fan who is wanking at the thought of Vieira joining them next season.

Please fuckoff and die!

Vieira would rather suck a donkeys cock than join your horrible lot. Cunts.

GOLD CUP

USA may have fielded a weakened team but in 10 years time who is going to know this fact. No-one. Losing 5-0 in a final is embarrassing. The game was 0-0 at half-time. The first half was boring and stale.

So why did the US collapse in such dramatic fashion?

Answer:
The introduction of Carlos Vela at half-time. He destroyed the US defense. He scored one goal and assisted in another.

Huntelaar and Chamakh can go and fuck.

Vela will do.

Talk soon,

Arsenal

I’m Watching You – Just Do It!

I have my eye on the following players. They owe us more than a little.

Francesc Fabregas – Off form since February 2008 by my count.
Gael Clichy – From sugar to shite in one season.
Johan Djourou – You say you are ready. Talk is cheap.
Vassiriki Abou Diaby – Man up. You look like you’ve bulked up, now man up.
Theo Walcott – Enough talk. Enough hope. Enough hype. Show me the money.
Nicklas Bendtner – Consistency is all I ask.
Bacary Sagna – You can do better.
Denilson – Stats look good but…
Manuel Almunia – Stop the mistakes. Become a legend.
Robin van Persie – Big, big year for my favorite Arsenal player.

My expectations:

Francesc Fabregas – Be the player you’ve shown you can be.
Gael Clichy – Stop the mental lapses.
Johan Djourou – Make Kolo, Gallas, and Vermaelen fight it out.
Vassiriki Abou Diaby – Dominate the center of the park.
Theo Walcott – Justify the fee please – decision making must improve.
Nicklas Bendtner – Finish your chances. Make me forget about Luis Fabiano.
Bacary Sagna – Be the best RB in the EPL again.
Denilson – Add more goals and assists to your nice stats.
Manuel Almunia – Be unbeatable.
Robin van Persie – World Player of The Year.

The expectations are very high in many cases but winning is about excellence and application, not just saying we’ve learned or that we can be this or we can be that.

Just do it!

Trust Legends Only

What these two men say don’t matter at all.

At one point, they were very good Arsenal players. Now, they don’t speak for us.

Instead, listen to this man:

He says, “the only thing I want to see as an Arsenal lover is for the team to win.”

Thierry is a true legend.

Football’s Harry Potter

Adults that like Harry Potter books and discuss them as if they’re intellectual literature are akin to football fans who go out on the pull wearing their favorite teams jersey.

I feel sorry for American women in a bar on a Saturday night, who are approached by a group of guys wearing Villa and Liverpool jerseys, all coked-up, drunk, and flying.

The lads have been watching football since 10 am on a Saturday. It’s now 10 pm. They stink of of booze and coke. They’re loud and obnoxious. The game between Villa and Liverpool is irrelevant now. It finished 10 hours ago. Since then, lines have been snorted and shots downed. Someone mentioned a strip club, but there was no guarantee that they would get in wearing their favorite teams colors.

So here they are, with a tray full of shots asking a couple of women if they want to join them. They use their charm. They play their English card. One guy, the joker of the pack, makes them laugh by talking loud, making fun of himself and using English slang that they don’t understand.

He loves it when they ask him what a “geezer” means?

“Geezer” is a London word, but this clown is from Birmingham. He’s now acting the London fraud, but no-one is going to question him. His followers are losers from small towns in England who have somehow landed a plum job in Manhattan fixing computer systems. They grow long hair but never wash it or style it and look like the cunt out of the film The Big Lebowski.

If they’re not talking about breaking into the top four, the weakness of Arsenal, scoring coke, or getting another round in, then they’re talking about visas and green cards.

But when women are on the scene, there are those that stay in the background and those that come to the front offering shots and coke breath. Staying in the background is the corporate lawyer who hates Wenger and loves Liverpool more than the Pope loves Catholicism. Hanging out with “the lads” makes him feel like a thug. A thug that never fights but one who tells the TV screen to fuck off when the ref makes a bad decision. He then joins in the chants (even though he doesn’t know all of the lyrics) about how Wenger is a paedophile and flicks off the TV screen whenever he sees Cesc, knowing that he’s safe because he’s in a bar inhabited only by Liverpool fans.

He’s hard.

During the week he’s on various internet message boards, telling other fans that Carragher is too old or that Arshavin is a Russian homo. He gets all of his info on these message boards. Like the real opinion from the fans back in England. This special info he regurgitates on a Saturday after his first line and his second pint. It gives him kudos.

Most of the time these cretins are too smashed to know what went on in the game but they will tell you that Eboue is shit and that Rosicky is finished. To them, life is about three points, a six figure job, getting high, and getting smashed. Football is just the excuse to get smashed for.

In 10 months we have the World Cup. It will be painful. You will have men from Singapore who will support England. Why? Because Stevie G plays for England and is the captain of their team Liverpool. It’s not just Singapore though. I know guys from India and Israel who will support England and drink with coke heads like The Big Lebowski or the “Geezer from Birmingham.” All of them living with a false identity

Harry Potter books are fiction.

So is the football culture of these frauds.