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.


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?


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.