1886 Salutes The Bermuda Gooners

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the beautiful island called Bermuda. Equally fortunate was my chance to meet some Bermuda Gooners. I’m proud to say that the Arsenal brand is in good hands down there.

Yes Poopah, we are well represented in Bermie.

Safe!

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Reviewing the Attack

Robin van Persie – The picture above indicates exactly when our season began to go awry. That’s not to say that we were in sterling form before the injury. We dropped points in games we should have closed out (West Ham) and lost games we shouldn’t have (Sunderland). It’s all too clear now that the 4-3-3 system was installed to bring the best out of Cesc, but the player that made it all work was Robin van Persie. One of the best False Nine’s in the game, Holland, with all of their prodigious attacking talent, is now effectively built around Robin van Persie. He didn’t score for the first few games, but when he got going, he banged in goals and created them as well. Even after missing a substantial chunk of the season, van Persie finished with 9 goals and 7 assists in 16 appearances. He was becoming one of the best strikers in the world. When he got injured, we literally lost the one person that we had no cover for. Not really. Bendtner can play as a target man, but he doesn’t link play as well, doesn’t terrify defenders when dribbling forward, and lacks the Dutchman’s technique. Our scoring ratio dipped massively after his injury, where once people were writing about how we might break a century of goals in the Premier League, Chelsea actually went out and achieved that. The lack of cover is one of Wenger’s crucial mistakes. I believe that he wanted to bring in Chamakh before the season started, but refused to be held ransom by Bordeaux, a team we had difficulty with before (the signing of Sylvain Wiltord). Clearly, he has the talent to be one of the finest players in the world, but can he stay healthy enough. It’s a real question that needs to be answered. Before this season, he made 28 appearances in the Premier League. That was a career high for him. I love Robin, but going forward, we need a true contingency plan.

Nicklas Bendtner – When Robin van Persie went down, Nicklas Bendtner was given his opportunity to shine. However, he quickly got injured as well. That is what you call a terrible stroke of luck. After people clamored for Wenger to splash the cash in January, Bendtner’s recovery from his injury is what people had to settle for. Bendtner is a player people love to hate. He’s confident to the point of arrogance. He doesn’t possess a great first touch. He occasionally misses sitters. However, if Wenger had signed a forward that scored 9 goals in 12 appearances, I’m sure people would have been more than pleased with his signing. Because that’s what Bendtner did for us when he came back from his injury. That doesn’t include his hat trick of missed chances against Burnley. Say what you will about the man. Say that he only scored against teams like Wolves (I don’t recall anybody else for us scoring on that day). Say that he isn’t as good as he thinks he is. The bottom line is, he’s 22 years old and going to the World Cup as his country’s No. 1 striker. I don’t know what Chamakh’s arrival does for Bendtner, but this is not a player you give up on.

Eduardo – I don’t want to bring back bad memories, but to me, it’s clear that Martin Taylor effectively ended Eduardo’s days of elite form. When he came back, he scored an outrageous goal with his ankle. That could only have given us Gooners hope that he would come back as strong as ever. But do you know what I see? I see a player who doesn’t have the confidence he once had, and a player who is afraid when he is on the pitch. He doesn’t strike through the ball when he knows an opposition player is near. I’m not saying it’s actively on his brain, but it’s playing a part regardless. I feel for Eduardo. I want him to come back and be the marksman he was with Zagreb. But being cutthroat, I think his days may be numbered. Between the “new” Eduardo and the frustrating Carlos Vela, I’d have to choose the latter if given a choice for the future.

Carlos Vela – That’s not to suggest that I’m pleased with Vela at all. This boy has talent in abundance. That is clear to anybody who watched the U-17 Championships that he participated in and won the Golden Boot in. It’s clear to anybody who’s seen all the beautiful goals he scored in the Carling Cup. But take that out of the equation and examine his performances in the Premier League and what do you see? He’s missed a few sitters. He’s hardly made an impact. He’s not been what Wenger thought he would be. This is a player who terrorized Real Madrid when he played for Osasuna. Instead, he missed the biggest game of his life because he misplaced his passport. He’s scored more beautiful chips than sitters. I thought he could provide an impact, but maybe it’s our formation that’s not bringing out the best in him. But, I need to see something before I can judge that. When he plays for Mexico, he is an influential player. He needs to show something next year, or he’ll be sold for a nice fee to a La Liga club very soon.

Andrey Arshavin – Labelled by a disappointment this year by many, he’s had the odd distinction of being better immediately on arrival than after the crucial six month adaptation process. I think most people are disappointed because they expect world class performances from Arshavin in every game. That’s a legitimate thing to ask since he is world class when he wants to be. When going against a defender like Jonathan Spector, Arshavin should shred him at every opportunity. It just doesn’t happen as frequently as we’d like. But, he had 10 goals and 2 assists in the Premier League this year, along with 7 assists in Europe, so he wasn’t exactly worthless. His performance against Porto in the second leg was one of the best by any Arsenal player this year. I also have the suspicion that he was injured for most of the year, not in a crucial way, but enough to make a difference. Like his openness or not, he revealed things about the Arsenal medical staff that must be addressed. We’ve lost two crucial medical members to Fabio Capello and England. It’s too early to label him a permanent disappointment, and if Cesc leaves, he’ll be one of the player we need to rely on the most.

– One thing needs to be pointed out about this review. Notice how there are only five players listed. Yes, Theo, Nasri, and Rosicky have all played on the wings. I think it’s clear though that we need wingers and forwards, especially considering that two of the five are injury risks. People used to chastise Wenger for stockpiling strikers. All of a sudden, on paper, we don’t have enough. That needs to be addressed.

If You Spend Too Much Time in Bolton, You Start to Look Like the Locals

Jack Wilshere wants regular first team football next season with a Premiership club.

Bolton are offering him such a wish.

Arsenal are looking for a centre-back – preferably an English one due to UEFA’s homegrown player rule, which only affects clubs playing in the Champions or Europa Leagues.

Bolton have Gary Cahill – an Aston Villa cast-off who failed to make the England World Cup squad. This lowers his price in the transfer market.

But what’s the going rate?

Chris Smalling, who has only played 13 times for Fulham and four times for the England Under-21’s, cost Manchester United 8 million pounds plus a further 2 million depending on appearances for United and England.

Smalling is 20, while Cahill is 24 and only has one England Under 21 cap but over 80 Premiership appearances.

Understandably, Bolton do not want to lose their best defender, just like Arsenal don’t want to sell Cesc Fabregas. Sometimes, you just have accept defeat and try to get the best compensation package from the resulting transfer.

The possible key to the Cahill transfer is if Arsenal loan Jack Wilshere to Bolton for another season.

The Gunners are in danger of losing their creative midfielders with Fran Merida signing for Atletico Madrid, Fabregas wanting to sign for Barcelona, and Aaron Ramsey eight months away from a possible first team action.

If Fabregas leaves then his departure will leave Arsenal with only three attacking central midfielders:

Nasri, Rosicky, and Diaby.

Arshavin could play in that role but his tracking back and marking-up are weak, while Rosicky is too injury prone and lightweight, especially in away games.

The other two players whom I failed to mention are Henri Lansbury – who has just spent a season on loan in the Championship with Watford – and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (JET). However, even though Arsenal rate both players highly, they’re both inexperienced at the Premiership level and will probably only be used as Carling/FA Cup players or sent out on loan again.

Wilshere is seen as a better fit for the attacking central midfield role. He has an eye for a through ball, he likes to “get stuck in” and has shown with Bolton that he can take the physical demands of the Premiership.

If Fabregas stays at Arsenal, then the Cahill deal looks likely with Wilshire heading off to the Reebok Stadium. If he leaves, then Wilshere will probably stay and fight for his first team place. But Wilshere will demand to be loaned out – Newcastle also want him – unless Wenger can give him first team guarantees.

The centre-back position is now a game of poker. Four senior centre-backs are out of contract in a month. Silvestre and Senderos have not been offered new contracts. Campbell and Gallas have, although the latter will probably reject it. This leaves Vermaelen and Djourou as Arsenal’s two most experienced centre-backs. This helps Gallas and Campbell’s hand with both players wanting better contracts.

Campbell is now considering a move to Celtic who have offered him a two year contract. However, Campbell would rather stay another year at Arsenal but wants guarantees of more playing time and better bonuses. If Campbell and Gallas both leave then Bolton have the upper hand at the negotiating table regarding Cahill. Wenger, therefore, might decide to go abroad in order to obtain his centre-backs and thus retain Wilshere. It’s interesting that Newcastle are offering Steven Taylor as bait for Wilshere.

The signing of Chamakh has helped Wenger’s hand in the strikers department. Wenger tried to sign the Moroccan last summer to replace Adebayor. Both players have a lot of similarities in playing style but Chamakh is a cross between Bendtner and Adebayor. Bendtner showed against Barcelona that he’s not world class – even though he thinks that he is. His ego is big and it’s not just due to the young Dane wearing pink boots or insisting on having the No. 52 shirt.

In Denmark, Bendtner is a huge celebrity due to his romance with multi millionaire Danish Princess, Caroline Fleming who is 13 years his senior. She has two children aged six and three from her previous marriage which netted her 400 million pounds. Bendtner often stays at her Valdemars Castle, which has four museums and 21 art galleries within its walls. The Danish striker is madly in love and will not be happy unless he starts as Arsenal’s central striker. Being a sub and sleeping in Valdemars Castle don’t quite match up.

What doesn’t help Arsenal with regards to Bendtner is that his dad is his agent, plus he’s Denmark’s only goal threat in Group E where they will face Japan, Holland, and Cameroon. If Bendtner has a good World Cup, his ego will grow, thus hiding weaknesses in his game. His first touch is poor – not as good as Chamakh’s – and his chances to goals ratio is average.

The truth is that Chamakh is a better more experienced player than Bendtner and also has less of an ego. The fact that he has played six seasons in Le Championnat and is fluent in French will help him fit in faster. He is currently looking to buy a house in the Hampstead area, and with Morocco not involved in the World Cup, he has nothing to distract his move.

Bendtner is useful. He scored vital goals when Van Persie was injured. He’s also getting better but I see danger signs. It wouldn’t surprise me if he demands a move next summer. However, I can only see Aston Villa or Everton coming in for him unless he improves dramatically. If he does improve then a club like Bayern Munich would fit his style and suit his ego.

But dating a Princess doesn’t make you a King, while scoring against Stoke, Wolves, and Hull doesn’t suddenly turn you into Michael Laudrup.

Keep it real, Nicklas.

Keep It Arsenal

1886 Salutes the Greatest

Obrigado Pele!

Reviewing the Midfield

Cesc Fabregas – Our captain. He apparently wants out of Arsenal, and the last month of the season is probably the reason why. The 4-3-3 formation was installed to get the best out of our Catalan. That’s precisely what it did. Cesc delivered with goals and assists. His injury situation meant that he missed crucial stretches, but nobody can forget his thrilling cameo against Aston Villa and inspirational 2nd half against pompous Barcelona. I can understand why he wants out. In all of his years, he’s only won an FA Cup and a Community Shield. Meanwhile, everybody whispering in his ear are winning trophies. I think he should stay, but if he really wants out and Barcelona are willing to pay more than they’re willing to, then he’ll depart. He’ll be fondly remembered by me when he does, but his Arsenal career will remain slightly lacking (even if that’s not his fault).

Aaron Ramsey – It seemed as though whenever Ramsey was gifted an appearance with the first choice XI, he failed to impress. He was alright in patches, but he failed to impose himself in any way. He started to deliver on his promise in Carling Cup matches and international appearances with Wales. With Denilson regressing, he was given the opportunity to start alongside Cesc and started to come into his own. He remains very young and is one of the most promising prospects in British football. It’s a great tragedy that Shawcross broke his leg and derailed his career for six to eight months. If Cesc leaves, I could see Ramsey becoming an important player for Arsenal in the next two to three years.

Abou Diaby – This guy is an enigma to me. At times, he’s a dominating midfielder who has silky control of the ball. Other times, he’s injured, ineffective, or absent. He’s made the France World Cup squad though, so this season will be seen as a positive one by some. I would strongly suggest that he faded during the close of the season in a way that was extremely disconcerting. I thought that he could make a vital difference against Barcelona. I was dead wrong. We know all about Diaby’s strengths; I’m not sure we know anything about his heart. He should punish the opposition by dribbling forward with power and tackling with precision. I have the distinct feeling that he can only do that against weaker opposition. He has the talent; does he have the willpower?

Samir Nasri – He missed the early part of the season through injury and has just missed out on a spot in the France national team. Does he belong on the squad more than Diaby does? If you start from scratch, yes. If you look at the needs of the France team, maybe not. Regardless, if the decision was made before the Barcelona match, he would have made the squad. Again, another player who came up short in the period that mattered the most. Often shunted to the wing, his play there has often suggested that we may actually need to sign more offensive players, namely strikers and wingers. He plays better centrally (as every gifted player does due to a wider space to play in), but when he was handed the keys after Cesc’s injury, the machine did not run smoothly enough. He may be given that role permanently if Cesc departs, but he’s more of a foil player. To be fair, he hasn’t been played in a central midfield role alongside a player like Cesc, and that is where he might perform best. On the wing, I’m not certain he provides anything more than good link-up play.

Theo Walcott – On the plus side, it looks like he’ll make a nice living as a writer of children’s books. On the negative, he hasn’t improved at all. He’s brittle, doesn’t cross particularly well, and fades during matches. Despite all this, I still feel as though we could fetch 15 million pounds for him if we sold him. I might be delusional, but if he’s effective in the World Cup, somebody may take that chance. That would result in a 6 million pound profit. He still retains electric pace and can make decent enough runs. The problem is, there are large stretches where you don’t see him on the pitch at all. He’s not like Ivica Olic, where he doesn’t have to touch the ball as much to be effective. He needs to learn how to stay in games, be alert, distribute efficiently, and be spontaneous. A good World Cup can only help, but he has a long way to go before doing the number on his back any justice.

Alex Song – He’s a favorite of ours and a reminder that you should never completely write off a player that Wenger has faith in. Before the season, Wenger suggested he didn’t have the stamina to play in central midfield. Clearly, that was just a motivational jab at Song. Alex Song never backs down, either from Craig Bellamy or Adebayor. He is one of the few players, alongside Nasri, who will stand up for players on our team. He was just as good after the ACN as well. He’s one of the first names on Wenger’s starting XI. He’s two more consistent seasons away from being legitimately world class.

Denilson – Unlike Song, Denilson has regressed. He was one of the most underrated players two seasons ago; he never looked comfortable during this season. For one, he was playing in a 4-3-3 system in which his old self might have been better suited to. He should have had the opportunity to be creative and tidy. What it resulted in was goals from distance and a lot of sideways passing. For Denilson to play alongside Song and Cesc effectively, he needs to be more of an offensive threat. If he’s not doing that, he’ll just be embarrassed when trying to track back against Wayne Rooney. Like the others, he is still young, but his star no longer burns as bright. He can be an intelligent distributor, but with his back being a problem as well, he’s a question mark.

Tomas Rosicky – The fact that he played as much as he did should be considered a victory. That being said, he approached nowhere near his old form. When dribbling forward with the ball, Rosicky is a thing of beauty. His willingness to take shots from outside is a plus. Despite the fact that we don’t shoot from outside of the box too often, we’ve actually scored the most goals from distance. Does that mean we take an appropriate amount or that we should take more? Rosicky was earmarked as a No. 10 type player. Because of his frequent injuries, teams should not be built around him. He can pass, he has a decent shot, and he’s intelligent. But too often, he’s also a non-factor. To be fair, he’s just come off from a lengthy injury, so anything we get out of him is a bonus.

Jack Wilshere – He didn’t get many games for the Arsenal First Team. When playing with us, he still seemed a bit frail, but he has some bite to him. A loan move to Bolton under Owen Coyle was probably the best thing for his development. After a few games, Bolton bloggers wondered whether he was actually any good. Now, Coyle is begging us to let him stay. I’m not certain that he’ll be ready for the first team, so if a loan gives us a discount on Gary Cahill, then I think another year with Bolton might get him very close to earning a spot near the First Team.

Fran Merida – He’s officially off the Atletico Madrid. The new “Cesc” leaves just as the real Cesc looks to leave. He’s had flashes here and there, but we can’t make any definitive judgments about this guy. He has a good left foot and is a good signing for Atletico Madrid. Wenger wanted to tie him down to a five year contract. That means he rated him very highly.

Craig Eastmond – A surprise addition to our midfield this year. It’s interesting that he’s usurped Coquelin in the queue (Francis is being groomed at RB now), and he’s shown promise. For now though, he’s not strong enough and can’t really last a full 90. His hard work has resulted in Premier League and Champions League appearances. He’s being brought up in the right way.

Get Your Tits Out For the Lads

So I come home from work and turn on the TV to Fox Soccer Channel. On the screen is Sky Sports Andy Gray sitting on a bar stool with Eric Wynalda and that bald, fat, know-nothing, ex-pat Nick Webster. All three are sitting inside the New York bar Nevada Smiths.

Five minutes of watching them talk about a variety of topics, the camera switches to a brunette bimbo with a microphone called Temryss Lane. She’s standing next to a white mid 30’s English woman who has seen better days.

Her name is Miss Manc from Manchester.

Miss Manc’s question is related to Manchester United. It was a redundantly boring question.

Miss Manc is a Nevada Smiths regular. She’s been a regular there for nearly 10 years. I first saw Miss Manc when she was standing on top of the bar showing her small breasts to all and sundry. She was notorious for downing pints and acting like a “lad”. It seems she hasn’t changed – except that she’s well past her sell by date.

More questions came from the Nevada Smiths crowd. Stale, English ex-pats who thought they were Lord of the Manor asked cloying questions about Chelsea and England to Andy Gray. As questions were being answered by Andy and his crew, the Nevada crowd tried to sing lame football chants or shove club scarves and shirts into view of the camera. It was pathetic.

Nevada’s has gone down in my estimation. It’s now a bar riding on it’s reputation.

While some of Nevada’s patrons need to grow up, Fox Soccer Channel needs show a bit more class by hosting a soccer show in a better establishment. They’re equally as embarrassing as drunks like Miss Manc. They will never gain kudos until they change tact.

Cunts of the Season – Stoke City Fans

After the sickening Aaron Ramsey injury back in March, some Stoke fans chanted:

“He’s Only Got One Leg.”

This was chanted both in the Britannia Stadium and outside with some Stoke fans shouting “Buy Him a Parrot”, “Peg Leg Ramsey”, and “I Hope he Never Plays Again.”

On the football phone-ins that same night, some Stoke fans called into BBC Radio 5 Live and said that the sooner Arsenal “get lost from the Premiership and have a game of tickling with Barcelona the better.” Another caller from Stoke was more forward calling the huddle by the Arsenal players at the end of the match “gay” and claimed that Arsenal were “Kings of being the victims.”

I hope that Stoke City get relegated next season.

England 3-1 Mexico

This game confirmed what we already know:

1) England will not win the World Cup but the hype surrounding them will make you think that they will.

2) England are still a set piece team. That’s how they will score in South Africa.

3) England are efficient but very dull.

4) Theo Walcott can’t cross. Look at Wayne Rooney’s body language after another cross by Theo goes nowhere. You can tell Rooney doesn’t rate him.

5) James Milner is over-hyped and out of his depth when it comes to England.

Keep It Arsenal

Post Match View – F.C. Bayern München v F.C. Internazionale Milano UEFA Champions League Final

First, Jose Mourinho is the dog’s balls. Many people have expressed their dislike for the man without acknowledging his prowess. The man gets it done. End of!

I salute Jose Mourinho. I hate Inter but I can salute Jose Mourinho. He will probably remind the entire world that he is “the special one” but he has the right to do so. He is amongst those with special abilities, those with license to be boastful if they wish to be.

A few notes on the match:

Samuel Eto’o deferred to the clinical Milito. Milito won Inter the cup. Take that Ibra!

Wesley Sneijder is a fantastic player. If Mr. Arsenal leaves…

Julio Cesar is the kind of keeper Arsenal MUST sign. Class!

Maicon was pretty quiet.

Van Buyten is rubbish.

Walter Samuel has been born again. He was quietly effective.

Demichelis and Samuel could be Diego’s answer at the back.

Bayern could have used Franck. Robben huffed and puffed but was not enough.

Possession was in Bayern’s favor by quite a bit but Inter play a very sound tactical game.

Zanetti deserves the medal more than anyone else.

Mark van Bommel is a dirty cunt.

I hate Real Madrid so much I almost wish Barcelona had reached the final and won at the Bernabeu. Too bad Marco Materazzi didn’t catch a rare disease days before the final. What a despicable human being!

It was nice to see Balotelli and Mourinho hug after the match. It was good to see Lucio win the cup. The pre-match program was well choreographed.

I want Arsenal to win something so baldy that it hurts to think about it.

Keep the Faith