Should we be pleased with the fixture tampering by TV companies?

It’s bloody typical that the start of the season for me is choca-block with things I can’t get out of, like stag dos, weddings and other such family occasions. But, what is more bloody typical is that having already made my plans to unfortunately offload my tickets to a couple of games, I find myself now frantically trying to undo my own efficiency because Sky and BT Sport have had their wicked way with the fixture list.

Sunday lunchtime football against West Ham and Monday night against Liverpool means that in theory I could still make both games. I suspect I’ll possibly have to miss out and there’s consolation in the fact that Arsenal are on TV every week for the first month of the season, but given that I’ll be starved of live football by the time I get to rock up at The Emirates (for me there is nothing quite like the whole experience, pre match chin wagging, smells, sights, etc, of going to the games) I’ll have come back from my second sojourn to Pottugal in September.

Despite the fact that this fixture tampering will mean I can still watch all the games with consummate ease wherever I am, I still long for the halcyon days of 3pm kick offs every week. I know I should just get on with my life and know that they’re never coming back, but it still doesn’t stop me from pining for it, you know? Michael Jackson has long departed from this earth, but I still wish I could watch him sing live and in the flesh.

Perhaps we should all take it as a positive sign. Sky and BT clearly think there’s enough about this Arsenal team this seaso. To challenge for this title, which is why they are snaffling up every game until September in which to show Arsenal. With our existing squad and the additional of a top-notch ‘keeper, the bookies may be thinking us challengers. That’s nice, isn’t it? I do prefer when you’re completely ruled out and you challenge from a position nobody thought you could, but there’s a reason bookmakers are all in business and it’s not because they take punts on things. They’re usually right for a reason and whose Chelski will be odds on again in 2015/16, I’d be interested to see where they place us.

The only two rumours worth a look today appear to be the Rosicky stuff to Sparta Prague and the Pedro stuff to Arsenal. On both accounts we have players who have only recently just had extensions to their contracts agreed which is weird, because on both accounts you have players who have been shunted further down the pecking order last season, so whilst both had extensions sorted, you have to wonder if it was to protect their values as assets rather than because the club has plans to push them back in to the first XI. Whilst I can see the logic in doing that with a 27-year-old Pedro, I don’t think there would be much cash you could glean from a Rosicky transfer, so I’d guess that the only way that transfer is going to happen is if Tomas himself says he’d like to head home. Arsène is the type of guy that wouldn’t stand in the ‘Little Mozart’s way if he did decide he wanted more game time, so if a bid came in from the Czech club it would be a decision for the player that could see us lose somebody in a similar fashion to the way in which we acquired Cech. But hey, whilst we love Rosicky, we all know that he’ll be a peripheral player next season. So perhaps there’s more than a bit of general speculation to that one.

Anyway, that’s yer lot from me today. I’ll catch you tomorrow.

Arsenal don’t sign ‘ALL the players’ shocker

You can tell this is the calm after the transfer storm that was Monday, because there ain’t a lot going on right now, friend. I mean, when one of The Evening Standard’s main Arsenal stories that I had a look on News Now this morning is one in which Petr Cech’s day of signing is video montaged on to a webpage so we all have a click and watch, you can tell evening the professional backs are scraping the barrel for news. 

Heck, even in non Arsenal-related transfer news it all seems quiet on the Western Front, with Sky Sports this morning reporting that United are yet to go back to Southampton with a concrete second bid.

So…basically what you’re telling us, Sky, is that nothing has happened?

In which case, I too, can confirm exclusively that Arsenal have not made official bids for:

  • Leo Messi
  • A clone of Thierry Henry
  • Ralph Macchio from The Karate Kid
  • Jon Snow’s corpse
  • All seven of the dwarves – Snow White simply couldn’t release any of them I’m afraid
  • The man who hands me a copy of The London Evening Standard every day at Waterloo station.

With these revalations now out in the public domain, you have no idea how good I feel, like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I thought it might have been the early morning shock to my system, coupled with a slightly underdone bit of last nights dinner, but it turns out is that it was just those transfer speculation gems that I was holding back for you. Phew.

There’s some stuff on the official site which is a bit more info from the big man himself talking about how he could have signed for Arsenal, but had difficulties because the Czech Republic was not part of the EU at the time. Gosh-dammit, Janet, why couldn’t those bean-counters in Brussels have worked faster and harder, eh? If they’d have just pulled forward the entry into ‘the club’ earlier, we’d have avoided all of the Almunia’s and Fabianski’s and probably be in the same position we are today, albeit with that £10million+ back in our bank accounts!

But it doesn’t matter. We’re here now and everybody’s happy. Well, for now, that is. There’s always next week when a player who we weren’t in for, probably wouldn’t improve our team, nor be any kind of major impact signs for another one of the ‘big’ clubs and we end up seeing a small section of Arsenal Twitter meltdown like its just been sprayed with molten lava from Volcana (been reading Marvel Secret Wars lately). But until that happens we should just continue to bask in the awesomeness of what we have around us at the moment. It’s sunny, we’ve just signed a proven and excellent ‘keeper, plus we’re FA Cup holders. I just thought I’d throw that in there because it’s easy to forget that we win trophies now. Y’know, what with it happening every season these days.

Yep, things are all right at the moment, aren’t they? Arsenal have finally got the hang of this ‘transfers’ malarkey. Sign one just before a heatwave in England, let everybody feel good, then just as the dust begins to settle, we’ll be at the Community Shield forgetting all about signings (maybe) and just focusing on the football. Happy days.

And on that cheery note, I shall bid you adieu. 

Ticking the boxes in Cech saga; rolling back the transfer clock

A Quick mosey around the online football world and what do you know? More ‘angles’ on the Cech deal. Surely it’s all reaching its inevitable conclusion now, right? I mean we’ve had the discussions between the clubs over a fee already poured over to the nth degree, the wages have been laid out bare for everyone to see and the whole world seems to know that Cech is on his way, but we were still waiting on former player mistakenly tweets something.

Thankfully we’ve now ticked that box, with former Arsenal full back (Ralph) Lauren telling the world that Cech was signing and it was a good move. Well that’s it now, right? Right? After all, Ralph has spoken and we all know that he’s Arsene’s right hand man, who regularly speaks to Le Boss and plays the role of confidante on the most intimate of Arsene’s Arsenal thoughts.

Or, to put it another way, he’s an ex-Arsenal player who knows about as much as you and I and therefore was just tweeting a message of what he thought would be a good signing when it happens. That doesn’t stop the media from going nuts though, eh? Anything for a bit of click-baiting.

Still, it could be worse. They could be really trying to pull an Arsenal transfer rabbit out of a hat by declaring that Jack Wilshere’s future is still up in the air amid interest from Moneychester City. This despite the fact that Jack has repeatedly stated that he wanted to stay at Arsenal, was referred to by Ivan as “one of you” at a recent Q&A and has also been told be Arsene Wenger – who has also told us through the official site – that he is not for sale. Yet still these rumours persist. I wonder if Moneychester City are compiling a list of transfer enquiries of English players so they can go to the Premier League and FA and say “Look, we tried, but nobody was willing to sell, which is why we had to go out and spend £99million on Paul Pogba”. If so it’s an interesting ploy, although I don’t think it will wash with the football authorities.

What will wash will be to develop your own players and stop spunking large amounts of cash on the ‘here and now’. Micah Richards is a perfect example. People say his career has stagnated over the last couple of years, but I never saw a player whose career stagnated. I saw a player who the newly incoming manager – Pellegrini – just didn’t fancy, so he marginalised Richards and eventually went for a free transferred Bacary Sagna. How’s that working for you now, anyway, Bac? If Moneychester City want to up their home-grown quota, they should try and adopt a more pragmatic approach. Or do what we’ve done and get them so young that by the time they hit he first team they’ll be home-grown players anyway!

Then they need to get themselves a nice pre-season tournament with which to give the fans a quick glimpse of a potential player before never seeing them again until the following season. I do love the Emirates Cup. Not enough to actually buy a ticket mind, but it does allow us to see a selection of young players and wonder whether there will be any that can Bellerin their way into the first team by way of a bit of a surprise. The details are now on the official site for the tournament in which we’ll see Bendtner line up for Wolfsburg and get to have a look at Lyon. Last year I looked at the teams in it and thought it was one we’d probably win hands down, but Valencia and Monaco took it a bit more seriously than we did and we ended up finishing third I think. I wasn’t really paying that much attention if I’m honest. The important thing was to see players like Falcao look brilliant before United got their mits on him and ruined him. Now it’s Chelski’s turn so let’s hope they Schevchenko him good and proper.

We could have a bit of a talk about the rumours of Carvalho from Sporting Lisbon, but I don’t feel I have the energy or inclination. Are the media websites that devoid of anything concrete that they have to step back in time a summer or two? Will we see the re-emergence of M’Villa? Hope not. Still, it’s better to be linked with farcical players than to list all of the players who have ‘rejected’ us. Really Benedikt? Did we come calling and yet you decided that Schalke and less money (because let’s face it, like it or not, our footballers in this country are paid way more than in German by and large) is a better option than Arsenal and Champions League football? Or could it be that Arsenal made a tentative enquiry and now you’re getting all excited and telling the world you were wanted by them before choosing to stay where you are? Hmm? I thought so. Back in your box boyo.

And I shall come out of mine. For the sun is out and there is more of the Algarve to explore.

Until tomorrow.

Fixture lists are only relevant because of personal circumstances

Greetings to you and yours from a sunny Portugal. It’s a bit of R&R for me and the Management for the next week and a half, so apologies if the timing of blogs is a bit sporadic, because it will most likely depend on my blood/Sagres beer levels as to how quickly I can rouse myself from my slumber.

As it’s the start of me holibobs though and The Management is sound asleep, I decided to get up a little earlier and have a look at the Arsenal website, where of course we now have the news about the fixtures for the start of the 2015/16 season. Now, I could go through each month and give you some thoughts on how we’re going to get on, but what’s the point in that? If we’re going to try to win this league then it doesn’t really matter when we play teams, as long as we beat them.

Sure, there are often mitigating factors that can give you a hand – for example you don’t really want to be playing all of the top teams back-to-back or after a Champions League or cup game, but that’s the reason Arsene has built a squad he feels comfortable with, so he can shuffle his pack a little if needs be. And I think he will do more shuffling again like he did last season, compared to the season before, because there is more competition and better players than ever before. Players seem to be lining up one after another to talk up the belief in the squad and how they are all happy with the FA Cup and it’s great n’all, but it’s not enough for them. It’s a bit of mind-change from last season, where the rhetoric was very much “yay! we won the cup!”. So we can all be pleased that mentally at least the players are gearing up for this to be a season they want us to take advantage of.

Anyway, back to them there fixtures and, having had a scan across for any death runs, there doesn’t appear to be too much that would get one a little concerned because even some of the bigger games are at least one other game spaced apart. That’s a good thing. If we stumble in a big game, it will mean our propensity to go into another big game lacking a little bit of confidence could be negated by winning a subsequent ‘smaller’ game. N.B. the inevitable “No small/easy games in the Premier League” clichéd remark goes as standard with that statement, obviously.

For me, the fixture list is less so about looking for who we’re playing and predicting what sort of run we’re going to go on, more about which teams that I have some other family connection with are coming around and whether or not I will be missing games and therefore missing out when teams come to the Emirates or when I usually go away to watch The Arsenal. So my key games and requirements usually are:

1. Don’t want to play West Ham at home when I’m going to be with my brother. He’s a West Ham fan.

2. Don’t really want a “massive” game on or around my birthday. Winning it is great but when we lose it just adds to the woes that I’m a year older.

3. Don’t want Arsenal to play either Newcastle or Sunderland away from home if I’m on holiday or the suchlike. The Management has family up in the North East and we always go to visit them when those games are on.

4. Don’t want us to be at home on Boxing Day if I’m going up North for Christmas. It means I miss another game.

So, how do you think I faired?

1. I have a stag weekend for my cousin on Saturday 8th August. My brother and I will both be in attendance.

2. My birthday is on 6th November. We play the Spuds on 7th November.

3. I have a family holiday to Portugal booked in for Sunday 30th August. It will be an early flight, so the trip to the North East is out.

4. We are away to Southampton on Boxing Day. Huzzah!

So essentially the Premier league probably heard my prayers and decided that I can only have 25% of them answered. Well thanks a million Richard Scudamore. I’m holding you personally responsible for all of this. Don’t you know people have lives to plan around going to watch The Arsenal?

Still, perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much, because upon regaling The Management with my plight, I was able to secure a guarantee that we’ll be heading up north to Manchester for the two away games there, so every cloud and all that.

The transfer balderdash for today still seems to centre around different people giving their opinion on Petr Cech to Arsenal. Bor-ring! Can we have some new stuff please? Oh, we have? Higuain not going anywhere? right….Moneychester City turning their focus towards Jack Wilshere? doubtful……the only thing that makes sense about that transfer is that City could afford to let Jack make the most obvious statements of facts to get fined all the time. £40k for saying the ‘S’ word, eh? Good job the FA don’t run the country, otherwise the national debt would be ten times that of the Greeks.

That is pretty much it. It’s all relatively quiet which, if I’m honest with you, I’m quite content with. It helps that I’m not at work needing to occasionally refresh assorted football news websites to see if anything is happening though.

Anyway, time to put this pasty white skin out in to that big fiery ball in the sky to see if I melt. Catch you tomorrow.

Switching off to the press talk

Happy Saturday to you and yours. Me and mine are spending it doing the square root of naff all, on account of an impending venture to the Algarve next week. There’s a haircut, new house key cut and potentially a bit of back garden lawn cut, but that’s about it.

In Arsenal land, the only cutting that might take place is the possibility of Arsenal’s approved agent list length taking a bit of a cull, after it was announced that Arsenal are going to be charged for the Calum Chambers deal last summer. I don’t know the technicalities, but it appears Arsenal are convinced they acted in the proper way and for a club who always prides itself on doing things properly, it is a little bit of a surprise. 

What this will mean I’m not quite sure, but I suspect a fine and a bit of a slap on the wrist is the most likely outcome. From the footballing side it’s unlikely that the player will face any kind of punishment; the players are rarely involved in any kind of element of any deal that goes through – they leave it to their agent – so it’s not as if he’s going to have his FA Cup medal stripped from him and told to go back to Southampton and forget that his Arsenal adventure ever happened.

It’s a murky world, is the world of transfer dealings, in which i suspect no party is ever really innocent. 

The rest of the Arsenal guff at the moment centres around the international games, as well as transfer stuff, most of which we’ve heard before. I do wonder how creative the hacks will get in order to re-word the same story again and again. Cech is off to Arsenal, you see. Arsenal are on the verge of signing Cech. The Cech deal edges closer. Arsenal are on the brink of an international ‘keeper arriving. Yawn. How about we try a new thing of not mentioning him until he either a) arrives at the club, or b) goes somewhere else. That works for me and probably most Arsenal fans around the world.

The same can be said for contract negotiations with existing players. Just wake me up when it’s signed, Theo, would you? I’m not interested in the protracted nature of any agreement. I just want to know if you’ll be an Arsenal player for another three to four years and if so, sign your deal and start to worry about how to get back in to the Arsenal side on a regular basis. You’re a good player and I’d love you to stay, but if I’m honest all of this posturing is getting on my wick a bit.

I suppose I have Arsène to thank for my increased apathy levels over the Walcott situation. After all, he went out and strengthened us to a point where if Walcott left we’d have plenty of other players to fill his boots from both a goalscoring and pace perspective, so this current contract ‘saga’ is bit more like a contract ‘minor distraction’ this summer.

Much too like the rumours of Wilshere’s potential exit. Any time I see any kind of newspaper article looking to explore that particular avenue, I usually ignore it completely, because I can’t see either party – Arsenal or Wilshere – offloading. Earlier in the season Arsène went to great lengths to try and accommodate a Wilshere/Ramsey midfield, such is the clear affection he has for both, so I don’t see him handing over Jack to one of hogue oil whores so they can fulfil a quota. Yes he needs to try and get better at avoiding injury and yes he needs an extended run in the team, but I think if he stays fit then Arsène will give him that, especially if he continues to look as sharp as his cameo appearances suggested at the end of the season.

Wilshere has no intention to leave either. He’s said “as long as Arsenal want me I’m happy” and having been at the club for more than ten years already and Arsenal having entered in to every fibre of his body, you can believe those words when he utters them, so I’m not really inclined to change my mind that he’ll be an Arsenal player for a long time to come, so long as he can continue to play regularly and play well.

There’s not really a lot else going on today. Rambo seemed to have a good game for Wales last night, even if it was the Madrid monkey who will have taken the plaudits, so that’s always nice to see. Wales top their group as of last night and must be favourites to be at France next summer, so it will be nice to be able to watch Rambo at a major tournament, so let’s hope it happens.

Catch you tomorrow.

Cech saga to drag on, which is fine by me; Santi scoops third

It seems that we’re in full flow on the transfer tittle-tattle-go-round, which means the happiest people to be are journalists, because they are the ones who have all of the attention. This time of year must be on their objectives or something, because the self-promoting and exposure-grabbing knows no bounds. If there’s a meeting of fans, a journo will be there. If there’s a radio show needing a sound bite, the journos will be there. If a TV sports channel needs 15 seconds of filler clippings, the journos will be there. And we will lap it up because we have nothing else football-related to hang our hats on.

The sports journalist media must be livid that the season is so short, because the hits and clicks that they must try and secure in the summer to boost annual web targets, is drastically reduced. Think retailers at Christmas and some sort of unseasonally good weather that stops people from staying indoors and shopping. Yeah, that.

The current excitement from an Arsenal perspective is the movements of Petr Cech, who has said that ideally he wants to find a solution whereby he plays more football, doesn’t have to move his family, or suffer the palaver of uprooting abroad. John Cross was asked about this yesterday at a supporters club meeting and said that he thought Cech wanted to come, but Chelski are asking for £10million+ and they will probably drag it out all summer.

If Cross is right, then it would make sense, because Jose is a petty and pathetic human being and none of us could expect anything less from him. But for a change (assuming we are in for Cech of course), I’m not as fussed, because I firmly still believe we can compete with our existing team. Why not? Chelski won the league and there’s no doubt that they were the best team for it, but memories must be short, because they’re excellent start to the season was as mcn down to the ability of their manager to field the same XI for a prolonged period of time, as ours was poor because of the litany of injuries we had.

Do I think Cech would improve us as a team? Of course. Do I think without him we have no chance of winning the league? Not on your nelly. Because as much as Ospina and Szczesny may not be world class ‘keepers, if we bolster our squad numbers in a couple of areas, I still think we can win the league. Imagine what we could do if the same players fit from February until April were fit from August to January? I’m picking January because I believe that if you start to build momentum in a squad, all players up their game, which makes it easier to rotate because you can trust more players to perform. That’s what I believe happened with Chelski this season. They raced to a lead and then when they wobbled a bit this season, the players who dipped in form could be rotated with others in the squad, who were coming into a winning team. It’s easier to play in a winning team than a struggling one.

In existing squad news, Santi Cazorla has been voted third in the fans Player of the Season awards, with 8.4% of the vote. It is deserved recognition for a player who you could be forgiven for thinking would be looking for a new club this summer, if the thoughts from last summer and the fan and pundit majority were to be believed. I have to say I wasn’t sure how Santi would fit in to the current first team dynamic with Ramsey and Wilshere in the squad, but he has reinvented himself in a way that now makes him undroppable.

Sitting alongside Coquelin – who I do wonder if he might have got close to the voting, were it not for Alexis and probably Mesut – he has been outstanding this season, no more so than the 2-0 away win at Moneychester City. It is testament to his performances that instead of wondering who will play central midfield out of Wilshere or Ramsey, the end of the season saw Rambo shunted out wide to be accommodated in the team, as opposed to Santi playing in one of the wide positions like he did at times last season. Those twinkle toes and the ability to retain position and set us going from deep has meant that we’d added another dimension to our game. With Cazorla sparkling in that position, it means players like Ramsey or Alexis know they can make runs from further up the field, when we have the ball on the edge of our own box. Again, as I said last week, I’m reminded of the Cazorla ball for Ramsey’s goal against Hull. That is the sort of ball you get from Cazorla and that is why he is so important to the team, because his vision allows him to do that, something probably only Mesut Ozil has in the team other than Cazorla.

I would have actually have had my 3-2-1 in a slightly different way to the fans, as Santi would have been in at number 2 behind the inevitable crowning of Alexis as player of the season. I can only assume that Mesut will come in at number 2, because creative players tend to feature highly in these types of awards. Personally, I’d have had Koscienly, Cazorla and Alexis, because whilst Kos missed a chunk of the season through injury (like most of our team if you think about it – Walcott, Giroud, Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere, etc), he was good before he became injured and better when he came back. Ozil has been brilliant since returning from injury, but by his own admission, he struggled at the start of the season.

Anyway, that’s probably enough from me for one day. I’ll leave you to your own affairs and check in with you again tomorrow for some more musings.

Player holidays and non-football hobbies

I tried so hard to motivate myself to get up from a comfy lounger in the garden and watch the Ireland vs England match, but what with the sun being glorious and the prospect of end of season international friendlies being anything but, I just couldn’t do it.

There was one period – just after the second half – where I had to come in because I was a wee bit too hot and also needed to phone Clarks to ask them about exchanging a pair of shoes for my Dad, in which I was on hold and so watched 15 minutes or so, but that was pretty much all I could stand.

The only real interest from an Arsenal perspective came from Jack Wilshere who, depending on which journalist you read was either the most effective of a pretty poor bunch, or once again failing to sparkle.

I think most of the sensible journos are going for option A, with those who obviously have click targets to achieve trying for a bit of option B, but given I go for option C (don’t bother reading any of it) doesn’t really impact my life too much. The fact of the matter is that this was an ill-timed friendly in a point in a year in which most of the players will have been wishing they were already on their holidays. The stretching of next season so it starts at the beginning of August means that player recouperation time will be short enough as it is, so whacking an international friendly in is about as helpful as asking Jack Warner to invest some cash into good causes.

Most of the players will be jetting off on their holidays now I’d expect, which means that the transfer machine will be roaring into life and spewing forth its contents in a furious manner for the foreseeable future. Arsenal have already signed Benzema, Cech, Higuain, Kondigbia, Schneiderlin and Pele if you believe what you read, so the sensible option is not to bother. Take up a hobby. I was thinking about doing something useful with my hands, because I spend two hours a day on the tube, so I need to find something other than NewsNow and Twitter to occupy my time. Maybe I’ll try knitting. Sure, I might get the odd look from people, but if I can bosh out a home made Arsenal scarf or bobble hat, perhaps that will bring some semblance of masculinity to the pastime. 

No, probably not.

Maybe I should throw my hat in to become the next Mayor? After all, Sol Campbell appears to be looking for a hobby at the moment and that’s his latest attempt at something to do, so perhaps it’s worth me giving it a go. Plant a few trees, kiss a few babies, sit in City Hall and get abused by other politicians who want to be mayor but didn’t get enough votes. Seems something that could keep me busy. I’d only want to do it for a couple of months though, because as soon as the season started i’d be conspicuous in my absence, so maybe not the best option for me. Maybe should start reading about non-football stuff. I see loads of people with novels and Kindle’s, so perhaps I should give that a go? I’d need to get back in to practice though, so maybe I’ll start by reading Fever Pitch. I am a slow reader though and it will probably take me a couple of months to get through it, which will take me to August and then I can start obsessing about Arsenal again. Yes, perhaps I’ll do that.

So, it’s settled then, my non-football hobby for the summer will be to re-read Fever Pitch again. Jolly good.

See you tomorrow.