The Pragmatist’s Arsenal (glass half-full version)

July 8, 2011 — by Sean

We’d like to thank Rob Kirby, one of our many Arsenal-supporting field agents, for the following take on Arsenal’s “imminent” demise.

Don't look back.

The football media establishment says that Arsenal is out of the title race even before anything’s begun. With the imminent exits of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri (on the heels of the £7M Manchester City signing of left back Gael Clichy), pundits have already decided the Arsenal season is done, dead and buried. Supporters, angry over last season’s utter capitulation, are screaming for Wenger’s head, seeing big names go but none coming in.

For the past two transfer windows, everyone was in agreement. We needed a quality goalkeeper, a rock-solid central defender (or two) and a defensive midfielder as backup and competition to Song. And for the past two transfer windows, we got none of them. And now we need a left back and two attacking midfielders, as well? That’s over half the starting XI!

Reality check:

On the GK-side, Szczesny emerged as a badass last season (regrettable Carling Cup fiasco aside). And even Fabianski showed he wasn’t contractually obligated to suck all the time.

Vermaelan, our first choice center half, spent the entire year injured. But now he’s back. Koscielny enters his second season in the league, better adjusted now to the physicality of the Premiership. Meanwhile, Wenger truly seems be on the reinforcements track this time around. (Perhaps someone will even deliver us from Squillaci, while they’re giving us the upgrade…)

The loss of Fabregas can’t be understated, but it’s been a long time coming. Thankfully, Wilshere had a full season to play beside him and learn from one of the masters. And not only did Song put in a solid shift, adding goal-scoring to his bag of tricks, his body seems largely immune to the team’s uber-susceptibility to injury.

But no one chooses to focus on that. It doesn’t sell papers, and if there’s one thing publishing papersellers like, it’s paper sales. So Fleet Street shrieks with the histrionics and the exclamation points. Doomsayers insist that the exit of three players, all of whom have been tipped to leave from the past six months (Nasri, Clichy) to 2 years ago (Cesc), spells the end of the Arsenal Top Four dynasty, not to mention any title aspirations. And wait, crap, Arshavin may go, too! Not to mention the players the club wants to let go: Denilson, Diaby, Almunia, Eboue, Squillaci, Bendtner and Rosicky. It’s an exodus of mass proportions! Forget Champions League, we’ll be battling relegation!

Get real.


Mourinho on the Truth About Cats and Dogs

December 12, 2010 — by Suman

Mourinho y su perro

Among the football headlines in Spain this weekend: “Con perro cazas; con gato cazas, pero menos“–aphoristic words of wisdom gleaned from the Jose Mourinho’s press conference yesterday, which translates roughly to “You hunt with a dog; with a cat you hunt, but less so.”  Remarkably, this isn’t the first time the Special One has made the news for canine-related matters.

The comments about hunting with cats vs dogs had something to do with the injury to Higuain (el perro, we presume), which has left Benzema as el gato–Mourinho’s only option at striker.

Real Madrid mouthpiece Marca transcribed some Mourinho’s monologue, which gives the context:

Soy entrenador y entreno a los jugadores que tengo a mi disposición. El tema del fichaje es un tema de la gente de arriba. Yo ya dije que era difícil afrontar la temporada sólo con Benzema e Higuaín, ahora sólo con Benzema será aún más difícil. Si vas a cazar y sólo tienes un gato, tendrás que salir con el gato porque solo no puedes ir. Si vas con un buen perro, cazas más. Si vas con un gato, cazas menos pero cazas.

Watch and listen to some bits of the press conference:


Real Madrid Squeak Past Gijón

November 15, 2010 — by Sean1

Yo tengo una tía que toca la guitarra!

Madrid kept their season motoring along with a determined win against a stubborn Gijón over the weekend. Gritty defending from the team ranked just above the relegation zone made Madrid work hard to find entry, and the goal only came late in the match, with Higuaín tapping in a deflected Benzema header right at the goal mouth.

Notable absence at pitch-side was Jose Mourinho, who is serving a two-match ban for abusing the officials in his last outing. The camera occasionally focused on him high in an executive suite, where he looked generally unhappy. He’ll be back in time for El Clásico, no worries.

Otherwise it was a plain affair, made a bit livelier by some guardian insight on facial hair:

For those who don’t know him, Manolo Preciado has the most magnificent moustache known to managers. The kind of thick, bushy facial foliage you could hide a family of badgers in, a tache that completely covers his lip. And that’s saying something because the Sporting Gijón coach has a lot of lip. He’s also got a lot of heart; he probably would hide a family of badgers in there if he thought it would help. He could hardly be earthier if he swallowed soil daily, lighting up a crafty fag on the back row of the dugout before steaming up and down the touchline like a wind-up toy, punching the air. But not before he’s turned it blue. And this weekend he helped turn it bluer than ever before.


France suspends their entire squad

July 23, 2010 — by Sean

"Let's lose the next and crash out of 2010, yes?"

The French have a friendly against Norway in a couple of weeks, but exactly who’ll be playing is a complete mystery. From the Guardian, among others:

The 23 members of France’s World Cup squad have been suspended for the country’s next game. The decision was taken during a meeting of the French Football Federation Federal Council on the recommendation of the national side’s new coach Laurent Blanc.

This on top of the Ribery/Benezema underage prostitution scandal has been great for continuing France’s World Cup ridiculousness. Party on, Bleus.