Injuries – Bad luck or bad management?

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Well, we’re at that stage of the season again when the size of your squad and the intelligence of your forward planning comes to fruition.

Problem is, it seem we’re back where we always are, in an injury nightmare. So, it’s time to ask the question. Is it bad luck or is it bad management?

Lets investigate…

  • RvP: Impact injury whilst away on international duty.
  • Rambo: Impact injury against a scum bag thug.
  • Cesc: Impact injury against a 70′s porn star.
  • Nasri: Break (Last season)

So straight off you could say that is an outrageous amount of bad luck. 3 breaks in a year is definitely not the norm.

However, with the bad luck, I feel there has also been some poor management. I don’t believe in coincidence. If you have one bad year, you could let it go. If you have two, you’re pushing it… but if your staple excuse is injuries, you’ve got to address what’s happening.

  • Denilson: Stress fracture to the lower back caused by over training.
  • Gallas: Notorious for missing large chunks of the season, rushed back from injury. Collapsed before half time.
  • JD: Always injured. We’re aware, yet still count him as one of our 4 centre backs.
  • Arshavin: Rumoured to be semi fit going into the Barca game, out of the game within 25 minutes. To be fair, I don’t think he’s got it in him to be anything other than half fit.
  • Diaby: Rarely strings more than 4 games together.
  • Rosicky: Brittle body syndrome.
  • Eduardo: Hasn’t recovered his fitness in a year.
  • Theo: Injured more often than not.

So if a fan who has a full time job doing something else can spot the flaws in our system, why can’t Arsenal? Why are we now struggling to field a team capable of competing with Barcelona? Why didn’t we buy  a decent back up centre back in the summer when we knew JD was out for a year?

Why doesn’t Arsene just equip the squad with an amount of players that could cover a crisis? It makes no sense. Wenger is intent on making it hard on himself which for me makes him look like a bad planner and opens him up to criticism. If he’d addressed this problem years ago, he’d probably have more trophies under the belt. Generally when we win a title, we’ve had a lucky season with the sick list…

Onto today, Sol Campbell is dropping to the back to partner Vermaelen. We don’t have many other options! Hopefully Wolves wont be too much of an exertion for him and he’ll be able to play against Barca on Tuesday. Rosicky will probably cover Nasri’s wide slot with the Frenchman taking the steering wheel in the middle. I’d hope there is a place for Theo and Eboue this week. They certainly deserve one!

I’m not sure I’m too fussed what happens today as long as 3 points is returned! I think we’ll destroy them and lets be fair, we need to do something with our decidedly weak goal difference. I’m hoping for a walloping! If you’re there today, make sure you sing loud  and proud… we’ve got to win the next 6 and the 12th man will help pull us through!

Have a great day Grovers!

See you in the comments!


Wrighty or Henry… who is the bigger legend?

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Geoff has had his blog holiday form signed off… so you’ll have the pleasure of a Pedro lock down for a few days!

First thing to touch on is our joint devastation that Cesc is out for the season. He’s broken his fibula and will miss all our games and maybe the World Cup. I’m gutted because he has been our player of the season, but not too concerned because I have a lot of enthusiasm for the more pacey  Samir Nasri in the centre of the park. His ability to dribble and his desire to prove himself as a centre midfielder could be what we need to drive us through the next few weeks.

Not to be outdone, William Gallas and Andrey Arshavin have also added themselves to our ever growing sick list. Both out for three weeks. That really does put us up that well known creek without any form of paddle. I said at the start of the season, the biggest problem we’ll have is if Vermaelen or Gallas pick up an injury. We’ve got Sol as back up, but he can’t play more than two in a week and Barca’s pace could be too much for him. So, now, because of bad planning we’ll have to drop Song into defence. Yep, drop one of your most consistent performers into a position that is alien to him (70% of people put the two Barca goals on him).

I’m not too fussed about Andrey. He’s a superb player, but Theo looked great the other night and if push comes to shove, we could always do something crazy… you know… play Carlos Vela!

Ok, so yesterday I touched on my disappointment that we all gave Thierry a rapturous standing ovation mid-way through one of the most important games of our post-Highbury history.

That didn’t mean my love for him had waned. Would anyone else in our previous history get such a welcome? I very much doubt it.

The Mirror had an article about the lack of love Ian Wright gets nowadays.

Where do supporters stand?

Ian Wright was one of the most explosive strikers in his prime. He was fast, he could score long range efforts, he could knock them in with his head and he could sniff out a chance from anywhere. Not just that, he was a massive, massive character for the club and until recently, he was our all time record goal scorer. He won plenty of trophies as well, even bagging himself a Premiership late on in his career. He left the club in a bit of a sulk, unhappy Wenger decided not to field him in the 98′ cup final and went on to score goals for Celtic, West Ham and Burnley. He eventually retired citing injury.

That my friends is where it all went wrong. At first, I could stomach Wrighty as the fun figure in the match of the day studio. He was vibrant, honest and a laugh. Then he decided there were bigger fish to fry. He upped sticks and took a job that you only succeed in if you’re outrageous and inflammatory… yep, he took up a spot next to Adrian Durham on the drive time Talksport show along with a position as a writer (Talker with a ghost writer) with the Sun.

He was now paid for spouting controversy. His Sun articles could only go one way… anti-Arsenal. He was constantly telling the media Arsenal weren’t good enough, he thought Spurs would beat us to a top 4 place… he was pretty much ready to say anything to shift papers. No way to treat a club that loved you and supported you. Minor celebrity when you’re already minted is an excess in my opinion and although I’ll love him forever for his contribution to the club, I can’t forgive him for how he’s treated us after.

You can say he’s only giving his opinion but I listened to his Talksport show and read some of his articles in the Sun. He wasn’t being honest, he was towing the company line and putting opinions out there to rile the public. Paul Merson, Ray Parlour, Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Alan Smith and Martin Keown have all carved out a reasonable media careers without falling foul of the Arsenal fans. If they say something negative about Arsenal, you know they’re at pains to say it.Wrighty sold his Arsenal soul for a chat show on Channel 5.

Still, if you want to get to the top in media, you don’t do it through balance and perspective. You have to be as unreasonable as possible. It’s done wonders for Stan Collymore, Jason Cundy and Alan Brazil.

Then we move onto Thierry Henry. He arrived for a club record fee way back in 2000. He was a direct replacement for Anelka and he came with much promise. France’s top scorer in 98′, a player that destroyed United as an 18 year old, we had high hopes. When he started playing he had the pace, the tricks but no finishing.

According to a friend who used to play for Arsenal, Adam’s and co used to rip him to pieces during shooting practice because he was so, so bad. Undeterred Thierry worked on his game after training and the dividends soon paid… and boy did they pay! In only a few season he transformed himself from iffy winger to world class front man.

He was the best player on the planet by a mile and his goals helped us land two Premierships and plenty of cups. He left us as the top goal scorer after a messy divorce. He went to Barcelona and has never stopped heaping praise on us since. He even did the unthinkable, came to watch Arsenal and rolled out onto the pitch to an ovation… whilst contracted to another club!

Just to cement his legend further, he even said he didn’t want to play against us this week. Then when he came on, he didn’t play with any real drive! The guy has got it bad for Arsenal and he always will do.

If you were to be cynical, you could say it’s all a bit transparent. If he loved the club so badly, why didn’t he stay and help us through the tough years? Why was he so keen to take 10mill off a struggling club for one seasons work? Why, when he was here, did he not encourage more? His sulky behaviour and his death stares on the pitch were a major hindrance. If he’d stayed on one more season and we’d had his experience in the squad. Could we perhaps have one more Premiership under our belts?

It’s all well talking about your love once you’ve left, but isn’t the sign of a truly special relationship in the act of support when one party is in trouble, you go to them to help?

So, the question I put to you is this morning is…

Who is the bigger legend in your eyes and why?

It’ll be great to read people’s thoughts from all nationalities and all age groups!

See you in the comments!

P.S. If you haven’t had a look at the Le Grove range of t-shirts, check out the designs at Tatty and purchase yourself one! Follow us on twitter: @legrove and join our facebook fanpage at this address – facebook.com/legrove

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I quit my season ticket on that performance. Disgusted. Player ratings and match review.

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April fools!

I have about as much appetite for continuing with that joke as I do heading out on a quick pre-blog 10k run. Still, you’ve gotta do it. It’s tradition.

Last night was a special evening.The heavens opened and unleashed a cocktail of rain and hail as Geoff, Franchise and myself headed up Gillespie road talking about how we saw the evening going. Geoff was in for victory, Franchise felt we might lose, I was sitting on the fence… I just couldn’t call it.

The game kicked off and Barca flew out of the traps out passing us and retaining the ball like football bullies.

I hope I’m not the only one who felt a little let down by the first half?

I appreciate that we were playing one of the greatest teams to grace the planet in the last 20 years, but I didn’t feel like we gave a good account of ourselves.

Barca were more hungry that us, they hustled, they defended in clusters and they really did give us a spanking with the footballing beauty stick.

If I’m honest, it was was like watching your Dad take a beating from the new Spanish kids Dad in the school yard despite being the British heavyweight champion.

I hated it, but at the same time, it was difficult not to marvel at their near perfect football.

Bar a half decent Nasri shot and a double attempt from an offside Nik Bendtner, we failed to make any sort of impact on the game.

It wasn’t because we were out of our depth either, it was because we gave Barca far too much respect. We feared their pace to the point where we were looking over our shoulders and panicking before we’d even received the ball. That wasn’t the Arsenal way and it wasn’t and acceptable way to go out of the Champions League.

Almunia was the hero of the half, keeping the ball out like his livelihood depended on it, about time too I thought. He made three or four world class saves and played like he was the Spanish number one. Vermaelen did his part in defence and Song was marshalling the midfield with power and discipline. The first turning point of the game came when Gallas went off injured. Instead of Wenger replacing him with Campbell, he dropped Song into defence and brought Denilson on. A gasp went out around the stadium, but it needn’t have… Denilson more than held his own.

We managed to take the game to half time without conceding. I think every Arsenal fan accepted that if Barca were a prison cell mate, they’d be in the top bunk, touching you as you slept… and there wouldn’t be anything you could do to stop it.

The second half started, a long ball was fired into the box, Almunia put his clown gloves on and found himself in no clowns land, Ibrahimovic obliged and dinked the ball over his head into the empty net. Terribly indecisive keeping that went against his form in the game. The crowd was muted. That wasn’t the type of goal you conceded at this level.

Arsenal went up the other end, Sagna whipped a perfect cross into the box, Nik rose like a salmon escaping a bear, only to have his thunderous header saved by Valdes. By Niks standards, it was great he headed it on target, by Champions league standards, it was an unforgivable miss. Still, I consoled myself with the misses of the more experienced Spaniards.

The next Barca attack went down the same flank as the first goal, Ibrahimovic found himself in the same position, this time deciding to rifle it into the Almunia’s near post as hard as he could. It was a great shot, but great keepers don’t get done at their near post.

Did the crowd give in? No! Did the players give in? No! We were good enough to get something out of this game, and boy did we prove that!

I can’t remember how events unfolded, but some how, Eboue (Sagna) managed to get himself onto the pitch, along with Theo Walcott (Arshavin). I remember telling my  new friends that Theo didn’t have the intelligence to merit a place on the pitch. Well, within about ten minutes, the egg gods where spreading their proteiness goodness all over my face as Nik B superbly played the winger in and Theo slipped the ball under Valdes. Bad keeping, good composure. Arsenal were back in it! Nik partially redeemed himself!

Thierry Henry came on. A blatant tactic by Pep to gee up his team and put Arsenal of their game. What did the Arsenal fans do? We cheered him like the messiah had landed! I was going ballistic. Save all the lovey dovey stuff for after the game!!! He could put us out the game in 2 minutes! Arsenal fans? Just a bunch of hopeless romantics at heart!

Anyway…

Arsenal continued to hammer at the Barca goal, Eboue was electric, he was a menace, he looked like the greatest full back the world had ever seen! He came of age tonight and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Brazil team. His pace and trickery bamboozled Barca and allowed us to play our open free flowing football. It might sound like an exaggeration, but Eboue gave Arsenal the belief to play the beautiful game.

That combined with an inspired Theo Walcott performance and Arsenal took control. Wenger was criticised by me for including Theo at the weekend. Rightly so, he was dire. Then tonight, he comes off the bench and plays like a different player. He looked classy, decisive and powerful. He was a different man and didn’t that fans just love it?

We squandered a few chances, then the moment came, a high ball looped into the box, Nik cushioned it to Cesc 6 yards out, Puyol slammed into the Spaniard, the ref blew for a penalty and dished out a red card to the man in a permanent 70′s get up. Up stepped Cesc, sure of missing the next game, only to rifle it past Valdes! What a way to sign off!

The shame of it? Well, rumour has it he may have broken his leg. I knew we should have chucked the Porto game! I joke. However, I have heard the x-ray was clear!

The ref blew up and despite the game only being a draw, the Grove faithful witnessed one of the best games of football the new stadium has seen.

So in conclusion? Too much damn respect. Barca are masters of their craft, but so are we. It took us 60 minutes to realise that you’re only as good as you’re allowed to play. More belief in the second half, more faith in our game and bit more cutting edge.

When we go to their place, we need to make sure we don’t give them acres of space out wide and we need to make sure we’re not afraid to press them when they’re in possession. Our passing needs to tighten up and our finishing needs to be sharper. Probably the most important factor missing at the Nou Camp will be the 12th man… the fans. I’m hoping the youth don’t get overawed by the settings. After all, it’s just a big shed with some seats in some dump hole city.

I don’t feel that we’re a million miles away from Barcelona technically, but I do feel we’re along way from them mentally. Half the strength of the Spaniards is their winning mentality… you can see we’re starting to develop ours, but it’s hard when you come up such great opposition.

I believe we can go to the Nou Camp and win. It’ll need a Barca off day and an Arsenal on day but we can win.

We go to the third world safe in the knowledge that one goal and one clean sheet will see us through to the next round.

That’s a special feeling, that was a special night.

Player Ratings:

Almunia: Pulled off some wonder saves and showered himself in goalkeeping glory for 45 minutes but the fact remains, he was in no mans land for the first goal and he got beat at his near post for the second. He’s not the best and it’s costing us. At this level, you can’t afford passengers. 6

Clichy: Messi who? The boy done good tonight. His crossing was better than normal and his defending was pretty damn good. 7

Vermaelen: A good game from a great player. He couldn’t do more than push Ibrahimovic out wide for both goals. Maybe partially at fault for the second. 7

Gallas: Was part of the shaky start, then typically went off injured. Very disappointing because as Geoff rightly points out, he’s never about for the business end. 7

Sagna: I thought he had a terrific game, he defended well, but he had to come off when it was clear we needed goals. 7

Song: Played very well for the first twenty when heads were dropping like a Henry VIII divorce party. When he slipped into the centre of defence, he proved his versatility and showed us why Wenger wanted Melo in the summer. He’ll be a long-term centre back, just like Wenger said last season. An assured and comfortable performance from one of the most consistent performers in the team. I’ve had a look at the replays and Song’s positioning wasn’t great for the second goal. 7

Diaby: I’ve been champing this man for a while, tonight, I felt like he let me down. His passing was shoddy, his decision-making was weak and he really looked rattled by the hustle of Barca. A very disappointing performance from a player I expected to announce himself to Europe. 5

Cesc: You’ve got to love the fact he played through the pain barrier and put his World Cup dreams on the line for Arsenal. I really hope he hasn’t broken his leg… I thought his performance was gritty and hard working. He didn’t create like he normally does, then again, we weren’t playing run of the mill opposition. Great control to win the penalty, super penalty under immense pressure. 7

Arshavin: Very anonymous in the first half, so anonymous, you hardly noticed him leaving the pitch. 5

Nasri: The difference between Nasri and Cesc is pace. Nasri is a far better running with the ball at his feet and in the second half, he showed that. He’s like our Lionel Messi. When he’s on his game, it’s difficult to get near him. He was very guilty of letting the occasion get to him in the first half but he grew with the game. He made some fantastic tackles that certainly didn’t go unnoticed. He’ll have the honour of taking over from Cesc in the next Barca game on Tuesday. I think he’s more than capable of filling the void.  A solid performance. 7.5

Bendtner: Ok, so he missed an absolute peach of a chance that most Champions league strikers would have buried, but on the upside, he helped set up Nasri for the penalty and he assisted Theo for the first. Not to mention how many headers he won and how well he linked play in the second half. The guy is going to be a top talent. Look at Ibrahimovic and you’ll get a good idea of what Bendtner will become.7

Subs

Theo: Ok, another player I’ve failed to attach myself to… but he did his job tonight with more than just pace. He timed his runs well, he used his skill to round players and he finished well under a lot of pressure. I super performance from the bench. Bravo Theo, I was extremely pleased with your offering today. 9

Eboue: Everyone knows I’ve never been a fan of Eboue and his game, mainly because the aggro has out weighed the brilliance. Tonight, he could have taken a dump on a disabled kids lap and I wouldn’t have flinched. He was superb when he came on. I have no doubt that his confidence and energy gave Arsenal the belief to pull back a draw. My favourite performance from the Ivorian EVER! 9

Denilson: Sometimes I feel like we all need a player to unite against. Now, I’m not saying Denilson doesn’t deserve the flak he’s been getting, but it seems like many peoples attention has switched to this guy now some of the other marmites are doing better. I felt Denilson was better than Song last year. He’s got it in him to be a good player. Last night, he came on against a superb team and he had a fantastic game. He linked play, marshalled the defence and helped turn our fortunes around. There was no excuse for being overtaken by the ref earlier in the season, but over the past few games, he’s started to show signs of coming good. 7.5

See you in the comments!

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