Contrast of styles: high pressing against Leicester needed

Welcome to Sunday and Welcome to Matchday. The greatest day of the week.

Today it is the visit to Leicester, where even The Arsenal fans all follow The Arsenal to get to, whether it be land or sea. As a newly promoted side in the early throngs of their Premier League season, they’ll be eager to impress and having already fought back to pick up a draw in the dying embers of the game against Everton on the opening day, the Foxes will be quite eager to prove that the KP stadium is something of a challenge to walk away from with any points.

It will be an interesting game today, as it appears there will be a clash of styles that we’ll see on display from 4pm, what with Leicester already looking like long-ball merchants of Premier Leagues of old. I think it was a tweet from 7AmKickOff that showed the long and short pass completion stats for the whole league and, as expected after only two games Arsenal are at the bottom of the table for long passes, but the top of the tree for short ones. In contrast, Leicester have reversed those figures and stand head and shoulders above every other team.

What that means for us today I can only make an assumption on, which is that our back four will be subjected to it’s first aerial bombardment of the season, so it will be interesting to see how our defenders cope if that is the case. I’m reminded of the last fifteen minutes or so at Swansea last season, when Swansea were chasing an equaliser from us and resorted to an unfamiliar tactic given their style of play since promotion to the league, in which a number of balls were floated into the box to try to put our back four under pressure by weight of numbers and bodies. Thankfully we withstood the onslaught quite well and pick up the points so I’m hoping for the same today.

What I think will be important is Koscienly’s role in sweeping up behind the BFG. If Leicester are playing long balls into the channels in behind Big Per, we know that he won’t have the pace to keep up with any of the Leicester attacking players, so Kos must be alert to make up any ground that Per will lose out on. Conversely, Big Per will be the man to go for aerial duels, so he needs to use all of that slender but massive frame to make sure he’s batting away any potential knock-downs.

In midfield I suspect we’ll see a similar line up to the game against Everton, with Flamini, Wilshere and Ramsey playing through the middle, whilst Özil and the Ox will play on the flanks. Personally, it’s not quite my preferred line up, as I’d like to see Mesut in the middle (heh, sounds like it could be a Sky One comedy series) with Ramsey the box-to-boxer and Flamini sitting deeper. That would mean that Jack unfortunately misses out, which would be a shame after a good performance in midweek, but as Özil said during the week his best position is through the middle and he is our best Number 10.

Up top we’ll see Alexis run his little heart out and I do wonder if his goal in midweek will have put an extra spring in his already well sprung step. We’ll need another good performance from him if we’re going to have a good result against Leicester, but his performance is also reliant on receiving a bit more support from his teammates in not isolating him in attack. At times against Everton it looked like he was so lonely up top he was dropping in to midfield to receive the ball, which left us without any real options up top and was frustrating for us all to watch. When we didn’t have the ball it was also obvious that there was a gap between him and the rest of the team. Alexis has spent a few years in a Barcelona team that presses extremely high up the pitch and you could see him gesturing to his teammates to get forward when Everton had the ball across their own back four. I’d love to see us press higher up the pitch today, because if Leicester do look to play longer passes from back to front, then putting them under pressure earlier will affect their ability to distribute more effectively and force the Leicester defence into making mistakes.

That’s the ideal scenario, anyway, but whether we will do it remains to be seen. As for our opponents, I must confess I know little about them other than a couple of the snippets I’ve read about them being a bit ‘long bally’. They have Dave Nugent who plays up top, but the fact that my iPhone predictive text doesn’t even register his name (preferring to
Call him ‘Dave Juventus’ instead) I hope is a good sign of his success against us today. They also have Peter Schmeichel’s son in goal, so if ever there’s a reason to dislike them any more, this would be it.

I am hoping that we can click into gear today and get our flowing football started. The last four games have been an execution of grind and determination with last minute goals that are no good for any Gooners health. We need a two or three goal cushion with half an hour to play before we can start feeling happy about any performance and whilst I don’t think we’ll get that today, I do hope we can get the first goal and have something to build on, so let’s keep our fingers crossed over that and work from there.

As for the transfer guff about Loic Remy, we’ve got all of tomorrow to panic about the lack of arrivals, so I think I’ll just focus on the football today and give you some thoughts tomorrow.

Up The Arsenal!

When did we all become so angry?

Hello there my old friend, how are you? I’ve been doing this daily blog thingy for over two years now, so I feel like I can call you ‘old’. Hope you don’t mind.

A little later today we’ll get an Arsène press conference in which the media will bombard the boss with questions about potential signings in an effort to get a sniff of what he is thinking. Of course, he keeps his cards closer to his chest than Michael Phelps keeps his speedos closer to his nether regions. But the questions will no doubt continue, with the boss most likely to bat away the names like an irritating fly near a freshly prepared chorizo and red pepper sandwich on multigrain bread.

This has led me to a school of thinking today, which I hope you don’t mind, because it’s a little bit on the negative side. Hence why I’ve attempted to soften you into today’s blog by firing the platitudes and niceties your way. Again, I hope you don’t mind.

Anyway, back to my thinking, which has led me to today’s blog title and comes as a response to reading my Twitter timeline last night before I went to bed, as well as waking up this morning thinking about the presser today and the inevitable reaction from a lot of fans through social media sites.

Last night the news broke – unconfirmed obviously because it’s journos that are speculating of course – that Radamal Falcao had agreed to join Real Madrid after his club Monaco and the Champions League winners agreed a deal. In the cold light of day, perhaps not the most shocking of news, as many had speculated that would be his destination this season or next season anyway. But what was a surprise to me was the reaction from a lot of people. Suddenly I saw people stating that Wenger had failed to act on a target yet again, that he was once again dithering, that he’d not bothered to address or clear striking deficiencies. But do you know what, I had a small feeling of a chance missed too, which immediately led the rational part of my brain to throw it’s hands up in the air and declare it was going to bed. Thankfully I soon joined it.

Falcao – whether this story about him joining Madrid is true or not – was never really a realistic option for us anyway. Yet the anger from people is surprising to say the least. And I am guilty of getting swept up in it too. This seems to happen every summer and every January transfer window, to which I am finding myself asking the question more and more:

When did everyone become so angry?

When was there such division amongst fans over something that isn’t even the main reason we are football fans in the first place? I genuinely don’t have an answer I’m afraid, but I can definitely reference myself as having become more susceptible to the frustration, hence why I am deliberately not trying to take to the moral high ground to call out other fans.

I’ve been with The Management for over eleven years and when I’ve asked her recently whether she can remember what I was like in relation to Arsenal, she tells me that I’ve definitely become more vocal in my displeasure at anything Arsenal related. Heck, that’s why I started writing this blog in the first place, so I could have a vehicle to channel my thoughts rather than lying in bed at night stewing over a Mickael Silvestre balls up that has cost us points.

Why have I become more irate? Is it just my age? Am I of the age that most football fans get to (I’m in the early stages of my thirties) where they have had so many years of watching their beloved team that I am so absorbed in it that it affects my mood? Perhaps. When you are younger you worry less about why things happen and more importantly, how they happen. I was a happy teenager when Tony Adams broke through the Everton defence at Highbury to hammer home our third goal and secure the 98 league title. I hadn’t watched as many games that season, I knew the first thirteen or fourteen players in the squad but not the ones on the periphery, so I wasn’t worried about multiple injuries in the same position.

Is it the access and exposure to more football than ever before? In 98 there was nowhere near as many games to watch unless you went to all of them. Not coming from a football mad family, that was always difficult for me, so I relied on TV coverage. The Arsenal website will have been little more than a place to house the teams fixtures and results, so the daily feed of content back in 98 would have been a rarity.

And social media didn’t even exist. To many, this would have been a grand time, and I’m in no doubt that it has had a contributing factor to the increase in tension amongst the Arsenal fanbase. How can it not? I mean, if you throw that many opinions (everyone’s got one, and each one differs from the next) into one centralised place, you’re bound to get some friction. I’ve found in my life that anger fuels anger, which means if a number of people are getting angry, the chances are that it will just build and build like a pressure cooker. People fuel off of each other, mob mentality takes over and you get an explosion of arguments and disagreements.

But I must not besmirch the invention of social media’s after all, it has also done so many good things for me, like introduce me to so many people at The Arsenal that I see on match days. Without Twitter, I’d still be turning up to games five minutes before they start, watch the match, then go home. It’s bloody hard walking into a pub full of people and randomly start interjecting into a circle of friends talking about the game ahead. So having the ability to meet people you sort of already know through conversations online has been a blessing for me personally.

But still, I do wish we could somehow go back to a time where there was less animosity amongst people with so much in common, although I accept that this is an unlikely situation now.

Or am I wrong? Has football always been like this? Have Arsenal fans throughout the ages always moaned about the lack of signings? Or targets missed? Has there always been people with an unwavering support of the manager, locking horns with those that want to see him out of the door quicker than you can whistle the theme to The A Team?

Don’t know. But I’d like to. Why don’t you tell me?

See y’all tomorrow.

Arsenal to come with a health warning

Seat of your pants. Skin of your teeth. Edge of your seat.

Being an Arsenal fan should come with a health warning approved by the Chief Medical Officer of the British Government, or something.

Yesterday’s game was far, far too early in the season to be that nerve-wracking, but ultimately let me pepper today’s blog with the fact that we are in the hat for the Champions League and, with our consecutive Champions League entry confirmed for the 17th time, it ensures we remain in Pot 1. Much to the dismay of the Liverpool friendly national media.

But by golly, we don’t half make it hard for ourselves, don’t we? With no away goal to speak of from the first leg (unlike in most previous seasons), it made the mathematics of yesterday evening really quite simple: win and score goals. Le Boss named the same side that started the game against Everton and in the first fifteen minutes you could tell that the home comforts of The Emirates made the team happier than when on Merseyside last weekend. We popped the ball around quite well, controlled position in the early stages and I thought that it was a patient and probing display. For about thirty minutes. Thereafter, it was almost as if a nervous button was pressed by both fans and players alike, and Besiktas grew into the game a little more.

On Twitter I described Besiktas as essentially a ‘Turkish Crystal Palace’, as their game plan appeared to be to frustrate Arsenal, ensure as many black shirts sat in and around the edge of their own penalty box rarely venturing forward with any numbers to attack. As was the way with teams from overseas they liked an occasional nudge, but fell to the floor when touched, epitomised no better than in the second half with a really quite farcical semi rollie-pollie action from one of the Turkish players. Unfortunately we had an abysmal referee, who I’ll come to shortly, so the theatrics were tolerated more frequently than they should have been.

But anyway, the Turkish Crystal Palace, which is probably doing a little bit of a disservice to our opponents. After that first 30 in which they frustrated, there were signs of a good passing team that were clearly set up with a game plan to counter, which if I’m honest could have worked had Debuchy been pulled up on his clear foul inside the box in that first half. Lucky boy. Well, temporarily lucky boy, as we were to find out in the second half as perhaps some karma came back to haunt him for being sent off for a perfectly good tackle in the middle of the pitch with 20 minutes to go.

That sending off made for a very nervy finish to the game, but not as nervy as it would have been had Alexis not got his scoring tally off the mark with a smart finish in the dying embers of the first half. The excellent Wilshere’s exchange with Cazorla (I think) on the edge of the Beisktas box almost found Jack, but he let the ball run for the newbie, who slid the ball underneath the ‘keeper. It was just rewards for a first half in which we’d dominated pretty much all stats.

In fact, given how nervous you and I were throughout yesterday’s match, you do wonder why on earth our opponents failed to muster a shot on target in the entire game. I guess it shows that whilst situations often appear fraught with worry at the time, from a neutrals perspective Arsenal were rarely troubled in defence, to which we have to give credit to the back five. There were some balls over the top that perhaps a better midfield maestro would have found Demba Ba more accurately with, but the limitations of the Turkish Cup winners were clear to see.

Defensively, I thought the two stand out players were our full backs. Debuchy looks like he had been playing at the club for five years, whilst on the other side, Monreal has been a solid performer since called upon in the first weekend of the season. To have a player like that waiting I the wings when Gibbs is out of action is fantastic and Nacho’s performances have left few of us lamenting Gibbs’ broken body so far this season.

In midfield, I thought Jack was brilliant, at the heart of everything we did well with his all-action style. I’ve seen a few people comment that the shackles were released with Ramsey being absent which I think I’ve commented on before, but rather than get into any ‘they can’t play together’ debate today, I think I’ll just focus on the returning to his old self – even if only one game so far – for our Jack.

Unfortunately, that’s where the stand out performances finish, because in the final third I thought we were pretty poor, as in that defensive midfield role that the Flamster occupied. I don’t know whether or not he’s quite match-fit enough yet, but Flamini gave the ball away carelessly a number of times and he didn’t seem to win as many tackles as he normally does. He did win some tackles – he always does – but it appears to me that if he’s not getting carded he’s obviously not feeling himself, which was the case yesterday. Hopefully he’ll have a good game at the weekend to arrest any concerns that he’s already peaked in his career and is now in the descent.

I thought Özil had a quiet game and, perhaps it’s still because he is finding his rhythm again or perhaps because he has been deployed on the left a couple of times already this season, but he flitted in and out of the game. As did Santi. He was anonymous at Everton and I’m starting to get worried about his form. He’s often deployed in that position out wide on the left, which isn’t his best, but he does go very quiet for large swathes of the game and I feel like I’m noticing it more and more.

The Ox was also a little more quiet than he has been, but he’s still a young lad, so there’s no point chastising a performance. He’s still a dangerous and creative outlet and, had he capped the night off with a goal towards the end when he found space from an Özil cross, we’d probably all be saying something different. Such is how the narrative can shift with goals.

That’s why Alexis’ performance can be viewed as a successful one. Score. Check. Close down and show a willingness to give everything for the team. Check. Demonstrate some good ball control and retention. Check. But there were still sit some instances where you could tell that he wasn’t 100% ready and occasions when his feet were not in tune with the rest of his body. There’s no need to panic though, as it was nowhere near as Gervinhoy as it could have been, so I’ve no doubt as he becomes more aware of his own teammates styles and also now that he is off the mark with a goal, the rest will come.

We did lack a cutting edge in the final third though. For all the gnashing of teeth and exasperation of some sections of the fanbase (I’m guilty of this too I’ll admit) when the Frenchman misses a guilt-edge chance, the next four months will I’m sure provide us all with a clear indication of what he brings to the take, as a focal point of our attacks. Alexis likes to drop deep to collect the ball and as a result it leaves us with no options if we want to move from front to back quickly like we can with Olivier in the team. The result is that unless one of the wide players slots in centrally when Alexis comes deep, we may find it difficult to get ourselves out of bother with longer passes to put us on the front foot. Again, probably another discussion for another day, so I’ll not dwell on it too much.

What the Giroud injury does however, is emphasise that Arsène simply must strengthen within the next five days. We must get a defensive minded midfielder who can play at centre half as an absolute minimum, but now we must be seriously looking at bringing in a player who can play as a focal point in attack. To go into half a season with Sanogo as your main target man is not something you’d expect a team with title aspirations to have. So I would expect Arsène to act. But hey, he rarely does what most of us think is the obvious, so we wait and see what happens.

Before I knock today’s blog on the head, a special mention must go out to the Portuguese, card-happy referee who wrongly dismissed a Besiktas penalty, fell for every soft foul by a Besiktas player, incorrectly sent off Mathieu Debuchy and gave Szczesny a booking for taking an extra five seconds on a goal kick. He did this on the first attempt by Szczesny. Somewhere in London at his home, Julian Speroni will have been laughing his socks off. The only shocker of the day was that a ref so content to book everyone, missed the man who is always booked: Flamini.

And on that bombshell, I shall bid you adieu.

Points first, pretty football second

Howdy fellow Gooner, how is your weekend shaping up? Good? An Arsenal win certainly helps, doesn’t it?

I’m in a good mood on a Sunday morning as I write today’s instalment of my football musings. Draped in my Arsenal dressing gown, tapping away the day after an opening day of the season, watching the Sunday Supplement crew savage United and leave us relatively unscathed. It’s quite nice to have the media not giving us a pasting. Hopefully we can repeat last seasons form up until February with a different ending to March, April and May.

The season is now well under way and The Arsenal are on the board with the first three points of the season. It may not have been from the vintage collection of performances, but it was a performance that got results, which given our recent opening day history that’s nothing to be sniffed at. Palace were always going to be difficult to break down and, regardless of what anybody might say about the disruption of Pulis leaving just days before the game took place, the team had clearly worked hard on their game plan of frustration, it nearly paid off too. Pulis may not have been track-suiting his way around the dugout, but that was his team out there.

I actually thought we started quite brightly. The movement seemed ok and the retention of the ball was alright. The passing radar seemed to be a little wayward but there are always kinks to be ironed out on the opening game of the season. Arsene’s surprise inclusion of Sanogo had a few eyebrows raised and there’s clearly something that he sees in the young Frenchman, because he’s giving him plenty of opportunity to prove himself. Unfortunately, I am not quite seeing what Arsene sees, because what I saw was a young and raw player whose first touch isn’t that great. Le Boss clearly wants to see a big, strong, powerful target man leading the line, which is why Sanogo was given the nod. I can only assume Giroud still isn’t 100% fit, but he’ll only get that way with games, so at some stage he’ll have to throw him in from the start.

So we looked okayish, but lacked a little bit of bite in the final third in the first half. Palace defended well as a unit and sat relatively deeper, with Speroni given the freedom to waste up to five minutes a half with every opportunity that he was presented with. It really is a bugbear of mine actually. Yesterday it became so farcical that at one stage Aaron Ramsey was using his fingers to show referee Jonathan Moss how long the Palace ‘keeper was taking. All Moss had to do was to have a quiet word in the first fifteen minutes – when the time wasting began – with Speroni and tell him he’d book him if he persistently time wasted and all of that would have been avoided. But nope, he allowed it to carry on and it became a joke towards the end.

But it was Rambo who had the last laugh anyway, with a poachers finish in the dying embers of the match. Oh how is would have loved to have been able to whisper “time waste all you want now mate” in his ear after we scored that late winner. They always feel the sweetest when they’re scored so late with little time to reply, so it feels extra groovy this morning that we’re off and running.

As you and I both know, it didn’t all go to plan yesterday, especially in the first half. With the towering Hangeland clearly a danger from set pieces, you’d have thought we’d spend a bit more time working out who and how to mark him better. But alas, our zonal marking was another root cause of our own dismay and Hangeland was able to run in a straight line in the box to nod the ball in at the back post. Quite why we decided we don’t need men on it is beyond me. When I first started playing football, it was one of the first bits about defending that I was taught, so quite why it isn’t the most natural and unspoken law of basic football defending in the professional game is a bit beyond me if I’m honest.

But if we were to fall foul of shoddy defending, then so were Crystal Palace, as our first half injury time goal from Koscienly but floated across from Alexis was well delivered and well timed. It was just the tonic needed before halftime.

The second half was similar to the first. We stuttered a bit and our fluency that was so evident against Moneychester City wasn’t quite there, with Santi Cazorla of all people looking the most bereft of form and confidence based on yesterday’s game. He was off-key all game; misplaced passes, losing possession and not as spritely as we’ve come to expect. It wasn’t just him though, Jack seemed slightly wayward in finding red shirts at times, and when he came on the Ox was not at his best. However, there’s one thing that this Arsenal team has that teams of the recent past lacked a little, which is the belief that they will get the result. It’s easy to speculate, but an Arsenal of four years ago probably wouldn’t have been able to make that second breakthrough. We’d have huffed and puffed, but there’s no way the house would have been blown down, so seeing Rambo nick it in injury time was not only a relief of the points, but a belief that the players back themselves to have a good season too. After all, the tired footballing clichés of ‘never giving up’, ‘winning whilst playing badly’ and ‘the best teams always score late goals’ are already being pointed in the direction of Arsene’s charges this morning.

Let’s have a paragraph of praise for Chambers as well though, eh? What an assured performance from one so young. He looks as composed as a 29 year old, not one that’s 19. There will be tougher tests to come for him in an Arsenal shirt, but this particular one was passed with flying colours, which will give every Gooner satisfaction that the heart of the defence has some depth. We still need another body, but the signs are positive for this young lad, which is great to see.

Debuchy also had a decent game and proves that when you buy proven experience in the Premier League you get instant results, which is why there’s not too many of us that should be too concerned with Alexis’ indifferent game. He’s still finding his feet in a new league, has to get used to our style of play, so I’m not too worried.

I also thought Monreal did well too, which is just as well, because if Gibbs has a hamstring injury then the Spaniard will be needed for the next few weeks. I suspect he’ll get a few games to stake a regular first team spot, so let’s hope he replicates yesterday’s performance on Tuesday night against Besiktas and beyond.

Roll on Tuesday. And thank Bergkamp the football’s back!

The cogs are turning

I must confess I watched absolutely no World Cup action yesterday, so have no idea how the respective players from each teams from Argentina, Switzerland, Belgium and USA!USA!USA! performed. I guess I’ll get an opportunity to watch Belgium and Argentina again, but not the Swiss or the Americans. Shame really, because Tim Howard does have an awesome beard.

It all feels like the cogs are starting to turn, with regards to transfers, doesn’t it? I mean, yesterday we had the announcement from Chelski and Atletico Madrid that they had met Costa’s buyout of £32million, we’ve got the Debuchy rumours hotting up at the moment, this was then followed by noises from Barcelona supposedly ‘praising’ Luis Suarez. Sounds like the Liverpool fans – many of whom have taken delight in seeing us succumb to the public courting of our players down the years – are in for a summer of similar experiences before the next season kicks off.

I fully expect Suarez to make noises about being ‘flattered’, then by how he is slightly upset that Liverpool didn’t immediately leap to his defence where as Barcelona did, then the inevitable keepy-uppy’s in the Camp Nou just before the season starts.

Let’s just hope Rodgers does a Spurs with the wealth that he’ll get from the transfer. Oh, and he doesn’t land himself a Sanchez, by some sort of fluke. Because let’s face it, the noises that appear to be coming out of the Catalan club and journos are that he’s on his way, his preferred destination being the Premier League and Arsenal.

We’d all love to see it, but as Tim Clarke pointed out yesterday, we’ve run this race a few times. We know how it goes. We are leading the chasing pack, thinking we’re at the finishing line, then our trainers fall off and spontaneously combust, leaving Chelski, City or another Champions League club to pick up the pieces. See Mata and Higuain for references of the failures of summers past.

Barcelona are not backward in coming forward with their transfer policies and processes, so we’ll know quite quickly what’s going on, with the club already stating that one bid has already been received. I’d be amazed if it’s not Arsenal. Mainly because a) we do our bids in private and I’m pretty sure the club submit bids with specific requests to the selling club that confidentiality clauses remain in place, and b) if Liverpool are looking at making an exchange with Sanchez and Suarez trading places, Liverpool would not have made a bid first, would they? They’d wait for the Barcelona bid for Suarez to come in.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it anyway and, despite referencing a warning from one Gooner already in today’s post, I find myself tumbling down the rabbit hole (or was it a worm hole in Alice in Wonderland? I forget) to plonk my size 11s squarely on to transfer land territory. It’s a dark and merciless place where nothing is ever quite what it seems and 99% of what your eyes show you is a complete falsehood.

Getting back into the real world is tough, but at least we can do so with the announcement that the new Puma kit is now on sale for overweight Arsenal fans everywhere to purchase and look rather unsightly by buying what looks like a shirt that is three sizes too small. I haven’t bought a new kit for about five years, but even though I’m not a large lad, I’m not sure I’d be too keen on having every inch of my person hugged by the new tops. I like the design of the home kit and the away kit isn’t too bad, but that’s still not going to see me rock the latest shirt. But then again, I am a complete hypocrite and if it’s purchased for me, I’m sure I’ll find a decent enough excuse as to why I’m wearing it.

The less said about the abomination that is that white third kit, the better, because I still get flashbacks to the Adebayor era from the last time the team jogged out wearing the same colours as the enemy. It just doesn’t sit right for that one obvious reason I’m afraid. It’s like being in Lancaster and telling people you prefer white roses. It’s just wrong. And I’m afraid nobody will convince me otherwise. Hopefully we’ll not see much of it though and it will remain in the cupboards of the kit manager forever, serving the only purpose it was intended for: a marketing ploy to get people to buy more shirts.

Anyway, that should probably be it from me today, as there really is little else to speak of. Cheerio!

World Cup goodness continues, but Arsenal injury rumours dampen spirits

Happy Monday to thee. How about this World Cup, eh? Every day it seems to be throwing up a really good game or two where you think you’re going to question the purpose of some of the teams in the competition. I’ve often thought that FIFA should do away with qualifying stages and just invite the top 32 teams to the World Cup (they’d have to sort their rankings system out first, mind) to ensure that the competition only has the best teams in the world competing, but having watched a six goal thriller between South Korea and Algeria, I’m glad they don’t because this is easily the best World Cup I’ve seen. It’s a shame that, y’know, England are pants and that, but heck at least Park is still at the World Cup!

Unfortunately though, it looks like Team USA won’t be for much longer, as the Portuguese managed a 1-0 victory over our cousins from over the pond. It’s a shame really, because any team with Ronaldo in it being happy, probably just shouldn’t be. Full stop.

The Ghana vs Portugal game later this week should be entertaining though, I suspect, because it effectively becomes a ‘winner takes all’ knockout game, so let’s hope that the Black Stars can deliver a wink-tastic victory over Cristiano and his back up singers.

UPDATE: I realise now, having been told by a few people on social media sites, that I may have got my scoring off, so you’re free to disregard the rant about the result, although the rant about Ronaldo remains as relevant as ever!!

No real Arsenal news at present, again, unless you count rumours of an Oxlade-Chamberlain ‘setback’. Provided it’s just a few weeks then hopefully that doesn’t dent his chances of fully recovering for the start of the season opener against Moneychester City for the worlds biggest metal decorative wall plate. His season was far too interrupted by injury last time out when big things were expected from him, not just by the fans, but also by the club I believe. And on last seasons opener against Villa he did look like one of the better players on the pitch before he picked up that injury, so getting a good pre season under his belt is crucial to ensure that he can hit the ground running, which means anything more than two or three weeks out would be a real dent for him.

We can all talk about transfers until the cows come home, but ultimately the vast bulk of any team that can win us the league will come from those players that have been around the club a while, so every team needs to have all of it’s players fully fit and ready for the new season. That Thomas Vermaelen never lasted until halftime yesterday is also a worry. It may be true that he is seeking pastures new for the upcoming Premier League season, but until we hear anything otherwise we have to assume that he’s going to be an important squad player for us, so watching him go down in the warm up, then taken off after half an hour in the game against the Ruski’s, it looked like it could be a serious twist that he sustained which could mean a lengthy spell on the sidelines if he’s exacerbated it further by playing on it. If that is the case, it’s another example of why we should take what every player says about their fitness with a massive pinch of salt because Vermaelen was obviously desperate to make an impact. You have to feel for the poor guy and I hope his World Cup isn’t over.

We now move into the week in which games come even thicker and even faster with an element of choice added in too, as four games take place today, with the Spanish playing their farewell to Brazil game at 5pm against Australia and Chile battling with the Netherlands for the top spot. I listened to a pundit on the radio yesterday talk about the problems with England’s team being psychological with all of the other traditional ‘bigger’ nations. If there is any element of that which is true, then it makes this World Cup even more harder to stomach, because there have been some big scalps that have already been taken and had England progressed to the next stages, the psychological barriers might not have been as large against a so-called smaller nation. Who knows, perhaps I’m just trying to find excuses of misfortune for what was ultimately a pretty average England side, but it does feel as though anything can happen in Brazil at the moment. The tournament feels wide open and available for shocks and that was the only thing English fans were banking on when it started and dreams of lifting the trophy began.

What am I saying?! I’ve already moved on and am backing my new adopted nation of Germany, so what do I have to worry??

Still…would have been fun n’ that….

Oh what could have been! A reminder of the Arsenal love and international hate

Well, if you’re English, you didn’t expect anything else other than defeat with little to crow about, did you? Last night’s game against the Uruguayan’s was a classic example of what you can achieve with one world class player in your team.

Luis Suarez should have effectively secured his natures passage into the knockout stages of the World Cup and, unlike his shamefully immoral efforts four years ago with the handball on the line, this time he did it the right way with two goals.

I’ve never liked the guy, but what a good player he is and, having watched Uruguay against Costa Rica last weekend, he really did prove the difference between the two sides. I’d said as much to work colleagues and also my partner in crime for the evening Dave, as I thought that the strength of the Uruguayan attack was more effective than the strength of the English attack, as well as the respective fragilities of both defences. So it proved in Brazil.

There’s some sort of bitter irony that it was Steven Gerrard that assisted Suarez on that second goal. But it was still a sublime finish.

But again I cast my mind back to thinking not of the English performance, but that of Suarez who had we have managed to secure the services of at The Arsenal, we must have been favourites to win the league. Heck, I’m convinced he is a player that gives you a minimum of 12 points a season on his own, which added to our tally would have had us champions with a week or two to spare before the season ended.

Of course it didn’t happen and there is no use dwelling on the past, but last nights performance of the ‘bitey one’ only serves to give me more trepidation about our ventures into the transfer market this summer, where we simply must strengthen offensively with pace, power and a world class finisher.

Skipping back to last nights game, which I watched in a pub garden, realising why I hate international football so much. Surrounded by footballing ‘supporters’, who have no idea about football and have merely turned up to watch ‘Eng-Ger-Land’ and jump around like they were at a Slipknot conference, is certainly not my idea of a good time I’m afraid. There’s something about international football that brings out the most moronic traits in people and I heard stupid comment (“kick it harder Gerrard”) after moronic comment. I don’t recall the last time I had to watch The Arsenal in a pub with stupid people like that. Call me a football snob, but I like to watch the game and engage in intelligent comment with colleagues about formations, individual performances and how to nullify the opposition. What I don’t do is stand with my back to the screen for long periods during the game chanting the name of my team repeatedly just to see if the crowd reacts. It’s sad and pitiful actually.

Keep football for those that love football. Not morons. That’s what I’m going to decree when I become President of the Universe.

Anyway, rant over, on the positive side at least we can all go back to watching this World Cup as neutrals/onlookers at what has been a great one so far. I’m lucky; I have German and Dutch roots so I’ll be voting for one of those two teams for the remainder of the tournament, probably with a leaning towards the Germans because of the Arsenal connection.

Catch the in the morrow.