Arseblog ... an Arsenal blog http://arseblog.com Tue, 31 Mar 2015 06:25:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Gob-Pro http://arseblog.com/2015/03/gob-pro/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/gob-pro/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 06:25:03 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17608 Things I am now officially bored of. 1 – The Interlull Perhaps it’s a sign that my life is simply too niche. That I should find other interests to keep me occupied throughout spells when there is no Arsenal. But what? Crossword making? Nah. Skydiving? No. Wingsuit jumping? No chance.]]>

Things I am now officially bored of.

1 – The Interlull

Perhaps it’s a sign that my life is simply too niche. That I should find other interests to keep me occupied throughout spells when there is no Arsenal. But what?

Crossword making? Nah. Skydiving? No. Wingsuit jumping? No chance. There’s simply not enough margin for error in that pursuit. The idea of flying through the air and skimming across the treetops is exhilarating, I’m sure, but the idea of being obliterated because you get it wrong by a few feet is not so appealing. I guess there’s also a good reason why you don’t see any senior citizen Wingsuit flyers.

I like the ‘Being splattered’ factor to be almost at zero when it comes to the sports I play. Football – sure you can get a clash of heads when some bloke pushes you into your other centre-half and his ridiculously concrete head splits your eye open and you both have to go to hospital; or muscle pulls, tendon tweaks and, if you’re really unlucky, something a bit worse if you meet Taylor Shawcross, but those risks are offset by one very important consideration: there is a football.

If you were to rank the spherical objects of most importance you’d have to say Sun, Earth, Football, Moon. Yeah, without a moon there’d be no tides and sea-monsters would rule the waves from their cavernous underground lairs, but you don’t play football under the sea do you? Former Real Madrid goalkeeper Julio Iglesias might have tried to woo people with his silky oceanic tones but we’re not fooled.

A football also gives running purpose. Running for the sake of running? I don’t get it. Running to escape from something? Sure. That makes sense for me, but running just so you can be good at running? Unless you live somewhere where escaping is a vital skill, then you’re just being daft.

However, running after a football, running with a football, or running after someone else who has the football so you can get the football back off him, now that’s running I can get behind. You might argue that some running for the sake of running makes you better at the purposeful running during a game, but the answer to that is simple and obvious: simply play more football then you’ll be better at running as well as having the enjoyment of a game of football.

People try to make life so complicated.

Anyway, back to my initial point that a wealth of pastimes might enable somebody to cope better with an Interlull. I get that, but at this point in my life I’m just too old to scale a skyscraper using sticky pads like they used to in cartoons and Batman and that, and then leap off with a GoPro camera attached to my head.

That said, I really, really want a GoPro camera even though I have no practical use for one. I had thought about strapping it to the dog, but it’s not like Archer goes white-water rafting or anything. Still, every time I’m in an airport and browsing the electronics shop to pass time because I’m there ridiculously early the urge to buy one is almost overwhelming. And not the entry level one either. I want the full top of the range 4k triple HD one so I can … I dunno … capture the intensity of walking around Dublin.

Imagine the thrill of the YouTube experience as you watch a man stroll from Kimmage to Harold’s Cross to Rathmines and back again, all set to heavy rock music, pausing from time to time for his dog to wee on somebody’s wall or on a tree or that one time when I was looking at my phone and not paying attention when he weed on somebody’s car wheel and the person who owned the car was in the car but it was an old lady and she looked terrified of either me or the German Shepherd and didn’t say anything.

I think once you start down a road like that there’s no coming back. Soon you might not be strolling at all, but walking briskly, and you might even go further afield to showcase the delights of other neighbourhoods and parishes and it would become an addiction and where would it stop at all? I still want a GoPro camera though. The same way I want a Segway.

Don’t you judge me.

I’m also quite bored of House of Cards Season 3. Like many of you I enjoyed Frank Underwood’s Machiavellian schemes and underhandedness to become President of the United States of the USA in the first two seasons, but this time around it’s all a bit underwhelming.

You know what it needs? Frank and his mate, Crippled Pete, racing around the corridors of the White House on Segways with GoPro cameras attached to their heads. If they added some of that shit I would be back in like it was a game of football on a warm, summer’s day.

Arsenal content? Sorry, they’ve made that impossible with their ‘internationals’. If you haven’t already you can check out yesterday’s Arsecast Extra which has some brief Arsenal related discussions as well as talk of Morocco, why trailers are too long these days, James’s long-lost but now-found basketball playing secret brother and lots more besides.

Listen here.

Right, I can’t do it anymore. There are friendlies tonight, some of our players are involved but from tomorrow we can, hopefully, get things back on an Arsenal track.

*Segways into the distance*

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Arsecast Extra Episode 61 – 30.03.2015 http://arseblog.com/2015/03/arsecast-extra-episode-61-30-03-2015/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/arsecast-extra-episode-61-30-03-2015/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:51:56 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17603 Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra with myself and James from @Gunnerblog. On this week’s show we realise right before we start recording that there’s very little to talk about in terms of football, so we touch on James’ bargain shopping in Morocco, his basketball playing doppelganger, the correct pronunciation of]]>

Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra with myself and James from @Gunnerblog.

On this week’s show we realise right before we start recording that there’s very little to talk about in terms of football, so we touch on James’ bargain shopping in Morocco, his basketball playing doppelganger, the correct pronunciation of GIF and eventually turn to what our players have done during the Interlull. Then we answer questions about Sol Campbell, whether or not the team has made progress this season, which German we’d like, handy naming tips for anyone expecting a baby, Raheem Sterling and other stuff too.

Remember, you can send us questions via which we’ll try and get to each week. Send them to either @arseblog or @Gunnerblog (or both) using the hashtag #arsecastextra. Best to send them Monday morning so they get noticed more easily.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast Extra on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast Extra directly – click here – 24mb MP3.

The Arsecast Extra is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android.

You can also find it on the Stitcher podcasting app for iOS and Android. Or, you can listen without leaving this page by using the player below. Remember, you can also leave comments on each episode on SoundCloud, and reviews/ratings on iTunes and Stitcher are much appreciated! Thanks.

DownloadiTunesStitcher RSS

This Arsecast Extra was recorded with ipDTL.

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But I am The Interlull http://arseblog.com/2015/03/but-i-am-the-interlull/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/but-i-am-the-interlull/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 06:40:20 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17600 Last night I faced a difficult choice. Should I watch Ireland play Poland in the European Championship qualifiers, or watch episodes of Bojack Horseman on my laptop? Bojack won, and if anyone tries to tell you the theme music isn’t one of the best theme musics of all time then]]>

Last night I faced a difficult choice. Should I watch Ireland play Poland in the European Championship qualifiers, or watch episodes of Bojack Horseman on my laptop?

Bojack won, and if anyone tries to tell you the theme music isn’t one of the best theme musics of all time then they’re quite mad indeed. In the football, Ireland drew 1-1 with a goal from Shane Long in the 90th minute but Bojack took a load of drugs and had a Burroughs-esque trip through his messed up life. I think I made the right decision.

It means Ireland stay ahead of Georgia and Gibraltar but trail Germany and Scotland by 2 points and the group leaders Poland by 3. It’s all pretty tight in there. Mesut Ozil played for Germany as they beat Georgia 2-0 while Olivier Giroud scored for France as they beat Denmark by the same scoreline.

At the Emirates yesterday Brazil beat Chile 1-0. I didn’t watch that either so I can’t comment on any of it or how Alexis played but we can say with some certainty that he didn’t score as the Chile 0 part of the scoreline is a dead giveaway.

So now, with the competitive fixtures out of the way, you’d think the players would allowed ‘home’ but for some there’s a round of friendlies taking place tomorrow night. Italy play England so I’m guessing Gibbs and Walcott could be involved, with Danny Welbeck already back at the club after tweaking his knee last week.

Tonight Colombia face Kuwait in a friendly so I assume David Ospina will be involved there; Santi Cazorla will probably be involved as Spain face Holland in the Dutch Netherlands; Tomas Rosicky is in the Czech squad for their game against Slovakia; but apart from that I don’t see games for Germany, Chile or France so Ozil, Giroud and Alexis look like they’ve got a week off to prepare for the game against Liverpool at the weekend.

All of which is, if I do say so myself, some of the most tedious and yawn-inducing football information that has ever been imparted on this site. And with a dearth of anything Arsenal related we’ll have to look elsewhere for today’s guff, starting with yesterday’s column in the Observer by Daniel Taylor. There’s a bit involving a former Arsenal player which is, frankly, bizarre.

To set the scene, there’s a Whitehall summit, arranged by the minister for Sports to discuss why there are so few black managers in the game. Sol Campbell, who has been quite outspoken about the issue has questions:

On this occasion he wanted the FA’s technical director, Dan Ashworth, to explain why Gary Neville had been fast-tracked through the system to become one of Roy Hodgson’s assistants with the England team. Ashworth started talking about the favourable impression Neville had made on Hodgson and the players and was running through the processes that were involved when Campbell put out his hand to interrupt him. This is when things started to get a little strange.

“But I am Sol Campbell.”

You can read the rest of it here.

Also from the Observer yesterday, a ‘Manifesto for a better game‘ touches on various areas of the sport which which resonate with most fans. From ticket prices to club ownership, safe-standing to the living wage, it covers a multitude of issues that the game faces and seems either unwilling, or unable, to deal with properly.

This, I love:

Above all, football is not a business. Even in the most conventional terms it fails, for the industry as a whole, despite the exponential growth of income, loses money and is swimming in debt. It is a collectively produced popular culture and its form of ownership and regulation needs to reflect that.

Except it’s the part of me that loves the idea that people should just get along with each other regardless of all the invented reasons we have to divide us. The idea that football is not just a business but something deeper is fundamentally correct, but it’s gone way too far to be able to turn it around … certainly at the highest level.

It is business, huge business, and business calls the shots for the benefit of business, with the fans, the game, the clubs and everything else as an inconvenient afterthought. I don’t know if there’s any way back from it now without measures that might appear draconian in the short-term, and I’m not sure any of the turkeys will end up voting for Christmas. Still, it’s well worth a read.

Right, that’s about that for this morning. For better or worse James and I will be recording an Arsecast Extra for you this morning, and with Arsenal news so light on the ground, you lovely people might be the ones to provide us with the talking points. If you have any questions or topics for discussion, please send to @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra and we’ll do our best to get as many of them in as we can.

That will be available for your listening pleasure before lunchtime, so stand by for that, with more nothing here again tomorrow.

Until then.

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Interlullzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz http://arseblog.com/2015/03/interlullzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/interlullzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 08:51:31 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17596 It’s good that the clocks went forward so there’s more daylight to watch the incessant rain teem down. Not a lot going on unfortunately, other than the rain. Aaron Ramsey scored one and assisted one for Wales last night and I think I saw some people say he might have]]>

It’s good that the clocks went forward so there’s more daylight to watch the incessant rain teem down.

Not a lot going on unfortunately, other than the rain. Aaron Ramsey scored one and assisted one for Wales last night and I think I saw some people say he might have picked up a groin injury but there’s nothing concrete on that. Tomas Rosicky played for the Czech Republic and that’s about as much as I know there.

Today Germany are in action against Georgia in Atlanta which should see Mesut Ozil involved.

georgia_rte

Ireland face Poland in a game which is likely to see Wojciech Szczesny on the bench again. His lack of regular playing time means he’ll lose his place to Lukasz Fabianski, a man who left Arsenal because of his lack of playing time behind Szczesny.

Some papers suggested there were going to be showdown talks between him and Arsene Wenger, but we’ll have to see what happens. Weirdly as Szczesny is now ‘relegated’ to the role of cup keeper, he could find himself in line to play in a cup final – whereas last season, while he was the undisputed number 1 at the club he had to sit on the bench and watch Lukasz Fabianski get the nod.

I mean, I get the idea of playing your second choice keeper in the cup to an extent because you want them to feel involved and keep up a bit of match practice, but when you have a game as important as a cup final you should play your best possible XI regardless of tradition or being nice to a chap. You might give a young/less experienced/lower quality striker a run-out in the early rounds but you wouldn’t play him in the final behind a guy who is obviously better.

It’s water under the bridge now, of course, but I would have picked Szczesny for the final against Hull in May. If that made Lukasz Fabianski sad because of the great part he played in getting us there, I would have said, “Thing is L-Dude, you’re leaving the club this summer because basically I think Szczesny is better than you and you know that, so I’m under no obligation to give you a nice send off because you were, essentially, just doing your job.

“You did it well, as well as a very highly paid professional should, and thanks a million for the penalty saves in the final … really appreciate that! Here’s a nice card and a lemon drizzle cake I baked myself, but the number 1 keeper is getting the nod.”

For a manager generally so thoughtful about the future and the impact his decisions have on players, their confidence and everything else, I thought it an odd decision to play Fabianski that day. A decision made more on superstition than common sense, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, on a quiet day it might give people something to argue about.

Meanwhile, at the Emirates later Brazil take on Chile – a game being presented as the clash of Alexis v Neymar. I’m sure it’ll be a fun event with balloons and party-poppers galore. Once our man comes through unscathed that’s all I care about. Maybe a goal at ‘home’ against Brazil might just be the thing to fire him up for the final part of the domestic season. Fingers crossed.

Right, more coffee. No point dragging the arse out of this one for any longer. Have a good one. And remember, your kitchen clock is probably wrong.

Till tomorrow.

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My little Arseblog http://arseblog.com/2015/03/my-little-arseblog/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/my-little-arseblog/#comments Sat, 28 Mar 2015 10:04:31 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17593 Good morning. It’s Saturday and I am somewhat hungover. Sometimes I look around a bar I’m in late at night with envy because I see people and think ‘I bet none of you lot have to get up and write something first thing tomorrow morning’. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the]]>

Good morning.

It’s Saturday and I am somewhat hungover. Sometimes I look around a bar I’m in late at night with envy because I see people and think ‘I bet none of you lot have to get up and write something first thing tomorrow morning’.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the bar is full of secret bloggers who have to do exactly that. Like the chap who runs MyLittlePugblog where he dresses his pugs up as My Little Ponies and makes them have adventures and all those strange people who like My Little Pony read them and start their day with a smile before they think about how they’re going to dispose of the people they keep captive in their basements.

However, I doubt it. If you run a blog like that my guess is you don’t spend a lot of time out late at night because you like to stay indoors and do things to yourself. With implements, and that. If I’m unfairly stereotyping then I apologise.

Us football bloggers are, of course, the epitome of normality and quotidian existence. I mean, what’s more everyday than getting up every day of your life to write about some chaps who like to welly a round sphere around some grass for living?

Exactly.

There’s not a lot happening, as you would expect. Danny Welbeck apparently played well for England last night as they beat Lithuania 4-1. He scored and got an assist so he’ll be feeling good about himself this morning. His oats or granola, or whatever he’s going to have for breakfast, will taste extra delicious. However, the fact that he’s returned to us with ‘knee tweak’ is something of a worry, so let’s keep fingers crossed it’s nothing serious.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has spoken about new FA proposals which would require top-flight clubs to have 12 ‘home grown’ players in their squads. As you would expect, he’s not a fan, saying:

I believe that we are in the world of competition. Competition means either you or me is the best one. We have to accept that. That means as well that the rules of the game must be structured to favour the best or we are not in a competition anymore.

So we can say one of two things – we protect the mediocre or we produce the best players.

I am in complete agreement. For some reason England’s lack of success in international tournaments is seen as being the most important problem for those who run the game to solve. I think we all remember back in the 1970s and 80s when foreign players were rare and England won the World Cup and European Championships all the time, but then foreigners arrived and they took our jobs and now England are terrible at football.

So clearly the way to solve that is to hamstring club sides because that’s where the issue us. And then when English clubs get knocked out of the Champions League at an early stage we can see the problem will be because the foreign players in the squads are keeping the super-talented English boys out of the team and new schemes will be put in place to make sure that each squad has 25 players all born within a vicar’s jizz of the stadium of said team and that local spirit will see them bring success and glory back with a jolly how do you do, a throw of their flat cap in the air and manly hug for all around them and certainly not a continental kiss on each cheek.

I think most people want to see local players do well. At Arsenal we’ve certainly given them plenty of chances and made room for them in squad. The much vaunted ‘British Core’ is great to see but ultimately those players should only play if they’re the best players, not because of their passport or where they were born. It’s up to them to fight their way into the team, because if they’re there by default then it will do absolutely nothing to raise the standard of player which, I assume, is the thinking behind such a scheme.

Could the FA not consider more investment in youth football, better coaching, a focus on skill and technical ability above and beyond stamina and aggression, and countless other measures that would improve young players? That’s what will make them better, and give them a better chance in a truly competitive environment rather than one that has been artificially weighed in their favour.

It’s the real-life equivalent of giving every player in your FIFA team 100 speed, winning every game you play with a doctored team, but then wondering why you’re still losing when you have to play with everything reset to normal. But then actual joined up thinking regarding football, especially by those who have authority, is rare, so I don’t think we should be surprised by this proposal despite how stupid it is.

Right, that’s about as much as I can manage. Catch you tomorrow, have a good Saturday.

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Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review http://arseblog.com/2015/03/arsenal-gentlemans-weekly-review-65/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/arsenal-gentlemans-weekly-review-65/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:14:09 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17591 Since my last epistle Woolwich have visited something of a happy hunting ground, the Sports Direct Big Fat Lad Howay Man Toon Time St. James Park Comedy Arena. Do you know the place? The one with the famous atmosphere that mysteriously seems to evaporate when the buggers go a goal]]>

Since my last epistle Woolwich have visited something of a happy hunting ground, the Sports Direct Big Fat Lad Howay Man Toon Time St. James Park Comedy Arena. Do you know the place? The one with the famous atmosphere that mysteriously seems to evaporate when the buggers go a goal down, or even without a goal? There’s nothing like the atmosphere at St. James’s, a fat man with OOR MAM tattooed on his distended belly will tell you. Well that’s odd, because having been there, in the somewhat secluded upper arse end of the stadium where they deposit the away chaps, it sounds very much like being at Norwich or Leicester or Tottenham Hotspur. Small clubs with fifty or so drunkards distributed evenly around the ground attempting to get people to sing with middling results.

I apologise for rudeness, Geordies, but I speak only the truth. The normal and expected pleasure of winning at this phoney bastion of soccer, the look on Alan Pardew’s face as the referee blows the silver snail* for the last time, was sadly denied us. Yet Mr. Carver, his replacement, has an agreeably peasantish visage and nonetheless provided a post-match visual joke.

It did seem, after oranges, that it was only Toon’s wanion that graced Arsenal with the three points. Brigadier Goring-Hildred, in the form of his life, had put the chaps two up with a brace of goals from set plays. The first from a zinging St. John Cousins free-kick, flicked on by Welé and expertly guided in via a rarely seen Stand-to-Attention** and then a delightful noggin-bobbler from a corner for his SEVENTEENTH of the season and his ninth in nine games. “Go and boil your head,” he says to Toon defender Mr. Michael Williamson as he nods it home. And he may well have had a hat-trick had not our Senegal Sir, Mr. Ramsara, not diverted a cross from his path.

How well The Brigadier links up with our buzzing little hornet, Whizzbang Saunders. Saunders is the kind of chap who likes to wear a pair of pince-nez when he plays. Not because he needs them, but because it enhances the sense that whilst he twists and turns like a dervish, he could quite easily whip out a volume of Kipling mid-sprint and still not lose the ball. Yoicks! When he gets that ball the charge in the air is as if conjured by that fiendishly clever yankee, Mr. Tesla himself.

Mr. Welé, so brutish and powerful. Freed from the chains of Newton Heath Home for Lunatics, is quite the revelation. Gardyloo, I say to opposing defenders, for here is a coal-fired battering ram of a player, and express train, a Brazilian express. You will be watching him move, you will blink, and he will be on yonside of you haring down on goal like an amphetamine infantryman after a St George’s Cross.

Second half the Humbugs were much improved, which was hardly surprising considering their rotten first half performance. Mr. Cabella suddenly remembered he was a professional foot-baller and began asking serious questions, such as who was the daughter of Keikobad, king of the spirits? (The Woman without a Shadow (referring to the Hugo von Hofmannsthal/Richard Strauss opera) and also, why is your defence still a tad iffy on occasion? To which the answer is a bit of a shrug and a point of the finger toward Whizzbang Saunders.

Wonderful to see Jonas Gutierrez back in action. I bestow upon him that rarest of honours, a Gentleman’s Name, and he shall forthwith be known as Johnny Garlinge. Have you checked your taters recently by the way? Why not do it now? More details here but essentially you hold your swinger sack in the palms of your hands so that the thumbs and fingers of both hands are free to feel your chuckles. Every man jack of you should do it.

All this talk of genitals brings me finally to the matter of Harold Kane, currently swinking away up front for Spurs and now gold help us England. This one-season wonder from Middlesex, who is this week laying hands on the sick and curing chronic diseases just by glancing at the afflicted with this strange, sinister grin. Mr. Shearer, over-rated striker for the aforementioned Humbugs, among others, has said that Harold Kane is a bit like him. This is true, in that a) they both played for small clubs – in Shearer’s case, Southampton, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United and in Kane’s case Tottenham Hotspur. How sad for Mr. Shearer that he was doomed to play for these minnows for his entire career. We only hope that a similar fate does not await Mr. Kane, for there are clubs much bigger than Spurs who would snap him up – Everton, Hull or QPR for example. We wish him (not very) well.

And so to the interlull. This evening England will struggle for a narrow victory over the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in their efforts to get to the European Championships for further humiliation. I suggest to the Football Association withdrawal from all foreign competitions and the establishment of the Empire Cup. Yet I think we would fail to win even that. Roll on April 4th and the visit of Mr. Rodger’s Frauds.

Toodle Pip!

* The referee’s whistle
** A kneed goal

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Akpom joins Forest on loan: Walcott muddies the waters http://arseblog.com/2015/03/akpom-joins-forest-on-loan-walcott-muddies-the-waters/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/akpom-joins-forest-on-loan-walcott-muddies-the-waters/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 06:43:41 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17586 It’s Friday, it’s 5.54am and it’s the Interlull. Not a good combination for anything, unless you’re into being up really early during a particularly tedious time of the season. Those of you seeking excitement will have to look elsewhere this morning because we haven’t even loaned out a youth team]]>

It’s Friday, it’s 5.54am and it’s the Interlull. Not a good combination for anything, unless you’re into being up really early during a particularly tedious time of the season.

Those of you seeking excitement will have to look elsewhere this morning because we haven’t even loaned out a youth team player that most people haven’t heard of or anything. We have, however, sent Chuba Akpom on loan until the end of the season to Nottingham Forest.

It’s an interesting move for both parties. Akpom, while too good for youth/reserve team football isn’t yet ready for the Arsenal first team, so needs to play at a more competitive level. Forest sit 10 points off the play-off places in the Championship and need goals to help bridge that gap. There are still plenty of games for him to make an impact in too.

He’s very highly rated at Arsenal but then that’s true of so many youngsters that have reached this point of their career, and then found the step-up a challenge they haven’t quite been able to manage. Still, with a new three and half year contract here under his belt, he should arrive at the City Ground with the pressure off confident he can give Arsene Wenger something to think about it. Hopefully he’ll do just that with goals, because that’s what will make the manager sit up and notice.

Meanwhile, Theo Walcott spoke about his contract situation yesterday. After denying rumours of a training ground bust-up with Arsene Wenger (a denial that simply made more people than ever heard the story in the first place ask ‘There was a bust-up?!), he talked about the recent report which said that talks between the club and his camp were ‘on hold’.

He said:

There have been no contract talks as yet and my current focus is not on contracts but on doing my best for Arsenal FC.

You might remember last week, when we last spoke about this, I mentioned this kind of response where a player says they only want to concentrate on their football etc etc. It’s a massive red herring because players have little or nothing to do with the contract renewal process until it comes time to sign on the dotted line.

A player’s agents and lawyers meet with the clubs officials and they do the necessary. The player will obviously inform his people what he wants or his prepared to accept (or might be guided completely by them, depending), but it’s not as if he turns up in the morning and says ‘Sorry boss, too busy to train. I have to thrash out a deal with Ivan and Dick and they’re being complete meanies!’)

By any standards it’s a fairly transparent, and ultimately unnecessary, public declaration from Theo. What he says is pretty much at odds with what Arsene Wenger has said about the club’s attempts to negotiate (going back as far as last November). And it’s not as if having contract talks at this point, when a player is heading into the final year of his deal, is uncommon or strange. It’s perfectly normal, but obviously Walcott and his people feel they’re best served by hanging on until summer.

Which, by the way, they’re perfectly entitled to do. Their job is to get the possible deal for their client. They’re not interested in the slightest about what’s best for Arsenal, and why should they be? You might like to think a player who has been here since 16 might be more inclined to have those kind of thoughts, but expecting footballers to feel things the way we might as fans is a surefire way of setting yourself up for disappointment.

It means that the club is going to have to manage this situation in the summer. It’s sign or sell, in my opinion, and I have no doubt that there’s an impasse between the two sides at the moment. Arsenal might look at this as the optimal time to cash in on a player who averages just over 8 goals a season in his time at the club and, perhaps, use the money towards an upgrade.

Meanwhile, some interesting words about Walcott from England manager Roy Hodgson who says:

Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you can be injured. But then suddenly your position, which had looked very secure, suddenly six months down the line is not so secure. That’s something all footballers learn to live with.

But he’s got to satisfy a few of his critics and, if you like, make certain a) he stays fit and b) gets his place back as one of the first names on the Arsenal team sheet. When he does that, he might be pushing for a first name on the England team sheet.

And that is absolutely the case with him. To my mind the big question is whether or not Theo Walcott is somebody who will see his first job as to fight his way back into this Arsenal side. Or, does the contract situation provide leverage for him to secure a new deal with us, and if that’s not to his liking then he knows Arsenal will be forced to sell him rather than let him leave on a free?

He says he’s focused on doing his best for Arsenal, I guess the proof of that will be in his performances. When he’s picked.

Right, that’s about that. No Arsecast this week because of the Interlull, so have yourselves a good Friday, more from me tomorrow.

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The Battle of Highbury 1934 http://arseblog.com/2015/03/the-battle-of-highbury-1934/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/the-battle-of-highbury-1934/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:27:16 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17584 This Sunday, the Emirates Stadium will again host international football as Gabriel’s Brazil square up to Alexis Sanchez’s Chile. Arsenal’s new stadium has a recent history of entertaining the Seleção, whose friendly games have become something of a global roadshow. But Arsenal have provided the canvas for international football prior]]>

This Sunday, the Emirates Stadium will again host international football as Gabriel’s Brazil square up to Alexis Sanchez’s Chile. Arsenal’s new stadium has a recent history of entertaining the Seleção, whose friendly games have become something of a global roadshow. But Arsenal have provided the canvas for international football prior to the new stadium and its significant mortgage. Highbury was the venue of an international match or two. None more famous than a 1934 friendly between England and Italy, which has since been dubbed ‘The Battle of Highbury.’

The match was significant for Arsenal not solely because they played genteel hosts. November 1934 saw the peak of Herbert Chapman’s great Gunners side – even if the sculptor himself had shuffled off this mortal coil in January of the same year. In those days, only eleven players were called up for international sides. On this occasion, the England selectors deigned to choose a total of five Arsenal players. Goalkeeper Frank Moss, Eddie Hapgood, elected to captain the side, Ray Bowden, Wilf Copping and Cliff Bastin all made the cut (as did a 19 year old Stanley Matthews).

Withdrawals through injury saw defender George Male and striker Ted Drake added to the line-up, bringing the Arsenal contingent to seven. In addition to this, Arsenal manager George Allison provided radio commentary for the match. The game has earned a place in Highbury (and indeed, England) folklore, not just because of the Arsenal-centric constitution of the England side. But the game was played against a heavily jingoistic backdrop that tied itself inextricably to the rise of nationalism in 1930s Europe. It was something of a physical game, to say the least.

With typically British restraint, the Guardian’s match report described the game as “a match of unusually robust character.” In his autobiography ‘Football Ambassador’, England skipper Eddie Hapgood was rather more candid, describing it as “the dirtiest football match I had ever played in.” The build up to the game revealed a maelstrom of political tension. For Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, the Italian national team was a key component of nationalist propaganda. His motto, “good kicking is good politics” permeated the Azzurri.

Italy were the reigning world champions, having hoisted the trophy on their own soil in the summer of 1934, an achievement that perfectly complimented Mussolini’s fascist doctrine. England were more isolationist in their outlook, but just as jingoistic. They had refused to take part in the 1934 World Cup out of a misguided sense of moral superiority to their continental cousins. The English press dubbed the match “the real World Cup final”, regarding it as an opportunity to diminish Italy’s status and justify their supposed global superiority.

At this point, Highbury was fast morphing into one of the world’s most palatial football grounds. The West Stand and the North Bank had been redeveloped in 1932. The East Stand, with its famous façade and marble-halled entrance, was under construction (It would be complete in 1936). With Tom Whittaker as club physician, Highbury had become the leading centre for treatment of sports injuries in Europe. Tennis players such as Fred Perry and Bunny Austin were known to have used the seemingly space age facilities.

Highbury’s redevelopment had been noticed as early as 1931 and was selected to host an international between England and Spain in December 1931. The late Chapman had been a very early proponent of a European Cup competition. His pleas were met with deaf ears by the insular authorities (thankfully, the Football Association is a more urbane outfit nowadays and would not dream of such parochialism), but he would regularly invite teams such as Austria Vienna to play friendlies against Arsenal at Highbury. Hosting international matches suited the club’s cosmopolitan outlook.

The match itself, however, was played with a very different sense of espirit de corps. After only 2 minutes, Italy’s Argentinean centre half Louis Monti emerged from a 50-50 with Arsenal’s midfield enforcer ‘Iron’ Wilf Copping with a broken bone in his foot. Monti tried to play on, but his immobility proved too great a handicap. England scored three times in the first twelve minutes. Manchester City’s Eric Brook headed the home side ahead from a Britton free kick. The same player made it 2-0 soon after. Italian keeper Ceresoli, who had earlier saved a penalty from Brook, elected not to erect a wall as Brook lined up a long range free kick, a decision he regretted instantly.

Arsenal’s Ted Drake made it 3-0 and Italy’s captain Monti decided he could no longer play through the discomfort. He left the pitch and Italy reorganised. By now, he was far from alone at the threshold of physical pain. Eddie Hapgood had to leave the pitch for 15 minutes to have his nose reset after Italian right half Attilio Ferraris “carefully smashed his elbow into my face” in Hapgood’s own words. Ted Drake was punched in the face, Ray Bowden damaged his ankle ligaments and Eric Brook fractured his elbow after a sly dig as he tried to hoist himself up from the turf. By half-time, the match had become little more than a dog fight.

The English press painted the England side as victims of a physical onslaught. The headline from the Guardian read, “TOO MUCH ROUGH PLAY BY VISITORS” in ominous capital letters. The F.A. publicly deliberated as to whether England should continue to play international fixtures in the post match fallout. The Guardian’s match report sheepishly brushes over a blow administered to Italian keeper Carlo Ceresoli, who “suffered an injury to his right groin and looked rather pale.” I wonder how that might have happened?! This one eyed view of the match apparently spread to the players too.

Hapgood alleged in his autobiography that the Italians “were getting wilder and dirtier by the minute.” Yet he describes teammate Wilf Copping’s “real, honest shoulder charging” and his “famous double footed tackle” with a sense of misty eyed mirth. Contrary to Hapgood’s impression of Italy’s increasing physicality, The Times match report suggests that Italy’s second half fightback was a product of a more even tempered approach. “Players who had formerly run wild began to run into position,” their reporter wrote. Italy striker Giuseppe Meazza scored twice early in the second half, despite Italy’s one man deficit, but the effort was in vain.

The Azzurri’s more focused second half display may have owed itself to more materialistic overtures. It was rumoured that Mussolini, aware of the political importance of the match, offered the Italy side a £150 per man bonus, a new Alfa Romeo car a piece and exemption from military service as inducement for victory. The English press were very cognizant with the spirit of partisanship. The Daily Mirror triumphantly declared that the 3-2 victory offered “irrefutable proof that Italy are world champions in name only.” Famous sports cartoonist Tom Webster captioned his match illustration with, “You never know when this Latin temperament is going to leave the field and set about the spectators.”

One newspaper reporter, in response to the fiery conduct on the Highbury turf, sardonically referred to himself as “War Correspondent.” It was an apt quip really, the game was an intense physical battle against a backdrop of jingoism. Ultimately, little was resolved in the propaganda playground. England continued to regard themselves as “moral” world champions. Italy, feeling cheated by the early injury to Louis Monti, were christened “The Lions of Highbury” by the Italian press for their brave fightback with a one man arrears. It remains one of the most infamous games Highbury ever staged. Let’s hope that Gabriel and Alexis are more congenial when they lock horns at the Emirates on Sunday.

Follow me on Twitter @Stillberto

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Interlull: Arsenal’s Room 237 http://arseblog.com/2015/03/interlull-arsenals-room-237/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/interlull-arsenals-room-237/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 07:31:09 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17574 I’m not paying much attention to what’s happening in the Interlull other than to keep an eye out for stories about our players being smooshed and bashed and beflobbled by bad tackles and/or muscle strains. However, it’s hard to escape the news that Nicklas Bendtner scored a hat-trick last night]]>

I’m not paying much attention to what’s happening in the Interlull other than to keep an eye out for stories about our players being smooshed and bashed and beflobbled by bad tackles and/or muscle strains.

However, it’s hard to escape the news that Nicklas Bendtner scored a hat-trick last night because my Twitter timeline was full of people saying ‘Jesus, Bendtner scored a hat-trick!’. Denmark beat the USA 3-2 last night and TGSTEL got all the goals.

Of course this is of no relevance to us because he’s not an Arsenal player anymore so it just shows you the level of nothing that’s going on when I have to mention it. The big story of the day was us giving Cardiff a Semi, so you know you’re in trouble.

So, I got to thinking about which Arsenal, or indeed former, Arsenal player would be worst suited for a role in one of today’s top television shows. This was because it occurred to me that should the zombie apocalypse take place and the world went all The Walking Dead, it’d be just my luck to get lumbered with Alex Hleb, a bloke who won’t shoot.

That was pretty much as far as I got with that one.

Anyway, I watched an interesting film over the last couple of days called Room 237. It’s sort of about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, but it’s mostly about crazy people who see things in The Shining that make them think it’s about something else entirely.

For example, there’s a tin of baking powder with an American Indian on it so this one bloke thinks it’s all about the way they were treated as the white man spread across the continent. Another bloke thinks Kubrick made the film not to tell the story of Stephen King’s book, but to leave clues which showed he (Kubrick), under government orders, faked the moon landing footage on a film set.

There was someone who thought it was all about the holocaust and another who thought it was about Minotaurs. Now, Minotaurs are pretty cool, in fairness, they’re my favourite kind of taur, but why anyone would make a deliberate attempt to create a subtext in a horror movie about Minotaurs is beyond me. There’s other mad stuff in there too, and it’s quite entertaining (if a little long), simply because these people are bonkers.

I have no doubt that certain filmmakers like to have moments of symbolism in their films, and some use them as allegorical tales which reference other events/stories, but for the most part I think they just make films and tell a story. The same with writers.

I’m positive that when people say: “His choice of this word in this sentence shows that he was inspired by the works of So and So who had a huge influence on Some World Event”, it’s just that the writer just liked that word in that place at that particular time. Most of it is accidental. I know I’ve used phrases and sentences in the past, even on this blog, and somebody will say ‘Nice reference to X’, and I’m thinking ‘Er, what? I didn’t reference anything’, but when you look at it there it is.

Maybe I’m just not a deep thinker, but anyway, the idea that Kubrick made a film about faking the moon landings, Minotaurs, the rape of the American Indian, the holocaust, and all the other stuff is patently ridiculous. What’s happened is people have looked at the film for a deeper meaning and used the bits they think are relevant to back them up. Confirmation bias, basically. You see what you want to see.

So, ‘How is this relevant to Arsenal?’, you might ask. Well, I think it’s something we’re all guilty of as Arsenal fans, and indeed as football fans. We have strong opinions, we like to have those opinions reinforced by what we see. For example, those who feel Calum Chambers isn’t a good option at right back will point to the three tackles he missed against Newcastle on Saturday, but won’t take into account the nine good ones he made and all the other good defensive work he did.

Theo Walcott only making 6 passes in a game says a lot to me about what I think about him, and I fully accept that, but others will point to less tangible qualities like his movement, or how his pace scares defences and has a knock-on effect which is beneficial to the team.

It’s interesting, because for so long we judged only on what we saw with our own eyes in the 90 minutes, and maybe a repeat watch of some highlights (which as we know can be misleading at the best of times). Nowadays, everyone has access, if they want it, to fairly detailed stats after each game.

If you use the StatsZone app, for example, you can look at a team’s performance, as well as individual stats which cover every aspect of player’s game, his attacking performance, his defensive contribution, pass combinations, which direction the passes went in, how many duels they’ve won and so much more. You now have to, and I do think it’s necessary to make an informed judgement on a player’s performance, look at it from a traditional and statistical point of view.

If the data is there, it seems foolish not to use it. Often times it confirms what I thought from watching the game, but there have been many other occasions when I’ve thought a player was ineffective or played poorly, but when you look at their output it was nowhere near as bad as you thought.

There was one game recently when my eyes were surprised at how often Santi Cazorla failed to complete his passes, the stats showed me he failed to make 3 of about 60 passes. So maybe, because it was Cazorla and you expect more from him, that what you see is skewed by what you expect.

Of course there are people who will tell you, almost every time stats are used, that stats don’t tell the full story but I don’t think anybody has ever suggested they do. What they can do is provide more context to what you’ve seen during a game. I’m sure there’s more than an element of seeing what you want to see when you watch live, but with more information after the fact that perspective is challenged – and that’s a good thing in my opinion.

Anyway, enough prattling for me. For those of you desperately seeking to find the hidden meaning in this blog it’s about the Irish famine, the fact that ELO were behind the death of John Lennon, and the rise of the Neoliberalism in Western Europe.

Till tomorrow.

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Interlull: Unpopular opinions http://arseblog.com/2015/03/interlull-unpopular-opinions/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/interlull-unpopular-opinions/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 07:17:20 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17565 It’s Interlull, it’s quiet, there’s nothing going on unless we want to discuss the fact that Mesut Ozil was seen in a Berlin nightclub on Saturday night, and to be perfectly honest I’d rather chew my own leg off than get into that. So, with a doff of the cap]]>

It’s Interlull, it’s quiet, there’s nothing going on unless we want to discuss the fact that Mesut Ozil was seen in a Berlin nightclub on Saturday night, and to be perfectly honest I’d rather chew my own leg off than get into that.

So, with a doff of the cap to the Gunners sub-Reddit, where I saw this kind of thread appear, let’s try spark some discussion today with ‘Unpopular Opinions’. Things you think that you know might not go down well, but that you firmly believe. For example:

Mikel Arteta still has a role to play in this team

The captain has been easily forgotten due to his injury absences this season, and the latest lengthy one in particular. The emergence of Francis Coquelin has played a major part in that too. The Frenchman’s combative performances in midfield have added something to the team that is has been missing for quite a while and I’m delighted to see him take his chance the way he has.

At 33 Arteta is hardly one for the future, but I still think he’s got a part to play in this team. For a start, I could see him play alongside, or at least close to, Coquelin in certain games. His calmness on the ball and his experience are good assets for us to have. There’s also the need to ensure Coquelin doesn’t wear himself out and I’d still pick Arteta over Flamini if that were the case.

He’s an important man around the dressing room too, a good, professional leader and an example to the younger members of the squad, and the one year extension he’s already signed means he’ll be around next season.

I prefer Wojciech Szczesny to David Ospina

I know the Colombian has his fans and I understand completely why. Szczesny’s form was poor and his behaviour worse. He deserved to be dropped and Ospina has done nothing to warrant losing his place.

I still prefer Szczesny as a goalkeeper though. I think Ospina has benefitted from playing behind the most settled defence of the season with the addition of a defensive midfield specialist, whereas Szczesny, a bit like Mertesacker, suffered from being part of a back four that didn’t know its arse from its elbow in the early part of the season.

You can say Szczesny was part of the reason why and that’s fine, I get that. I still prefer his style of goalkeeping and I think his portrayal as some kind of Almunia-esque clown is way off the mark. I can understand why he rubs people up the wrong way, but he was the joint winner of the Golden Glove with Petr Cech last season, and it wasn’t by accident.

If we can be rightly critical of his failure to push on this season, I wonder how much the decision, a bad one in my opinion, to play Lukasz Fabianski in the FA Cup final last season has played a part.

The manager got it right with Lukas Podolski

There was uproar from certain quarters when we let Lukas Podolski go on loan to Inter Milan in January. “Why are we letting our best finisher go?”.

The team hasn’t missed him, and he’s done nothing in Serie A to suggest that the decision was anything other than 100% correct. He’s yet to score for Inter and come the summer he’s going to be sold.

The same goes for Joel Campbell

Although he signed a new deal before he left on loan to Villarreal, I don’t think he’s got a future with us. He failed to make the team most of the time, often he wasn’t even on the bench, but for some reason his absence vexed a lot of people as if this was a World Class talent we were wasting. I suspect a lot of that had to do with the fact the team were under-performing and he was seen as somebody we could try to do something different.

I thought he had one decent game in the World Cup and that was about it. People’s expectations for him were way out of line with his current talent/ability. Maybe the loan at Villarreal will allow him to take the big step forward required to be part of this Arsenal team, but 13 games and no goals isn’t the kind of form that pushes you into Arsene Wenger’s thinking.

We’re not missing Theo Walcott

We can speculate all we want about how much the contractual situation is playing a part in Walcott’s absence from first team action. We might suspect it’s playing a role, as we’ve been here before with him and the manager benched him then too, but none of us really know.

What we can say is that the team isn’t missing him. On current form, with 14 wins from 17 games in 2015, we’re coping without him quite fine. It’s also becoming apparent that he’s heading towards Goldilocks porridge territory when it comes to his deployment.

It can’t be too hot, or too cold, it has to be juuuuuust right before the manager will use him. Even with Ozil absent and Alexis knackered, he wasn’t picked for a game away from home at Newcastle last weekend. He didn’t get off the bench in the second half because he’s not the kind of player you can use in those circumstances, when you have to defend like mad.

From a position where he was our highest paid player, and so important that the club had no choice but to keep him on the wages he demanded, he’s become a marginalised figure and bar injuries and the porridge being just right for certain games, he’s not in our best XI.

So, there you go. Hopefully that won’t make us fall out or anything, but feel free to chip in with your own in today’s Arses. It might help some of the time pass during a tedious Interlull day.

I’ve got to take my car for the NCT today, it better pass or else rage. Ok, resigned disappointment and a promise to get the things fixed but inside I’ll be spewing.

Have fun, and keep the discussion mannerly! Till tomorrow.

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Wilshful thinking http://arseblog.com/2015/03/wilshful-thinking/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/wilshful-thinking/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 15:21:51 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17561 It is difficult to look at Arsenal’s record before and after the home loss to Manchester United and not be filled with some combination of regret, rue and rage. Before it, Arsenal had played 18, won 7, drawn 7 and lost 4. Since then, they have played 26, won 21,]]>

It is difficult to look at Arsenal’s record before and after the home loss to Manchester United and not be filled with some combination of regret, rue and rage. Before it, Arsenal had played 18, won 7, drawn 7 and lost 4. Since then, they have played 26, won 21, drawn 1 and lost 4. The start to the season stings, especially now as things are becoming that bit closer at the very top of the table.

The three main causes of the struggles were fairly clear: injuries, cover in defence and, most of all, the system. Most of the players seemed ill-suited to the 4-1-4-1, almost everyone was struggling. In that setup before that United game, Arsenal won just 2 in 8, and the first of the two was Crystal Palace at home, where the winning goal came in injury time after a shift to 4-2-3-1. Not to mention Mathieu Debuchy, Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and too often Aaron Ramsey spending time injured.

Injuries were still plentiful after the United loss – in fact, more so because of it – but things began to change, most visibly in Santi Cazorla. He looked as he had not done since his first season. Still mostly in the 4-1-4-1, but now in the deeper role, he was excelling. At the same time, while Aaron Ramsey was less slick and more  functional than he had been in 13/14 when, alongside Cazorla, he seemed to be far more aware of what he role in the team.

After Ozil’s injury, Arsène attempted a few variations with the system: the 4-1-4-1 had not worked to this point, so he shifted to something more like a 4-2-3-1 with Alexis Sanchez in the central role off the main striker, making it something like Manchester City’s 4-2-2-2. Alexis flourished, but few others did; Ramsey especially struggled with the huge amount of extra space to deal with, the wingers were more cut off from the rest of the team and the defensive protection was something like a swinging door.

From there they went back to 4-1-4-1, yet now the balance was far better, which showed in the results. The  returns of Giroud and later Koscielny were a big help, but the new balance in midfield proved similarly important. With Ramsey and Cazorla still in roles that were fairly new to them, their respective intelligence on and off the ball, as well as their complementary characteristics, were the defining factors in making their partnership successful.

One of the big advantages of the 4-1-4-1, in theory, was to give Jack Wilshere a run in a central position. In the 4-2-3-1, the signing of Mesut Ozil had pushed him to third choice for the number 10 position (possibly fourth now); Ramsey’s brilliance and Wilshere’s own post-2011 struggles in the role made him firmly backup for box-to-box, and the plethora of wingers meant his chances there would remain limited there.

When Ozil returned, within a few games, it was 4-2-3-1 again. For the players Arsenal have, it is the ideal setup. It places Ozil and Ramsey in their best positions, who in turn feed their comfort back into the rest of the team, enhancing the collective unit. It provides the appropriate support for the defensive midfielder and hence protection for the defence, and keeps players close enough to lone striker so they do not get isolated.

But where does that leave Wilshere? For now, as Ramsey’s box to box role backup, but there is a case that Cazorla too has proved himself preferable in the position, at least in the short term. He lacks some of the robustness ordinarily associated with the role but his wisdom with and without the ball remains streets ahead of Wilshere’s.

Wilshere’s most encouraging set of performances for Arsenal this side of 2012 have mostly been on the wings, in the impressive early season run of 13/14 (City at home excepted). It took injuries to Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott to give him the opportunities there, and now there’s Alexis and Danny Welbeck, too. Though, with Cazorla aging and the perpetual need for balance, it is not impossible, but quite unlikely, that he could find his home on the right wing as an advanced ball-player.

The vainest hope still (against all logic, reason and evidence) exists that he could perhaps take on the role of defensive midfielder. His vision and passing range in the deepest midfield position could be something glorious, but his positioning, tracking and all-round defensive play in that position would be an outright disaster. Banking on him learning the intricacies of such a role when he is so far from it now feels deeply far-fetched.

The English National Team negated that issue somewhat by setting up in a 4-3-1-2, with two energetic, tackling-prone midfielders ahead of Wilshere acting as his protection. Wilshere was sublime, though it has only been tested against extremely poor calibre teams, and even then they could not completely protect his lax defending. Within the current Arsenal squad, only Ramsey could act as one of those ‘shuttler’ midfielders; recruiting another would certainly be easier than finding the complete Mikel Arteta replacement, but there is an issue of whether it would actually be beneficial.

It could be the best way to integrate Wilshere into the Arsenal first eleven, but would it improve on the current structure? It is also possible that he could become one of those advanced central midfielders, with a different player behind him, though it is probably the less likely outcome.

The biggest concern for Wilshere is that every criticism and fear that was evident in 2012 is still there now. Injuries, of course, have been a major issue, but since the beginning of last season, he has started 41 games, featuring in 51 overall. Long standing knocks of course have their bearing but there is only so far an injured ankle can go to explaining why he has not learned to stand in the right place, track his runners, or why he still overplays the ball on so many attacks.

Wilshere is an exceptional talent, and exceptional talent can sometimes require provisions and protection. The brilliant specialist is far preferable to the mediocre all-rounder. But he’s far from the only one in the squad with that kind of ability. In the box-to-box position, his only hope is to top one of the best all-round midfielders in the game. Hopes of displacing Ozil for number 10 are fanciful at best.

Even in the 4-1-4-1, a setup that seemed to be created with him in mind, he is not in the best eleven. Short of ripping up the functioning structures in place to accommodate him, it is extremely difficult to say what will actually happen to Wilshere.

As has always been the case, the ability is all there, but Arsenal can only wait for so long for the rest of him to catch up.

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Interlull: Some thoughts on the defence http://arseblog.com/2015/03/interlull-some-thoughts-on-the-defence/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/interlull-some-thoughts-on-the-defence/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 07:23:43 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17558 Morning all, and welcome to the Interlull. It does feel like a particularly unwelcome one given the momentum we have going right now, but on the other hand it may give a few of them some time to rest and recuperate. Francis Coquelin has done enough to become an integral]]>

Morning all, and welcome to the Interlull.

It does feel like a particularly unwelcome one given the momentum we have going right now, but on the other hand it may give a few of them some time to rest and recuperate. Francis Coquelin has done enough to become an integral part of this team but not so much that he’s away on international duty.

This break gives him a couple of weeks to get some energy back into legs which looked a bit heavy against Newcastle and, of course, allows his battered nose to heal. Per Mertesacker will stay behind also, a timely break for the man who has played most Premier League minutes for us this season.

It was interesting to note that for the Arsecast Extra yesterday there were a number of questions as to whether or not Gabriel should take his place permanently after the Brazilian’s excellent display at St James’ Park. It’s something we answer in detail on the podcast itself, but it strikes me that people do get a bit short-sighted when a new player comes in and does well.

It’s as if you should only use that new player and forget about the rest. The reality is that despite Mertesacker being in the spotlight for some of our early season defensive issues, the problems went much deeper than that. Yes, he struggled for form without much pre-season, but it had more to do with the fact we didn’t have the right balance in defence because the squad was lacking a player (one we’ve since bought).

Injuries to Debuchy and Koscielny meant we had nobody of sufficient quality/experience to partner him in the centre of the defence. Chambers was raw, Monreal did better than people give him credit for and I do think it’s a factor in his overall form this season since his return to left back, but it was far from ideal. We were completely imbalanced.

Now, having Gabriel in the squad means we’ve got three central defenders who all look like they can play together. It’s early days with the former Villarreal man, obviously, but he’s started with Koscielny and with Mertesacker (although it’s hard to make any judgement on that partnership because he went off with an injury after about half an hour), so it looks as if the manager is comfortable deploying different partnerships.

It means, should we choose to be that flexible, we might tailor our central defensive selection to particular opponents. A Mertesacker + Kos/Gabriel partnership is the more traditional, with players who complement each other in terms of their basic qualities. The German’s reading of the game allied with a quick, aggressive partner who can attack the ball higher up the pitch.

A Koscielny + Gabriel selection might allow us to play a higher line with a back four that’s not going to be short of pace. If you add Bellerin + one of the left backs, that’s pretty speedy, and might work well against particular opposition.

So, for me, seeing Gabriel have a fine performance in difficult conditions on Saturday is a really positive thing because it makes me more comfortable than we can cope with defensive absences and injuries more readily. It might allow us to develop Calum Chambers at centre-half more slowly too, because I think that’s his most likely position over the next couple of seasons.

I don’t think he’s been as bad as some suggested at right back, but with Debuchy on the way back and hopefully remaining injury free, plus the emergence of Bellerin, I think that’s going to be our one-two in that position. The Frenchman could well be fit and ready for the Liverpool game on the far side of the Interlull and as well as the young Spaniard has done, when you get to this part of the season managers are more inclined to go with experience.

I don’t think he’s got any fear of playing Bellerin, but when Debuchy is fit again he’ll come back into the team. It means that Chambers chances in that position will be few and far between, bar unfortunate circumstances, so maybe now’s a good time to work with him on the training ground and see him learn more about the central defensive role.

Again, there’s some real short-termism going on with Chambers. Everyone was highly enthused and excited by his early season form, but as time went on and he founds things difficult, there hasn’t really been the understanding that this is a young guy in his first season of playing regularly in the Arsenal first team and the learning curve is very, very steep. It was natural that he was going to find it tough at some point, but I think the underlying quality is there for him to respond well and find his form again.

One of the reasons we found ourselves with an injury crisis was the fact we didn’t have enough depth, and it now looks as if we’ve got the right amount of personnel for each position. It’s down to them as individuals to change the pecking order with their performances, but it’s still so odd to hear people dismiss and write off players because of one or two good displays by a new boy. The way of the world I guess.

Anyway, not a lot else happening other than for me to reference the podcast again and say thanks to everyone for downloading/listening. So far in 2015 alone we’ve had over 1,200,000 downloads which is amazing in that short space of time and very much appreciated.

If you haven’t already listened to this week’s Arsecast Extra you can check it out right here – and if you’ve never listened to a podcast in your life, why not start now? It’s the future, except it’s now. Or something. Go on, give it a try, you might just enjoy it!

Right, more from me tomorrow. Have a good one.

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Arsecast Extra Episode 60 – 23.03.2015 http://arseblog.com/2015/03/arsecast-extra-episode-60-23-03-2015/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/arsecast-extra-episode-60-23-03-2015/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 11:49:58 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17553 Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra with myself and James from @Gunnerblog. On this week’s show we look back on a fun weekend of Premier League action for the neutral, a good win for Arsenal at Newcastle in relatively difficult circumstances, what was a good defensive performance and another 2-1 win.]]>

Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra with myself and James from @Gunnerblog.

On this week’s show we look back on a fun weekend of Premier League action for the neutral, a good win for Arsenal at Newcastle in relatively difficult circumstances, what was a good defensive performance and
another 2-1 win. As well as that we answer listener questions about Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Mathieu Debuchy, who we’d like to sign from other Premier League clubs and an egg based conundrum.

Remember, you can send us questions via which we’ll try and get to each week. Send them to either @arseblog or @Gunnerblog (or both) using the hashtag #arsecastextra. Best to send them Monday morning so they get noticed more easily.

This week’s Arsecast Extra is brought to you in association with Desk Beers. Simply log on to their site, order the beer, and they’ll deliver you on a Friday, so you’ve got lots of delicious bottles to keep you going through the weekend.

And, if you use the code ARSECAST10 at checkout you get 10% off your first order. Note: Currently available in just UK mainland, over 18s only. Click here, or on the banner, to check it out.

Desk Beers

You can subscribe to the Arsecast Extra on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast Extra directly – click here – 38mb MP3.

The Arsecast Extra is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android.

You can also find it on the Stitcher podcasting app for iOS and Android. Or, you can listen without leaving this page by using the player below. Remember, you can also leave comments on each episode on SoundCloud, and reviews/ratings on iTunes and Stitcher are much appreciated! Thanks.

DownloadiTunesStitcher RSS

This Arsecast Extra was recorded with ipDTL.

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Football amuses as the Interlull begins http://arseblog.com/2015/03/football-amuses-as-the-interlull-begins/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/football-amuses-as-the-interlull-begins/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 07:22:54 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17548 Football, for all the ways it frustrates us, can also be really funny. Stuff happening to other teams – even if that enjoyment is fleeting, sometimes lasting only minutes or seconds – just makes you laugh. I know my brother won’t have found much funny about Steven Gerrard at Anfield]]>

Football, for all the ways it frustrates us, can also be really funny. Stuff happening to other teams – even if that enjoyment is fleeting, sometimes lasting only minutes or seconds – just makes you laugh.

I know my brother won’t have found much funny about Steven Gerrard at Anfield yesterday, but pretty much everyone in the world who isn’t a Liverpool fan did. Brought on at half-time to get his side back in the game, he lasted less than 60 seconds after his mistook Ander Herrera for a DJ who wouldn’t play Phil Collins and stamped on him.

A definite red card and one, in the circumstances, that tickled the funny bone considerably. I was all up for a draw yesterday between those two, but United’s win means there’s a 6 point gap between us and the Mugsmashers and given our next league game is at home against them then, with the right result, we can go a long way to securing the top four place at their expense.

They’ll be without Gerrard, probably not a bad thing really, but will Martin Skrtel play after he also went stampy late on the game? He could be seen quite clearly trompling all over the leg of David de Gea – it looked deliberate to me but whether or not the FA deem it worthy of a second look remains to be seen. It’s certainly as blatant as the one by Costa on whichever Liverpool player he stamped on that time, but as we know there’s a systematic, orchestrated campaign against Chelsea so that’s why that happened.

It wasn’t anything to do with Costa’s foul play at all. It was just that everyone is out to get Chelsea:

mourinho_tinfoil

Jose was relieved when he found a way to stop the suits at the FA from reading his thoughts …

 

It was nearly very funny at Hull yesterday too when the aforementioned team that is being spied on by the KGB, FBI, CIA, MI5, and JCB let in two goals in less than 2 minutes to find themselves 2-2 against the home side. Sadly they got a winner and that gives them a 7 point lead over us with just 8 games to play and they have a game in hand too.

Some of the Arsenal players haven’t yet completely ruled out the title, with Aaron Ramsey saying:

We’ll try to win every game we have left and see where that takes us Strange things happen in the Premier League, the kind of upset where City went to Burnley and lost. We’ve got to be switched on and make sure that kind of result doesn’t happen to us – but at the same time believe the teams around us will be on the end of upsets.

And Olivier Giroud backing that up:

We want to finish really strongly, and if we can win our games, then we will see if City or Chelsea miss one of their steps. You never know, you have to believe in football.

You can’t fault the attitude, that’s the way they should be thinking, but in reality it would take a huge collapse from Chelsea not to win it from this point. I think we can look back ruefully on the early weeks of this season as the main reason why we’re not really in it, but we’re in a pretty good position now and all we can do is win as many games as possible and see what happens.

Obviously there’s a chance for us to take some points from Chelsea when they visit next month, but this is a run-in in which we have to play Liverpool, the Campaigners and Manchester United (who looked revitalised yesterday –who knew that playing one of your best players rather than leave him sitting on the bench could have such an impact?!), so we can take nothing for granted, even if some of the other fixtures are obviously easier by comparison.

Anyway, we have plenty of time to consider all that over the next couple of weeks as we’ve got an Interlull to contend with. Players will scatter far and wide like … I want to make this sound poetic … like petals on a … nah … like plankton in the great ocean of li- … nope …. like dust in the wind … too cheesy … like leaves being blasted all over the yard by a leaf blower!

I think I worked that well.

It’ll mean things are pretty quiet around here for a while, but then we get to enjoy the rest of the season uninterrupted. And then it’ll be over. Summer will be upon us. No tournament to keep our minds busy and before you know it a new season will have started and in the blink of an eye you’re lying in a hospital bed aged 97 with tubes and wires and bleepy-machines, surrounded by your family with tearful grand-kids saying ‘Don’t die Pee-paw’ and then …

… erm … anyway, my point is it won’t be long before our next game.

Right, James and I will be here later with an Arsecast Extra looking back on Newcastle and the weekend events. Plus, don’t forget you can get in on the action with a question or a point of discussion, simply send it to us on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog with the hashtag #arsecastextra and we’ll do our best to get to as many of them as possible.

The podcast should be up for you before lunchtime so stand-by for that, more throughout the day in the usual places and from me here tomorrow.

Until then.

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Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal: Giroud makes the difference as defence plays its part http://arseblog.com/2015/03/newcastle-1-2-arsenal-giroud-makes-the-difference-as-defence-plays-its-part/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/newcastle-1-2-arsenal-giroud-makes-the-difference-as-defence-plays-its-part/#comments Sun, 22 Mar 2015 07:08:16 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17538 Match report – By the numbers – Player ratings – Video I don’t know if it’s amazing or not, because social media is place which exhibits the best and worst of people, but after securing our third away win on the trot, people were complaining @ me on Twitter. Maybe]]>

Match reportBy the numbersPlayer ratingsVideo

I don’t know if it’s amazing or not, because social media is place which exhibits the best and worst of people, but after securing our third away win on the trot, people were complaining @ me on Twitter. Maybe I should be used to it by now, but the self-entitlement some people feel about football is ridiculous at times.

The second half performance wasn’t great, certainly in comparison to the first, but better Arsenal teams than this one have dropped points away from home after European away trips. It used to be an actual thing, where we’d play poorly due to fatigue/midweek exertion and results against sides we would normally expect to beat weren’t as good as they should have been.

But this was our sixth Premier League win in a row and our recent schedule has seen us go to Old Trafford and win in the FA Cup, go to Monaco and win in the Champions League, and go to St James’ Park and win against Newcastle. You know, I’m pretty happy with that all things considered.

It was the absolute epitome of a game of two halves; we probably should have been out of sight by half-time but for missed chances. Danny Welbeck’s movement was great, his finishing really wasn’t. It was up to Olivier Giroud to do the necessary. For the first he got a touch on a Welbeck flicked-header to put the ball into the bottom corner, out of reach of Tim Krul, and for a period following that goal Newcastle fell apart.

Alexis set up Welbeck for one of those missed chances with a beautiful flick over the defender, but the volley wide with the goal at his mercy is the kind of chance he really should be taking. You can point to him being deployed out wide as part of the reason his goal tally isn’t as high as we’d like, but when you get chances like that they should be put away.

Alexis was frightening them, Cazorla won a corner and Giroud simply held off the defender to nod the ball into the opposite corner from his first to put us 2-0 up. That’s 9 goals in his last 9 games, and 17 from 27 appearances in all competitions this season. While some will point to the night against Monaco as a true reflection of his quality, on the basis of what he’s done this season that was an aberration. A costly one, no question, but he’s become a very reliable, consistent goalscorer – especially since his return from injury.

He might have scored more had crosses reached him and not been cut out by eager teammates, but 2-0 at the break was a nice place to be. A bit too nice, it seems, because there was a distinct lack of zip about us in the early part of the second half. Newcastle were allowed saunter down our left hand side as if there was no way they could hurt us. Challenges, if they were made, were half-hearted so Sissoko’s goal was definitely a wake-up call.

It was also a goal which, I think, sapped the energy from some of our legs. Instead of cruising to victory we now had a fight on our hands, and credit to the home side because they really had a good go. We couldn’t get control of the ball so more and more it became a backs to the wall defensive display. Koscielny, at one point, grew visibly frustrated at the inability of those ahead of him to keep possession, and he and Gabriel at centre-half had to be very strong.

The Brazilian, in particular, coped very well with what was surely the most ‘English’ game of football he’s ever been involved in, and with a referee quite content for things to become physical it was a real challenge. One he stood up to well, making 7 interceptions, 4 blocks, 11/11 clearances, 6/6 headed clearances and he wasn’t cowed by the rough and tumble of the game.

David Ospina made two good saves to keep us ahead. One from a Sissoko flick, the other with his legs after a shot heading towards his near post deflected back across the goal, and it was pretty much all Newcastle, but like we’ve done in recent times, we coped with whatever was thrown at us. It wasn’t much fun at the time, but this is now a team that can defend a lead.

I mean, if they could see fit to not conceding and/or defend a more substantial lead more often, I’d be totally cool with that, but under the circumstances, with heavy legs and a Newcastle team full of vigour, I have no complaints that we took the three points back to North London.

Afterwards, Arsene Wenger said:

We have played four games in two weeks and three away games at Manchester, in Monaco and here today, and we’ve won all three. The last 40 minutes were difficult because our legs had gone a little bit and Newcastle played very well in the second half, but we had an outstanding second half going forward. We had a fluent game by creating chance after chance and in the second half we just had to show different qualities and hang on.

It was a game which continued our recent excellent run of results. Those frustrating losses at home to Monaco, away at Sp*rs and Southampton are surrounded by a series of games which we’ve won. Since we last drew a game (Liverpool 2-2 on December 21st), we’ve won 16 and lost those three I mentioned.

To me it suggests that this is a team which, while it still has its flaws, knows how to win matches previous incarnations certainly did not. The manager’s team selections might puzzle a few people (no Walcott again yesterday even with Ozil out through illness and Alexis knackered) but he seems to be generally finding the right balance to make us a pretty efficient outfit right now.

The challenge now is to keep it going until the end of the season, and we have to pick up where we left off after the Interlull. Now, for a good draw today between United and Liverpool and a miracle result for Hull.

Till tomorrow, when James and I will have an Arsecast Extra for you, have yourselves a good Sunday.

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Newcastle v Arsenal – live blog http://arseblog.com/2015/03/newcastle-v-arsenal-live-blog-5/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/newcastle-v-arsenal-live-blog-5/#comments Sat, 21 Mar 2015 14:11:40 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17536 Join us this afternoon for live blogging of the Premier League game between Newcastle and Arsenal, kick off at 15.0GMT. Live blog is 100% free to follow on your computer or mobile device and gives you real time text commentary from the match. This season we’ve added a mobile specific]]>

Join us this afternoon for live blogging of the Premier League game between Newcastle and Arsenal, kick off at 15.0GMT.

Live blog is 100% free to follow on your computer or mobile device and gives you real time text commentary from the match. This season we’ve added a mobile specific theme which should detect your phone making it much easier to follow the updates. You can also switch to the main theme, or back, at the bottom of the page.

We’ve also set up a Twitter account @arseblog_live which will provide important updates like goals, cards, substitutions, half-time and full time scores. If you follow that and enable SMS notifications via Twitter, you can get those updates sent directly to your phone*.

Arseblog has teamed up with Paddy Power to provide you with great bets throughout the season. Click here, or click the image below, to register. For new accounts there’s a bet £5, get £20 special!

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CLICK TO LAUNCH Newcastle v Arsenal – LIVE BLOG

If you want to take part in live blog chat, you need to register an Arseblog account here and sign up. Once logged in you’ll see an option to upgrade to a season ticket premium account. 12 months access costs £10 – which works out at a whopping 0.83p per month! You can register as a user or sign in via your Twitter account.

The subscription allows us to provide a decent place for Arsenal fans to chat during the games, without the craziness you find elsewhere. There’s already a nice community building so come on in! The season ticket will also give you upgraded access to the arses.

Register with the Arseblog Portal here and upgrade to take part in live blog chat.

* not available in all countries due to Twitter restrictions

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Newcastle preview + Walcott’s contract situation takes a turn http://arseblog.com/2015/03/newcastle-preview-walcotts-contract-situation-takes-a-turn/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/newcastle-preview-walcotts-contract-situation-takes-a-turn/#comments Sat, 21 Mar 2015 09:01:37 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17533 A trip to Newcastle today to try and get three more points on the board before we go into the Interlull. On paper it’s one of those we should win: we’re in great form with five wins in a row (as well as five Premier League wins in a row),]]>

A trip to Newcastle today to try and get three more points on the board before we go into the Interlull.

On paper it’s one of those we should win: we’re in great form with five wins in a row (as well as five Premier League wins in a row), while our hosts have won just one of their last 6 and have an injury crisis that is leaving them very short for today’s game. However, Monaco was, on paper, a game we should win so we can’t take anything for granted.

We might see a couple of changes to the team today after the midweek exertions with Alexis Sanchez giving the manager some pause for thought. He’s scored just once in his last 11 games and Arsene Wenger feels that fatigue is playing a part. The difficulty though is that you want your best team out as much as possible and he’s in it, so there’s something of a conundrum for the manager:

He’s a bit fatigued. Also, because he is in a position where he has scored less, he wants to force his game and then he is more included in physical battles.

And on whether or not he’s tempted to rest him:

I have been for a long time. It’s not that he won’t let me, I will decide that! It’s just that every game now is so important, you always have a hesitation to do it.

It’s interesting to note that Alexis is only third in the number of Premier League minutes played this season with 2162. Santi Cazorla is second with 2218 while Per Mertesacker has played 2430. I suppose it’s the intensity with which the former Barcelona man goes about his business that’s slightly different. Is it possible for him to be slightly more efficient with his play or does that take away from what makes him so great to watch?

We all love when he chases back to recover a ball he’s lost, but perhaps the best thing is not to lose it in the first place. Anyway, I can understand completely why Arsene Wenger is thinking of resting him and I can understand completely why he doesn’t. He’s going through a spell of relatively poor form, but any opposition team that sees him sitting on the bench is going to be quite happy about that.

The other thing is that it becomes easier to rest a player if you have faith in the alternatives, and given that the most likely swap is Walcott then it adds another layer to things as he’s somebody the manager has been quite reluctant to use in recent weeks (and I wonder if the contract news, more on that anon, might make that reluctance greater).

Still, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Walcott get a start today with Giroud and Welbeck, maybe even Ozil, out left. At the back we could Gabriel, Gibbs, Chambers, but I do wonder how much tinkering he wants to do to a back four that has been pretty solid and consistent lately.

While the midweek game against Monaco was ultimately disappointing because of the aggregate score, it was positive from the point of view of our current momentum. That’s something we’ve got to keep going today against a team that will try hard but should find the gulf in quality too much.

Our European exit means our focus is 100% on matters domestic and that should be apparent in our performance today.

Meanwhile, in the land of Walcott the embassy has gone quiet and things have become political with regard his new contract. The timeline as far as we know, which I’ve laid out here, is:

Nov 2014 – Arsene Wenger says we’re starting to talk to him about a new contract. “We are starting to sit down with him,” he says, but warns, “It is never easy with him.”

March 2015 – The manager sounds sarcastic and not altogether pleased when asked about it, saying, “The first contacts have been established with the embassy. We will see how that progresses politically. He is very quick on the pitch but off the pitch, not always.”

Thursday night (March 19th) – A number of newspapers all run the same story mooting a Walcott move to Liverpool as the mugsmashers grow worried about Raheem Sterling’s future/contract situation. It’s almost as if those papers have been briefed by the same source. Who might that have been?!

Friday March 20thThe London Evening Standard runs a story to say that contract talks are ‘on hold’ until the end of the season with both parties ‘happy’ and ‘relaxed’ by that.

Two plus two is four, right? This is familiar territory, not just with Theo Walcott, but generally speaking from a footballing point of view. We have been here before. Not just us, of course, it’s all part of the game and the negotiating process the world over, but there’s definitely an impasse between the two sides.

The fact is that if a player really wants to stay and if a club really wants to keep him, it’s generally pretty easy to find an agreement. Where it starts to get complicated is if a player thinks he’s worth more than he’s being offered, which probably means a club isn’t convinced he is worthy of such a wage. Then you add the fact said player will have just 12 months left on his deal come the summer and the looming prospect of him leaving on a free the following year adds some urgency to the decision making process.

My feeling on this is that what Theo and his people want is beyond what the club feel he’s worth. The Walcott camp  know that the time left on his contract gives them a strong hand in the process because they can look for the Bosman,  use the threat of that to see if Arsenal will up their offer, or indeed force a sale which will see him sign elsewhere for mighty money because that’s the way it goes these days.

From an Arsenal point of view I suspect we want him to stay but we’re not prepared to make him one of the top earners because of the limitations of his game. They’re probably much more relaxed about things this time around because Walcott leaving wouldn’t be as damaging on the pitch and certainly not to the reputation of the club as it would have been last time around.

Impasse. Who will break first? Will anyone break? Will Arsenal call his bluff? Will Theo see a new club and big transfer fee as a greater assurance of first team football than he’s got right now? It’s an interesting one and it’s all set-up beautifully for a summer of will he/won’t he.

Finally, congrats to Gabriel who gets his first call up for the Brazil national side for their games next week.

Right, we’ll be here later on with a live blog of the Newcastle game, simply check back for a post with all the details or bookmark our default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.

Until then.

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Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review http://arseblog.com/2015/03/arsenal-gentlemans-weekly-review-64/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/arsenal-gentlemans-weekly-review-64/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 17:06:05 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17531 We have been here before, and before, and before and before and before. For the fifth season on the bounce, we have both excited and then exited Europe. Which begs the question: If one walks into the same door four times in a row, unless it is for a wager,]]>

We have been here before, and before, and before and before and before. For the fifth season on the bounce, we have both excited and then exited Europe. Which begs the question: If one walks into the same door four times in a row, unless it is for a wager, would one not perhaps choose a different route to the dining room the fifth time around? If one gives oneself a blast of shot to the face from one’s Purdey four times on the bounce, would it not be sensible to point the gun toward some grouse, rather than at one’s face? But that, perhaps, would not be The Arsenal Way.

The only succour is whilst we, deep down, expected this, our friends at FC Chelsea 2003 and the Abu Dhabi Vulgarians are feeling their respective European bootings much more keenly. Imagine gleefully spending somebody else’s fortune on your ghastly footballing enterprises only for your players – some of whom are receiving one million of your English Guineas per month – to look like they might be able to ‘mix it up’ with the Ryman North. The utter horror! I can assure you that Signore Mourinho’s press conference, where through teeth as tightly clamped as a nun’s legs on a prison visit, he concedes that Paris St. Germain were the better side.

Over the two legs, Woolwich were dead even with our tax-avoiding chums. It was the confounded ‘away goals’ rule, more of which later, which did for us. Losing this match in such a manner, having been so confoundedly poor in the first leg, and making Monaco look like that other great Casino town, Wigan, in the second, is so comically Arsenalistic, they may as well compile a commemorative Champions’ League poster for sale in the Arsenal Emporium with “WE’LL BUGGER IT UP, DON’T YOU WORRY” over a photograph of Mr. Windsor looking concerned.

For what it is worth, and it is worth very little, Woolwich were superb on the night. Facing Europe’s most efficiently defensive team – France’s Stoke City, if you will, Mr. Orwell, the wraith, probed and prodded pass after pass like a little sabre-wielding infantryman. A smattering of early chances fell to Woolwich: A noggin-bobbler from Goring-Hildred just smooched the upright. Mr. Kurzawa denied a Cousins spats-scuffer. Costerley hit the topgallant*.

Finally, just before oranges, Goring-Hildred, that magnificent, handsome, majestic, tumescent Brigadier was found by a wonderful Gentleman’s Favour from the excellent and eager Welé. Initially he was rebuffed by the Monaco glove butler Mr. Subasic but had the wherewithal to guide the rebound high into the Uffizi Ceiling**. Arsenal and Welé sniffed the fox, and with a hearty SOHO! SOHO! Welé attempted one fro’ the edge of the Box only to be blocked by Mr. Abdennour, who appeared to be sunbathing at the time.

And then, the agony. Would it have been kinder if Abdoulaye Ramsara, the Senegal Sir, had not scored a goal with just eleven sphincter-twitching moments remaining. I think we knew then that we had merely pushed the stiletto a little deeper between our ribs and that shortly we would stumble to the dust. When the final whistle blew, we all realised that we had effectively been knocked out by Dickens’ waif Tiny Tim two weeks ago.

To make it worse I put 10,000 Guineas on red at the casino later that evening. With precisely the same outcome as the foot-ball match.

A word then on the away goals rule. I vote that this anachronism should go the same way as the Enormous Goals Rule of 1927, whereby the goals were widened by three feet every ten minutes until we had a winner; the Low Goals Rule of 1884, which stated that if the goal was found to be lower than 6 feet from the ground then the groundsman was thrashed just before kick off; and the Yorkshire Goals Rule of 1903 whereby all Yorkshire clubs felt that they were a cut above everyone else and that therefore their goals should count twice.

Could we also draw a veil over Mr. Orwell’s rare lapse of reason when swapping shirts AT HALF TIME with Mr. Kondogbia? As all proper fellows know, the only things to be swapped with your opponent at oranges are punches. We know that he reads this organ and should feel ashamed that this unspeakably traitorous act has tarnished an otherwise splendid performance.

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Early team news, away goals + Arsecast 345 http://arseblog.com/2015/03/early-team-news-away-goals-arsecast-345/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/early-team-news-away-goals-arsecast-345/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 07:33:43 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17525 Morning all, and welcome to Friday. As we play Newcastle tomorrow, the manager’s press conference took place yesterday and in terms of the team news, there really isn’t any. Tomas Rosicky might return to the squad after a bout of illness. Other than that there’s nobody banjaxed from the midweek]]>

Morning all, and welcome to Friday.

As we play Newcastle tomorrow, the manager’s press conference took place yesterday and in terms of the team news, there really isn’t any. Tomas Rosicky might return to the squad after a bout of illness. Other than that there’s nobody banjaxed from the midweek exertions against Monaco, the likes of Debuchy, Arteta and Oxlade-Chamberlain are still sidelined, and that’s about that.

Not terribly exciting, but then it’s a bit like no news being good news. We’re reaching the stage where even relatively minor injuries can be enough to end somebody’s season, so the less we have to talk about in that regard, the better.

The biggest ‘story’ of the presser was the manager’s call, once more, for the away goals rule to be changed or, even better, scrapped entirely. It seems self-evident that when a certain rule affects you that’s when you talk about it, however many view it as Arsene Wenger using it as an excuse. The truth is that he’s been unequivocal about why we went out of Europe – it was our first leg performance, the late goal, and not taking enough of the chances we created in the two legs.

Of course when you talk about this after you go out on away goals, people accuse you of sour grapes, but if they can’t see there’s a genuine discussion to be had about this rule then that’s their problem. It’s a pain to have to qualify again that nobody is blaming anything but our own ineptitude in the tie against Monaco, but there you go.

The other thing to point out is that he didn’t summon the members of the press specifically so he could rant and rave about the away goals rule. He was asked about it at a pre-arranged press conference because it was relevant to what happened to Arsenal this week, and he gave his answer:

It’s a rule that is outdated now and has to be changed. I’ve fought for that for a long time. It should count maybe after extra time because this rule was created in the sixties to encourage teams to attack away from home. Since then football has changed. The weight of the away goal is too big today.

I think it’s one of the most ridiculous rules in football. A goal should count as one goal, the location of where the goal is scored ought to be irrelevant. The idea that it promotes attacking football is a fallacy too because it makes conceding at home so costly. Even look at our situation, Monaco had no attacking intent on Tuesday – and why would they? They knew the onus was on us after messing up in the first leg so they could sit back and defend.

Here’s Jack Wilshere talking ahead of Bayern Munich at home last season:

If it is 0-0 at home we still have a big chance of qualifying, because the away goal is massive, especially in this competition when it comes to these big games.

Ok, the idea of us playing out a 0-0 at home is kinda ludicrous, but it does illustrate the fact it’s a good result for the team playing at home in the first leg. Does that then make it more likely the away team will play an attacking game? I’m not sure it does.

Here’s Wenger from December 2013:

I have asked for UEFA to cancel the away goals. Sometimes I think there is a counter-effect as teams play at home not to concede goals. At home the first thing managers say is let’s not concede goals.

There are those who suggest that a goal scored away from home is more difficult, and therefore worth more when it comes to deciding a tie. A few people on Twitter yesterday questioned whether or not an arbitrary reward also should be given to keeping a clean sheet on your travels. It’s a reasonable question in the context of this discussion.

My personal preference would be to settle games via a penalty shoot-out. Critics of that complain that it’s a lottery, when it’s anything but. It’s a test of skill, character and nerve in a high pressure situation. It’s an exciting and fair way to decide a game that has ended when both teams have scored the same amount of goals and can’t be separated after extra-time.

It means games are won or lost by what players do with a ball. This is football. Not geographyball. If you fail from 12 yards, that’s on you, rather than an archaic ruling based on whose name came out of the hat first. I’d like to see it scrapped altogether, I doubt that it will be though because organisations that think it’s a good idea to have a World Cup in the winter in the desert can’t really be trusted to do the right thing for the game.

Right then, time for the Arsecast and on this week’s show I chat with Philippe Auclair about the Champions League exit, how we might make progress in Europe, our current form, the away goals rule and more. And there’s the usual waffle as we look ahead to a game against Newcastle which is followed by an untimely Interlull.

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Right, that’s that. News throughout the day on Arseblog News, The Gent should be here later on, and we’ll be here to preview, live blog and all the rest for Newcastle tomorrow.

Until then have a good one.

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Sanchez has lost his sizzle http://arseblog.com/2015/03/sanchez-has-lost-his-sizzle/ http://arseblog.com/2015/03/sanchez-has-lost-his-sizzle/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 18:51:28 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17523 For the purposes of this piece I am going to work on two broad assumptions in the (perhaps naïve) belief that you will be in agreement. Assumption number 1. Arsenal have been playing better in the three month period between mid-December to mid-March, compared to the period August to December.]]>

For the purposes of this piece I am going to work on two broad assumptions in the (perhaps naïve) belief that you will be in agreement. Assumption number 1. Arsenal have been playing better in the three month period between mid-December to mid-March, compared to the period August to December. Assumption number 2. The impact of Alexis Sanchez on Arsenal has reduced since the turn of the year. If you concur with these twin assumptions, read on. If not, read on anyway. You might have your mind changed.

Or else you might still vehemently disagree. In which case, you can get in touch and try to change my mind. We might both learn something from the exchange. Failing that, you could always leave me a threatening or abusive message written entirely in rage caps. Whatever man, I’m not your dad. Anyway, before you so rudely side tracked me, I was going to examine why Alexis Sanchez’s form has dwindled a tad over the last 6-8 weeks. Whilst the Chilean brings more to the table than just goals, he has only ruffled the net once since January 11th.

Admittedly he was injured for a short period in early February, but this still represents one goal in his last ten games. It took him just 29 games to reach 18 goals prior to this spell. It hasn’t proved to be a huge problem to Arsenal of course, who are scoring goals and sharing them around in much healthier portions than they were in the early part of the season. The returns of Giroud, Walcott, Özil and Ramsey have made the Gunners less reliant on Alexis for goals. In a sense, the ex-Barcelona man is probably adjusting to sharing bread winning responsibilities.

You’ve the sense that Sanchez is at his happiest when he is doing absolutely everything himself. As the old adage says, if you want something done, ask a busy person. There are few busier than Alexis, but much of his workload has been spread around more evenly. As a result, he has begun to cut a slightly less bombastic figure, much in the way that some people struggle for purpose in life upon retirement. Many have drawn a corollary between Özil’s return and Alexis’ dip and it’s a fair proposition.

I have written on a few occasions this season [12] that one of Wenger’s biggest challenges with this squad is to get the comparable yet contrasting talents of Alexis and Özil working in tandem. The methodical scientist and the stuntman. Their conflicting skill-sets give opposition defences a smorgasbord of worries to firefight, but there is an equal danger of these two opposites not harmonising.

Özil likes to wander laterally into space, this often sees him move from the centre to wide positions. He drifts both with and without the ball in this manner. Alexis likes to wander laterally, but he likes to do so with the ball, from the flank and into central areas. At the moment, I think the German may be getting in Sanchez’s way in that respect, because Alexis often finds Özil standing in the areas he likes to run into with the ball, i.e, where the space is. I do not anticipate this being a long term issue, it’s just a case of familiarity.

Playing mainly from the left last season, Santi Cazorla suffered a similar issue. Özil’s preference for floating into space ran at odds with the Spaniard’s desire to roam inside with the ball. But Cazorla is a smart player and by the end of last season, he had adjusted and learned to dovetail with the German much more effectively, with the two happily trading places between left and centre. I think with a little time, Alexis will learn to do the same. He may even reason that with Mesut Özil present, there is less need for him to become involved with the build-up play and he might even move 10-15 yards further forward.

Here he could concentrate on creating havoc further up the pitch, especially with his movement off the ball. He may even begin to benefit from the silver service Özil offers in terms of provision. I also still believe that Wenger is after a playmaker to complete the balance of his front three. A Reus or Draxler style player to once and for all fill the Pires shaped hole in his attacking triumvirate, which is probably still a little workmanlike.

Alexis’ waning goal contribution is also likely a symptom of Arsenal’s midfield. I touched on this in my piece on Theo Walcott last week, with the likes of Ramsey, Wilshere and Arteta unavailable, the midfield three has had an offensive look to it, which has required Arsenal’s wide forwards to be more structured and disciplined. Alexis’ fastidious work rate means he can execute that function, as he showed to marvellous effect in the win at Manchester City in January, where he played more like a wide man in a midfield 5 as opposed to a front 3.

Whilst many have broached the potential mismatch with Mesut Özil, fewer have spotted the correlation with Nacho Monreal nailing down the left-back slot. The New Year’s Day defeat to Southampton represented the last time that Kieran Gibbs was selected ahead of Monreal for a league game in which both players were fully fit. Alexis usually plays from the left and his most typical action is to collect the ball from the left hand side and move inside with it. Gibbs likes to career forward towards the by-line and this allows Alexis to use him as a decoy.

Monreal has improved his attacking play, but he thinks much more like a midfielder, carefully and methodically contributing to Arsenal’s build up play. Monreal subscribes slightly more to the technical tenet of Mesut Özil, preferring to penetrate with short passes and combinations. Whereas Gibbs is more suited to the Chilean’s more impulsive “up and at ‘em” approach to attacking from the flank. It’s not a huge coincidence that Alexis’ solitary goal in his last ten appearances was assisted by Gibbs.

There are other, more cerebral reasons for Alexis’ relative decline. For a start, given the intensity with which he plays, you would forgive him for being a touch weary at this stage of the season. He is accustomed to having a winter break in La Liga, a liberty not afforded him in the Premier League. We saw how this adjustment affected Özil last season and a glance across London will show you that Diego Costa is suffering a mini-slump himself following his move from Atlético Madrid. Alexis’ injury in late January disturbed his rhythm slightly. What’s interesting is that he was injured immediately after having been rested for the cup tie at Brighton.

He had been involved in all but 11 minutes of the 8 games prior to that. It’s possible that a player like Alexis needs his momentum to be pendulous for the sake of his fitness and form. I do not think his recent form will be a long term concern. I think he just needs to acclimatise to his teammates a little more. He is incapable of playing with anything other than with total fervour, so I don’t see confidence becoming an issue either. Were he to even have the vaguest inclination to do so, he simply wouldn’t know how to hide.

Follow me on Twitter @Stillberto

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