Arsenal set out to lose title in 2012

July 5, 2011 — by Tyler

Nasri out the door for Miami-based chicken fighting league on higher weekly wages than current Arsenal offer.

So, Clichy is off to Man City. Better him than Sagna, for our right back is quite a feisty, efficient, and productive gem. (Ohh, I love me some Sagna! He won’t ever leave, will he?)

In addition to Sagna, “those who won’t leave, or we’ll be in real trouble”: Song, Wilshire, Ramsey, van Persie, Vermaelen, Djourou, Walcott.

The rumour-mill has Nasri and Cesc leaving soon. I want to say “good riddance”, but it just doesn’t feel right to be that angry…

If Nasri leaves, then there is a huge gap in the Gunners’ Clichy-less left side. English-boy Kieren Gibbs can fill left-back or left-midfield, but he needs experience… Another signing would be in order should Nasri flee. The gossip columns mention Villa’s Stuart Downing as a possible signing?

It will be an interesting summer for sure. Wenger has padded-pockets for the first time in a while, so what’s the next chess move in the Professor’s mind? Has his youth-minded strategy backfired, is Arsenal a breeding ground for talent that will eventually leave for greener pastures? Or has he something else up his sleeve?

Is an overhaul in order? Perhaps, but Wenger doesn’t work like that.

Arsene has already enticed two teenagers from Barca’s youth academy to sign for the Gunners this summer, infuriating the Catalans to no end. (So delicious, the off-field rivalry that is Barca-Arsenal).

But Arsene is conservative to a fault. We would love to see Wenger sign 5 more players this summer, but I predict he signs 3 more at most.

I think the consensus is that we need a few big, steely, Brits.

Get Given, get Gary Cahill, get Downing, get Scott Dann, and please, please, please, go after the artist presently known as Leighton Baines.

F— it, I read an article today that suggested Wenger should get Joey Barton! At this point in Arsenal’s history, why not?


Adieu, Prodigal Son

March 9, 2011 — by Tyler

May, 1999. I had just experienced three confident days on my own in Madrid. Music, museums, and majesty. The sink in my tiny bedroom was clogged, but my Spanish was up to par. Off to Barcelona!

Barcelona: I departed the overnight train from Madrid and realized I hadn’t brought enough money with me. Worse, the station concierge told me that all the hotels were full. (A couple days later, I learned that Manchester United and Bayern Munich were in town for a thrilling Champs League Final. So many chubby, pale, sunburnt drunkards, spewing their anthems, separated by black-garbed Spanish military/police carrying machine guns.)

I eventually sorted out my funds in the station, and realized that the Catalan language barrier (not Spanish!) had contributed to my confusion. (I was looking for a hostel, not a hotel.) I paid for my room, celebrated, and hit Las Ramblas.

As dusk became darkness, I noticed the increasing cacaphony of car horns. Crowds were gathering; people were hanging from lightposts, lighting flares, and singing. I asked around and learned that FC Barcelona had just won the league title.

Two days later, I happened upon a medium-sized square in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. The Barca team bus arrived to greet the swelling of several hundred adoring fans. The players spoke from a second-story hotel balcony. I remember Figo, and I was in awe of the adoration. (Also on that balcony: Reiziger, Rivaldo, Kluivert…)

(The team that won La Liga during my first night in Catalunya also featured Xavi Hernandez and Josep Guardiola…)

Barcelona showed me Gaudi, as I stopped traffic to take pictures of his organic living spaces. Barcelona gave me La Sagrada Familia, again by Gaudi, perhaps the most beautiful of all unfinished architectural masterpieces.

I stood in line to see Picasso’s early sketches, accompanied by a street-guitarist. I watched young boys, in school uniforms, showing and telling a disturbingly large, silver handgun, out of sight of the cops, directly beneath the towering coastal statue of Columbus/Colon.

My one awkward memory: I had learned that Barca had won the league. People were celebrating all around me that night. There were pre-made cardboard cutouts of the trophy. I saw a woman who had 4 or 5 of those trophy cutouts. I asked her for one, using body language more than words. She shook her head, “no”.

I found my own cardboard trophy on the ground, trampled and dirty, with the handles torn off. I still have it.


Arsenal’s Carling Cup Failure

February 28, 2011 — by Tyler

Arsenal caught a serious case of the Blues on Sunday, for sure.

I wasn’t terribly surprised by the 2-1 defeat to the old boys from the second city in the Carling Cup final. Birmingham can hold down the fort when they need to. The defense is often well-organized, stubborn, and capable of scoring on set pieces; the midfield is scrappy and confident; the forward line, while less than imaginative, can obviously take advantage of the odd bounce of the ball.

I’m not the first, nor the last, to praise Blues’ keeper Ben Foster. He was everywhere and anywhere on Sunday, playing as if it were his last match on earth. Quite a superb solo effort by England’s future number two!

As for the Gunners: With Cesc and Walcott nursing minor injuries, I had hoped against hope that Rosicky would remain on the bench, that Nasri would move to the attacking, central midfield role, and (gasp?) that Bendter would start on the right wing. Alas, it was as I predicted: Rosicky in the middle, Nasri on the right…

Despite Rosicky’s lack of ambition, and Van Persie’s yet-to-be disclosed injury–which forced him to exit the match prematurely–the loss nestled itself quite comfortably on the shoulders  of Arsenal’s goalkeeper and left-center back. (I can’t even mention them by name. Not that I’m ashamed, I just don’t have the energy to look up Eastern-European vowel and consonant combinations…)

I can’t help but wonder if Arsene Wenger might share a bit of the blame for Sunday’s loss. For three years, Gooners have clamored for solid, experienced, goalkeepers and center halves/backs. The signing of Vermaelen was a wonderstroke, but a niggling, mysterious, Achilles injury has rendered him unavailable until hell freezes over. William Gallas was a delicate genius, but now he cries for the Spurs. Sol Campbell had a brief spell of nostalgic leadership for the Gunners late last year, but now he warms the cheap seats at St. James’ Park.


A Love Letter to (North) London

February 20, 2011 — by Tyler

(When it comes to the Champions League, I can’t help but root for any English team, unless that team is playing against Arsenal… How the Gunners beat Barcelona is not for me to decide, for I’m certainly not an analyst. My best answer is that Arsenal beat Barca the same way Arsenal can be beaten: Solid defending and goalkeeping, making chances count, waiting for a couple sloppy passes and scoring on the break.

As for the Spurs, I love to watch them. I’m an American Arsenal fan, so the Gunners/Spurs rivalry is a non-issue. Yeah, I get excited when they play each other, I get a bit worked up, but I watch my soccer on the t.v., not the telly. My villains are United and Chelsea, unless they’re playing in the Champions League, not against Arsenal!)

Dear North London:

Thank you for last week. Thank you for entertaining us in such dramatic fashion. Thank you for showing us the spirit of “The Underdog”.

Thank you for showing us that the EPL elite is comprised of much more than Reds and Blues. Thank you for showing us that English teams might rebound from last year and once again hold their own in Europe, against the most famous and well-established of teams.

Thank you for providing international ingredients, for Russia, Africa, France, Eastern Europe, and two vans from Holland. Thank you for a home-grown finishing dose (Lennon/Crouch), and for unfinished future droplets (Walcott/Wilshire).

Thank you for showing us that it just might be preferable to train and play under clouds and rain, rather than under models and breezy coasts.

Thank you for your fiery managers and coaches.

Thank you, beanpole and diminutive one, for your last minute heroics.

Thank you, North London, not from a supporter but from a fan.

Thank you, North London, for a rivalry I can’t truly understand.

Thank you for scoring on the break.

Good luck, North London…

Love, Tyler


10 Men Arsenal Advance to FA Cup 5th Round

January 31, 2011 — by Tyler1

A nail-biter at the Emirates yesterday left our resident Gunners enthusiast in a giddy state. If Nasri hadn’t gone down (he looks unlikely for the clash with Barça mid-month), this would’ve been an almost perfect day for our friend from the Rockies.

Arsenal snatched a win at the death, but Nasri was sacrificed to the hamstring gods.

What a struggle, what a game.

Facing Huddersfield at home in Sunday’s 4th-round FA Cup tie, Arsenal showed that when healthy, they can field a tourney-worthy team comprised mostly of subs.

Arsenal are often so pretty, but Sunday they showed that a win is a win, no matter how ugly.

An aside: Arsenal really have nearly enough quality players to play 2 in every position. I honestly don’t think any team in the EPL, other than ManU and Tottenham, are that deep. Okay, okay, ManCity might be the deepest… but aren’t they still a work-in progress? (I think Arsenal has a deeper bench than ManU, but ManU maintains the mystique, the ‘killer instinct’.)

Arsenal still need help at center-back, and they could use some ‘pure’ wingers. Nasri, Walcott, Arshavin, Bendtner aren’t wingers… they are best-suited for and would prefer to play in the middle. The Gunners’ best wingers continue to be their starting fullbacks, Clichy and Sagna.

Arsenal played with 10 men for the entire 2nd half, thanks to what I believe was center-back Squillaci’s 3rd red card of the season. (Sebastian is proving to be quite the problem child!) Huddersfield came on strong in the 2nd half, negating Bendtner’s 1st-half deflected goal. But late in the game, Cesc arrived on the scene. Fabregas changed the game with just a couple effortless, efficient passes, and he won it with his late penalty.

Unsung heroes: I can boo-hoo Arshavin and Bendtner as much as anyone. But they’re both better players than we give them credit for, and they had pivotal roles in today’s game.

Bendtner scored the first goal of the match, and he even tracked back to defend once in a while!

Arshavin impressed me with his effort and desire, but his finishing continues to go missing. So many wasted chances in the box… Still, I can’t be mad at the diminutive opera-goer; a favorite moment for me today was when the Russian sprinted back to break up play inside the Gunners’ penalty box, throwing himself in front of the ball.

(Arshavin better be ready to shine for the next few games, as Nasri is most certainly out of action for 2-4 weeks. Just when the team was nearing full-fitness for the first time in so long… Why Samir, why???)

I was happy to see Rosicky’s leadership on the pitch, subbed after Nasri pulled his hammy. Tomas was brought down too easily, so many times, but he was vocal and inspiring, and he showed that he still has some creativity in him yet.

All in all it was a scrappy win. The Gunners’ “second team” obviously hasn’t had too many chances to play together as starters. They misplaced their passes, they had defensive lapses, they eeked out a win when they should have cruised.

2-1 is what matters. On to the 5th round…

Arsenal note-worthies:

• GK Almunia (aluminum?) returned from injury and made a crucial save. Thanks Manuel, but I still don’t trust you as the number one #1.
• Denilson and Gibbs’ lack of playing time hurt the squad today.
• Welcome back, Abou Diaby!!! (One of France’s 2010 WC standouts holds the ball like it’s a magnet; he can defend and attack and give Song a run for his money.)
• Alex Song, what an anchor. He came on in the 2nd half, in the role of center-back, and he was just as composed as ever.


Carpenter’s Crush: (More) Samir Nasri

December 8, 2010 — by Tyler

Someday you too could earn a $15M bonus from oil barons

“Little Zidane”, “New Zizou”, “The next Zidane”

Samir Nasri’s nicknames, preposterous and premature, were heaped upon him not just because he possesses raw talent and vision, but because he shares a basic story with Zidane: Algerian parents emigrate to Marseille, build “street cred” while playing ball.

Let’s be clear, there is only one Zidane, and Nasri needs to demonstrate much more than an ill-timed headbutt to enjoy more substantial comparisons. But anything’s possible, right? After all, he’s only 23…

His 2 goals vs. Fulham this weekend were absolutely ridiculous. The second and game-winner will surely stand as one of this season’s best.

Goal 1: “cool, calm, and collected…”

Goal 2: “That is why people pay money to watch football.”

I’m reminded of a goal he scored in a Champions League match against Porto last year, as if he was dribbing amongst cardboard cutouts. I quite enjoy the fact that the play-by-play is in Arabic…

(Cautiously detatching myself from Cesc, one game at a time… Love is a fickle thing!)

Top of the table, Gunners, if only for a week!


Do Arsenal Continue Beating Spurs?

November 19, 2010 — by Tyler2

Notes from our Arsenal-supporting contingent, lead by the generally unruly but always introspective Tyler Carpenter.

The derby? Impossible to predict a scoreline. Position-wise the teams are mostly even, but Arsenal should win at home. The battle will be won at midfield, and I feel that finally-approaching-form Cesc could be the decider. But the mouth-watering matchup is Gunners’ right vs. Spurs’ left. Will Sagna be able to make deep runs and still track back to defend Bale? Arsenal’s right back has the speed, but can anyone defend Bale Kong?

And who should defend Rafael Van der Goal? The ’85 Chicago Bears? (Yes children, this link brings you to the Superbowl Shuffle)

Arsenal wins Draws Spurs wins Arsenal goals Spurs goals
League 61 42 46 234 202
FA Cup 3 0 2 7 5
League Cup 7 3 3 19 16
Charity Shield 0 1 0 0 0
Total 71 46 51 260 223

I remember this fixture last year: van Persie intercepting the Spurs’ kickoff after an Arsenal goal. Robin gave a quick pass to Cesc, who took it singlehandly, 50+ yards, and put it in the still-warm net. Nice!


ARSENAL CLICKS, OR CITY STUMBLES? (Questions from a Gunners fan)

October 27, 2010 — by Tyler

Nasri prances off to celebrate his goal

I admit that I was suprised by this game. Surprised by the Arsenal win, by the 0-3 final result, and by City’s reaction to the early red card that left them with ten men for 85 minutes.

Everyone at Eastlands will tell you that the result would have been different had Boyata not been ejected. But ejected Boyata was, leaving Roberto Mancini and his millionaires to decide how to fight on. I wonder if they’ve made their decision yet.

My feeling is that City didn’t fold, but they didn’t really fight, either. I’m confused as to the strategy for those 85 minutes. We’ve all seen examples of teams that seem to draw from untapped wells of determination and desperation after losing a player to a red card. But I didn’t see City demonstrate that brand of resilience on Sunday.

It’s a rare test to play virtually an entire game 10 vs. 11. And City played a Europa League game Thursday, while Arsenal had two days’ more rest after their Champions League match. So I understand that the City players were exhausted by the final whistle.

But Mancini has made it clear that he plans to rotate players throughout the season. He had players of skill and experience available on the bench, and City were playing at home for a repeat of last year’s explosive fixture.

I have questions.