LG get a response / Exciting rumours

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There’s nothing like taking up an issue with the club and getting your very own response! So, after starting my mini campaign to get something done about injuries last year… finally, we got a response! I’m not sure it really satisfied my curiosity?

Basically, I think I’ve been proved right. Colin Lewin correctly points out we’ve had more than our fair share of bad luck when it comes to impact injuries… 7 fractures this year compared to others, but when he then went on to say our injury record compared to other clubs is comparable. I don’t think you even need to do the research to know that’s not true.

Colin went on to say that one of the reasons we have more injuries than other teams is because we run further than other teams… and here is the key…

‘”Because to get to that level it requires a high level of fitness. Therefore, everybody is in agreement that the training, as directed by the manager, has to reflect this high level of fitness.’

So there we have it, over training is the reason we get so many injuries. Like I’ve been saying since last year. If you get a competitive advantage by being fitter than everyone else, then lose that advantage because it gives you more injuries than any other team… it defeats the object of the competitive advantage.

We need to be more intelligent about the way we train. Arsenal can’t complain that we play more games than everyone else, because that’s simply not true. We roughly know how many games we’ll play every year and if we don’t build a squad capable of handling that, well, we can’t complain can we!

I lifted this little bit of research from ACLF:

‘Since August 2002, Arsenal has suffered 138 more injuries than Chelsea to first team squad members. In the same period, Arsenal has suffered 86 more injuries than Manchester United.’

2009/10 AFC 79; MUFC 55; CFC 52
2008/09 AFC 74; MUFC 62; CFC 46
2007/08 AFC 60; MUFC 53; CFC 42

A staggering 44% more injuries than our nearest rivals this season! If you’d like to read a little more detailed analysis, check out Martins post over at The Goon Blog. He’s written a pretty detailed account of why things don’t really add up, a good read indeed.

Still, it was heartening to read that we’re bringing in more expertise to the team and it was good to read that we’re indulging in a bit of sports science like Fulham and the rest of them do!

Enough already… it’s Friday afternoon, I’m writing this wearing a pair of shorts, surely it’s time for me to bust our some good time transfer rumours!

Well, the Guardian kicked of the summer rumour mill with a story about the where abouts of Jack Rodwell next season. For 20million pieces of gold, we can have one of the finest young talents in English football. He can play as a centre back but he is mostly deployed in an all action box to box midfield type role. I’ve seen him play a few times and the kid is impressive! At 19, he has 30 games under his belt, he has pace, he is 6ft 2 and he has the much needed versatility Wenger looks for in his players. £20million sounds steep… but so did £32million for Rooney. Sometimes you need to make these purchases because young English talent like that can drive a team for years to come.

Arsenal need to make an impact in the transfer market this year and we need to do it early. Other rumours have seen us linked to Brede Hangeland who is yet again having a superb year with Fulham. People say he lacks pace, I don’t really see that. He plays for a well organised team, he leads the back line and he is fantastic in the air at both ends. If we’re shipping out Gallas and Silvestre we need a bit of young and a bit of old. Hangeland and Rodwell would be perfect. Rodwell might even allow Song to move into the position Wenger favours him in!

One player we’re certain to see in the side next year is Chamakh. If you haven’t see him play yet, let me give you the low down. He is very tall and despite his slight frame, he knows how to mix it. He has bundles of pace and as a striker he likes to float out wide in Thierry-esque style. What Chamakh offers is proper width and superb link up play. He also has that ‘put you head on the line’ attitude whenever the ball flies into the box. His headed goals ratio is staggering. I think we’ve signed a real gem, just a shame we couldn’t have bought him a year earlier!

I can’t work out from interviews whether Wenger is being serious about buying players this summer? I’m more than happy to back a manager who will address our issues and despite him not heeding fan warnings this year, we’ve had a better than expected season. I don’t know how everyone else felt about seeing all the other British teams drop out of the Champions league, but I felt pretty special!

Lets pick our chins up off the floor, look forward to watching Spurs go out of the FA Cup this weekend and get the damn jokes rolling in!

Happy Friday Grovers, see you in the comments!

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Spurs fan in shock takeover of Arsenal.com / Why we’re nothing like Barcelona…

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The stunning revelation was confirmed by sources close to Le Grove late yesterday afternoon when it emerged that Spud fanatic, Chris ‘Top four for sure” Harris allegedly gained illegal access to the Arsenal mainframe to write an article about 4 players who had tormented us. He cited Drogba, Lee Sharpe, Messi, Soares and Don Rogers amongst the players who’ve humiliated us over the years…

How was this allowed to happen? Who sanctioned an article this out of touch after our mauling in Europe? Was Gazidis aware that his web team had been infiltrated by the personnel of a known oppressive footballing regime?

The web team at Arsenal.com have zero tact. If Chris Harris got caught cheating on his partner, you could imagine him sending over a montage of famous cheats to make his Mrs feel better…

An Artistic impression of a Chris Harris adultery apology

Frankly, the whole thing isn’t surprising… it’s just a bit sad that the people in charge at Arsenal are so desperately out of touch.

I’d like to know who the 32 fans were that clicked the ‘ilike’ button. Muppets… I think anyone with a facebook account should get on the Arsenal fanpage and complain about that article. If you don’t have facebook please e-mail, twitter, courier pigeon… do whatever to let Arsenal know that these articles aren’t acceptable.

That stopped me thinking about Tuesdays hard to swallow defeat for about an hour. There are plenty of people posting excuses on the web but for me, they’re all tired.

Big Game Aggregate Scores 09/10:

  • Arsenal 0 Chelsea 5
  • Arsenal 2 ManU 5
  • Arsenal 3 Barca 6
  • Arsenal 2 City 4 (Half time)

Whatever way you dress the above, it’s not impressive. Sure we we’re beating weaker teams, but so are United and Chelsea. If we want to dominate, we have to win the big games. If we want to win the Champions league, we have to beat the big teams. It’s that simple.

That leads me nicely onto my next topic. People were bombarding Le Grove from all angles with the ‘Barca didn’t win anything for 5 seasons’ comfort blanket. Like Arsenal are following the same blueprints or something?

Lets break this down.

Barca missed out on 5 La Liga’s from 99 onwards. In that time they went through 5 managerial changes, a Presidential axing and they invested a shed load on players in an attempt to get back to the top. That included £32million on our very own Petit and Overmars. Not only that, they were competing with the first wave of Galactico’s, something new to football at the time.

It’s also key to note that the Barca philosophy didn’t start with Rijkaard or Guardiola, it’s been in place since Cruyft managed. Comparing the two clubs is beyond ridiculous. Our policies aren’t similar at all. Barca spend lavishly and compliment their first team with world class youth. Arsenal spend frugally and flog average kids until they come good at the expense of trophies.

Dos Santos, once hailed by Thierry Henry as the best talent he’d seen… failed to cut the mustard after one season and was out on his arse the next… Does that sound like an Arsenal policy? Does managerial loyalty sound like a Barca philosophy? No way. Rijkaard was nearly sacked before he went onto great success.

We play pretty football. That is as close as the Barca set up gets to Arsenal… oh, and Cesc.

Also remember Barca had 5 seasons between league wins… we’re leaving our 5th season without even a cup.

Wenger has had 5 years on project youth and he hasn’t delivered. He’s had at least 4 years of ridiculous injuries and we’re still getting them. He had £40million to buy a better keeper than Almunia, a better back up centre back than Silvestre and a suitable holding midfielder to compete with Song. He didn’t do any of that… now he must.

I’m not after a £200million investment… just spend what you have on decent players that are ready to explode. Chamakh is a good start, Loic Remy could be interesting and Hugo Lloris wouldn’t be a bad bet for a keeper. Even if he does cost £20million, at 22, he’d be around for 14-16 years. If you get the chance to watch him, do, he is superb.

Oh, and before the band of bores get on here and start telling me about Championship manager and how it’s a cardinal sin to talk about transfers, don’t bother, get out of the blogosphere and onto Arsenal.com… you won’t get any speculation there. I’m more than happy listening to player suggestions, what better way to educate yourself on world football? We all know the journo’s get their stories from the blog comments sections anyway! That’s how they get hits on their sites with their imaginary sources.

Back to the aftermath.

As fans, we must accept that Arsenal are not good enough to win the Champions League at the moment. There are many other teams that are better equipped with players and experience and those ingredients will always play a massive factor in defining your season.

If Gazidis and Wenger want to continue down the path of accepted super club mediocrity, more fool them. The longer you leave between trophies, the greater the cost long term. You lose a generation of kids who wont support you, you lose a generation of young players who might opt for more successful clubs and you’ll struggle to hold onto your star players.

Wenger is back in the press, spewing out the usual lines about needing to add to the squad. Where have we heard that before? Arsene, why not just tell the truth. If you’re strapped for cash, tell us… we’ll back you. If you’re not, don’t tell us you’ll be signing super quality players, then renege in August because you can’t find any and realise that you’re actually happy with your squad. Honesty and hierarchical alignment is something Arsenal need to work on. If we’re skint, tell us. It saves a lot of fan stress and explains your weird squad decisions.

Arsenal are like that mate you’ve got who tells you he’ll be at the pub for twelve, you ring him at five past, he tells you he’ll be there in 5 minutes, 5 minutes pass and your mates still not there. In the end, he turns up 35 minutes late and you’re pi*sed off. If he’d told you he was going to be 30minutes late at 1205, you’d have been fine.

All Arsenal have to do is tell us early we wont be getting players. The fans can then make a decision on their season tickets based on facts, not on false promises. I’d Eden Hazard a guess that most would renew regardless as long as they felt they were being told the truth.

What I can’t understand is why Arsene would take flak for the board? He has no shares in the club and it affects his position with the fans. Why would you support that? It’s not like Stan and Usmanov are unaware of the financial state of play.

There seems no benefit in lying to the fans about what’s really going on?

Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. We might have a slim chance at Premier League glory… who know’s how United will react to getting dumped by an Robben wonder goal?

Ignoring that, we’ve got a great chance at something nearly as satisfying…

SPURS!

Yep, next week we get the opportunity to bury Spurs Champions league dreams. A heavy defeat inflicted by the good guys of North London will give me great satisfaction and it’ll help heal the wounds of the Champions League spanking.

Gloating about finishing above them is great, smuggly goading about doing them twice in a season is pretty satisfying, but knowing we killed their best opportunity to enter the elite of the top 4 would be epic.

I think it’s going to be a fiery game, but after the Barca collapse, this team have their futures to play for and nothing but a resounding win will do. This is the closest we’ll get to a cup final this year and a victory should pretty much assure us of at least 3rd place.

That’s progress, whatever way you look at it…

So, dust yourselves down, let’s get behind the team and see where this season can take us!

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I take no heart from a spanking like that… not good enough. Ratings + Review

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Almunia
Sagna – Silvestre – Vermaelen – Clichy
Nasri – Denilson – Diaby
Walcott – Bendtner – Rosicky

What did you think when you saw that line-up?

‘Oh no… not Silvestre’, was officially the line of every Gooner I know!

That said, the team was about as good as we could put out.

Our form was sketchy, but maybe, just maybe, we could put in a special performance.

At that point all I could do was crack open a beer and hope for a freak of History…

Early on in the game, Vermaelen missed a near post header allowing Xavi to back heel just wide. We then allowed Messi to get a rasping shot off, which Almunia was equal to.

Clichy bungled a clearance, Denilson didn’t get to Messi and the Argie fired just over. A warning you sensed.

Barca were using their ‘defending in packs tactic’ to great effect. We remained compact, sitting back and absorbing the pressure.

Diaby made what looked like a silly foul, won the ball, played Theo in who bombed down the line, slipped Nik in who has his first shot saved, but the rebound fell nicely for him to poke home! What a start!

Could we hold on to the lead?

Messi went up the other end two minutes later, collected a poor clearance from Silvestre and with a thunderous shot, he killed our lead, sailing the ball into the top corner.

Arsenal were struggling with the blatant Barca diving and a ref who’d clearly never watched La Liga…

The trouble playing Barca is you know that one mistake and they’ll kill you… our passing wasn’t sharp enough in the first half. If we were to win the tie… it’d have to improve.

Messi demonstrated his finishing skills when he picked up Pedro’s pass in the box when we failed to clear, looked up and chipped it past Almunia.

It wasn’t over though… Messi was played in by a Keita header… the only player left to chase was Denilson, Messi ran, chipped it over Almunia… game over? Well… it felt like it. We were watching a Messi masterclass. Without meaning to sound crude, shouldn’t someone have taken Messi out early on instead of allowing him to play like that?

The second half started, Barca fizzed a low cross into the box on account of no height in the box (Take note Arsene) but Almunia judged well.

Rosicky continued to look incredibly inadequate.

Theo had resorted to blind alley running. Souness made a good point… all Theo can do in a game is get into a race… if you decide to defend rather than sprint it out, he has nothing.

Bendtner took a poor touch from a great Diaby ball, allowing Milito to tackle him. At this level, half a second makes all the difference. Nik needs to improve there.

Barca were more hungry than us, things went flat and Wenger seemed to take an age to bring on a sub.

He eventually did… bringing off Silvestre and putting Eboue on. I felt we needed a bolder move though… sadly, there weren’t too many options from the bench. No Vela, deemed bad enough to leave at home.

Diaby duffed a ball to the back post finding an unmarked Rosicky who fired it miles over the bar. So weak, it made me want to cry.

Wenger looked clueless on the touchline, deciding that he didn’t need to make any further changes.

We nearly got done by the quick free kick again… Denilson had his back turned to the ball, Pedro got played in and just chipped wide.

Nik B hit the post up the other end, regardless, he was offside.

Rosicky was eventually subbed off for the paceless Eduardo… that’s the best we could muster. Geoff was right, we should have had a Watt, Wilshere or a Sanchez on the bench. What use is Eduardo against Barca? His finishing has gone and he lost the little pace he had at St Andrews. When will we own up to that?

Barca are a cheating bunch of scum bags, but they defend as a unit, take responsibility and fight for every ball. More than could be said of Arsenal last night…

Barcelona killed off the night when Messi walked through our defence, beat Eboue, beat Vermaelen and Clichy, shot then slotted the rebound through Almunia’s legs.

The way the game played out was embarrassing. The desire was typical of a Sunday league team who’ve been out on the p*ss the night before a game and rolled on half cut.

I accept that we lost to the best team in the world, for me, the best club team I’ve ever seen in living memory (My living memory doesn’t stretch that far, but Souness backed my claim). I can accept that Messi is the greatest player on the planet. However, I can’t accept that we give the best player on the planet the freedom of the Nou Camp pitch. I can’t accept that to combat the pace of Barca and the wizardry of Messi, we have players like Silvestre and Denilson lining up who make him look far better than he is. I can’t accept that the stand in captain of our team isn’t a very good keeper not to mention how meek and mild mannered he is.

Wenger said the goals were cheap, like they were some sort of anomaly! Jeez Arsene, cheap goals have been our staple diet all year long! If we didn’t concede cheap goals, we’d be storming the league and we’d have put up a better fight last night.

We were missing some important players but lets not down play the importance of Iniesta, Ibramhomvic, Pique and Puyol to the Spaniards. See Gallas, Vermaelen, RvP and Cesc for us…

How much would our full team have done to prevent yesterday evenings issues? We’ve stuttered in all the big games this year… tonight was no different. We’re only in the league by proxy of how poor Chelsea and United have been by usual standards. If we want to improve, we need to buy… and buy well. We can’t afford to let players cut their teeth for 5 years…

If we want to improve we can’t go into the season where our best back up defender can only play one game a week. We can’t then have our 4th back up as our best defensive midfielder. We can’t have our 5th as a player who wasn’t good enough for Man United. We can’t prioritise trophies we’re not equipped to win. Even if we had beat Barca, could we have out strategised Mourinho? Were we going to beat United? Not on past form…

Arsenal need to be more tactically aware at this level. If plan A doesn’t work it’s plan A, then some more plan A… then some more plan A. When you’ve got the best players in the world, you can play like that. When you’ve got players like Denilson in your team, you can’t. It’s a shame that Wenger trusts all these kids pre-season when he’s justifying his lack of spending… but when it comes to the crunch, he doesn’t play them.

Barca weren’t just better than us on the ball, they were better off the ball as well. There is no reason why we can’t defend in packs, there is no reason why we can’t have players with that hunger and desire. Wenger has built this season on ‘over achievement’. No wonder his players don’t fight like animals… to do that, you need a winning mentality, proper competition and the right mix of players.

We lacked that tonight… and I’m gutted.

Wenger says he’ll assess whether his team can win trophies at the end of the season, then decide if he’ll stay. On that performance, he’ll be packing his bags… very disappointing.

6-3 wasn’t being toppled by a great team… it was a humiliation of our own making.

Player Ratings:

Almunia: Made some top saves but his distribution was woeful. He sprayed the ball like he’d been asked to hit Barca players. Not Arsenal quality for me. Too meek, too average. At least he seemed gutted after the game… shame he seemed gutted during the game though, could have done with a Captain out there. 6

Sagna: Didn’t put a foot wrong for me. He needed to start at right back because Barca have good winger and Eboue isn’t a good right back (As demoed on the final goal). 7.5

Clichy: Superb tonight… seemed like one of the few who had fight in him. His pace and defending were evident. Should have been the captain with drive like that. 8

Vermaelen: A good performance, let down by playing next to Silvestre. Imagine being asked to run a 400m relay against the Jamaicans with three quadriplegics… that’s probably how Tommy V felt tonight. Players like him need to play with great players. Simple really. 7

Silvestre: When I heard his name announced, I felt like I did when I realised I was accidentally filling up my car with BP Ultimate (£1.26 per litre) yesterday… gutted. He gave away the first goal with a poor clearance, the rest of his game was a joke. His signing was made purely because he was cheap… you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Silvestre summed up that little turn of phrase this evening. 3

Denilson: Not good enough for me. Would Messi have got away from Flamini? Not so easily, that’s for sure. Denilson is to speed what Rick Waller is to pole vaulting. If you’ve got a holding midfielder with no pace in a team like Arsenal, you’re opening yourself up for problems. He makes great interceptions and passes nicely but at the highest level, he doesn’t cut it because what he lacks in pace, he doesn’t make up in fight. 5

Nasri: Not a good game from a player who has little experience in the middle of the park. He held onto the ball for too long and unsettled our quick passing game. He gave the ball away far too cheaply and he didn’t impose himself as Cesc would have. Given time, he could develop a nice style in the middle. 4

Diaby: He did well in the first half starting the move for the first goal with a great tackle. For me though, he was clumsy, his passing was poor and he didn’t produce. Very disappointing, but he did show good strength on a number of occassions, a shame he couldn’t find a man. I still have high hopes, but he’s got to arrive in the big games and improve on that decision making. 6

Theo: Did very well to set up the first goal, even though you’d put that more down to Nik dealing with his poor pass than a great assist. After that, it all went down hill. Trouble is, no one gives you goals for running 100m in 10.3 seconds. All you get for that is a monster contract. Not good enough for me… I don’t care how old he is. I’ve always thought Carlos Vela had far more to offer. Why doesn’t he get the chances? He does it on the international scene and has far more trickery and intelligence than Theo. Seems odd that we’d leave him at home. 6

Rosicky: Has the ink dried on that contract? Can we get one of those eraser pens on it? He was diabolical tonight and should be ashamed of himself. When you’re looking for a bit of experience / quality, the last thing you expect is a player of his caliber to turn in a performance as poor as that. He barely strung a pass together, his finishing was terrible and he looked out of place. He’s not Freddy and he’s no Bobby… a player whose never fulfilled his potential in a red and white shirt. 2

Bendtner: Did superbly with the first goal but after that, he put in a typical 21 year old back up striker performance. His touch needs to be more intelligent and he needs to develop more instinct for first time finishing. Still, he does work hard for the team and he acts well as a target man. However, at this level, you need more than that. 6.5

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