glorygunner

Archive for the ‘Campions League’ Category

Arsenal: Borussia Dortmund Preview, AST AGM

In Arsenal, AST, Campions League on September 12, 2011 at 9:18 pm

First things First – Dortmund Away

Tomorrow brings back the Champions league format for 2011/12 season and will be held in that big German spare tyre known as Munich’s Allianz Arena.  As German spare tyres go it always makes me think of Helmut Kohl for some reason – I mean, who’d want to be referred to as a big Helmut!

Anyway, moving on, as the journey proper starts in Dortmund and this could prove to be a tricky test.    They’re the champions of Germany (so obviously unseeded and in pot B for the draw) and they are renowned for having quite an atmospheric stadium with both seated and standing areas allowing for a capacity of just under 81,000 fans.  It has also been noted that they haven’t had the best of starts to the season currently sitting at 11th in the Bundesliga after an indifferent start.  Nothing Arsenal fans could potentially imagine of and it’s obviously great going into a game against a team struggling to find form……..oh.

The line-up for Dortmund could be quite interesting and if I were to choose the players on the comical merit of their surnames I would go for the following:

Weidenfeller

Koch – Kringe – Hummels – Piszczek

Bender – Goetze – Großkreutz – Kehl

Zidan – Le Tallec

Arsenal go into the match with a couple of players hoping to be on the plane not making it.  Aaron Ramsey has picked up an ankle injury in training and to be honest I think a rest wouldn’t be a bad thing for Aaron at the moment given the amount of match play he’s had recently.  It’s one think getting an ankle injury that you can recover from but it’s another getting a Jack Wilshere injury that seems innocuous at the time but end up being 3 months on the sidelines.

Tomas Rosicky is also going to be out of the game and I’m sure he’ll be gutted at missing the chance to return to his former club once again. 

So with this in mind the squad that travelled to Germany was only 18 men strong and with Ramsey out it’ll be interesting to see who will play in the centre of midfield.  If Wenger sticks with the 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation then I would imagine that Gervinho would come in for Arshavin and would he be willing to play both Song and Frimpong in the middle with Arteta just sitting in front.  Could you imagine that?  A Song/Pong tag team in the middle of the park and if any player was lucky enough to get between then then SMACK Mertesacker will be straight onto him.  If so, then I would imagine the line-up would be something like this:

Szczesny

Sagna – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Gibbs

Song – Arteta – Frimpong

Walcott – RvP – Gervinho

Tomorrow’s came is the start of a two-match ban extension to the one imposed by UEFA for Arsene not using his own phone to speak to the bench against Sudanese.  Which in turn was a ban for the magnificent performance by Massimo Busacca in the game against Barcelona when he sent off RvP for continuing to take a shot some 100ms after the whistle had blown amongst 95,000 squealing fans in the Nou Camp.  Therefore, Pat Rice will effectively be in charge tomorrow so no doubt we will see lots of flapping of arms from the touchline.

AST AGM

On another note, the Arsenal Supporters trust held their AGM this evening and whilst I was not in attendance the great job of certain Tweeters gave the wide audience a true insight into how the AST keeps the current Arsenal management team on their toes.  And rightfully so.  From the snippets I’ve seen it there were some great insights to many of the questions of the tip of fans tongues:

 

Are the fans committed to the running of the club Yes The fanshare scheme is only a year old and currently has 2,000 members and has invested over £1M.
Does this run against the plans of the current owner(s) Yes Due to demand from fanshare scheme there is not enough shares available (in a capitalist world this must push up the price).  Current owners “cooling” on previous promises for increased fanshare

£2M was raised by selling Armoury bricks (wonder if that includes maintenance outside shop entrance/exit?)

Arsenal unable to meet wage demands of players Not true Arsenal currently 4th highest wage payers.  Current structure though means that persistently injured Abou Diaby is on a higher salary than the highest salary earner at Spuds at £60K a week (A WEEK)

This means that it is hard to differentiate top earners amongst the squad.

New Stadium Hindering Progress Yes/No Arsenal is not getting the same value in the current market compared to other clubs.  The number of partners is currently limited to long term exclusivity deals.  This hinder underlying revenue for club rather than just impacting transfer budget.

Transfer budget currently stands at £50M following summer activity.  Therefore, this has actively not been spent.

Therefore reduced income can only translate to increase ticket prices which impacts fans rather than owners

Reinvestment in the squad is not available No As mentioned earlier, the transfer fund currently sits at £50M.  This is the amount left after recent transfer window.  Money said to be spent only on players that can improve the squad.  However, with revenue linked into aforementioned commercial partner deals the only way to increase revenue would be to have more success on the pitch.  Double dilemma at the moment as current squad does not have the depth to push on through the final stages of the season in 4 separate competitions.  Therefore, no investment, no progress.  No progress, no prize money.  No prize money, no investment, etc., etc.
Arsene not willing to spend money True The transfer policy for the club is between Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis.
Are the board/owners actively managing Arsenal? It would seem not The perception is the Kroenke is not driving decision making at Arsenal and his investment in a strategic one.  All team management and to that extent, the strategy of the club, is driven by Arsene Wenger.

As highlighted above, the fanshare scheme could be at risk due to neither Kroenke nor Usmanov willing to release shares and Usmanov only releasing the same number of shares than Kroenke.  Suggest that only individual purposes are being served rather than embracing fans desire to be more involved.

 

Looking back over these comments there are some big areas of concern. 

The financial power that Arsenal may have had a few years back has gone and whilst it appears that it is not the actual debt of the new stadium that is holding the club back it is in fact the deal that were negotiated at the time that may have lacked a little foresight through the life the of terms agreed.  This will impact the club for the next 3-4 years at least. 

Furthermore, and reading between the lines, there is a strained relationship between Gazidis and Kroenke with Ivan struggling to get Stan to commit to anything or become more involved in the over-arching strategy and implementation.  I have been critical of the squad’s development since Gazidis joined the club and this was before Kroenke was heard of at Arsenal.  There seems to be some conflict here and as to what the resolution will be we will have to wait and see but this dynamic may not be something that will stand the test of time – something will break.

What’s also concerning during the intervening period is that fans can expect additional trauma with transfer situations like the Nasri debacle that was just experience.   Long term contracts needs to be resolved for Robin van Persie, Alex Song, Theo Walcott and Thomas Vermaelen and with the spectre of every Arsenal fans favourite agent, Darren Dein, hanging over these deals then we have some rocky times ahead.  And people still cry out for the return of David Dein………!

There will be more detail on the AST AGM via various channels but I’ve filled in my forms already for the AST and they have a stake at the top table and with the right approach, they have the chance to influence the future of the club.  Thanks to @legrove and @DarrenArsenal1 for the updates during the AGM.

Right, bring on Dortmund tomorrow – love a bit of Champions League!  Until then, Auf Weidersehn Pet.

GG

Advertisements

Au Reviour Samir – Watershed Moment for ‘Big Club’ Arsenal; Udinese Preview; Frimpong New Cult Hero?

In Campions League, Nasri, Transfers, Udinese, Wenger on August 23, 2011 at 9:53 pm

 

Samir Nasri Leaving Is a Watershed Moment?

 

There has been talk over the weekend that the Liverpool defeat was a watershed moment in Arsene Wenger’s time at Arsenal.  Well, the goalpost have just moved again as it was confirmed today that Samir Nasri was being sold to Manchester City and Roberto Mancini could stop his little temper tantrums about whether or not Nasri was going to play tomorrow against Udinese.

There will be no fond farewell as the lure of money and a rainy climate was too much for Samir and when fans ask for committment and loyalty from players that wear the beloved shirt then Nasri leaves under a cloud called Adebayor.  It will be interesting to see whether he follows a similar route in signing for the Spuds on loan in 3 years time. 

So au revoir Samir, I think you had your farewell chant on Saturday when you still showed a bit of spirit but obviously the rain washed that small flicker away.  Man City at home will be another interesting fixture this year.

 

Are Arsenal A “Big Club”?

 

This is actually not as provocative as the tag line might suggest and for the following reasons.

I’ve never known a summer like it but the bare facts are that we have now sold our two most creative outlets in Cesc and Nasri and there must be great concern as to how suitable replacements can be identified with only 8 days left in the transfer window.   At the moment, we are left with very limited midfield options with both Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin completely out of form, Jack Wilshire, Abu Diaby and Thomas Rosicky carrying injuries; and our two midfield ball winners suspended for the next game away at Old Trafford.

There needs to be movement in the transfer market very quickly and you would like to think that Arsene has an ace or two up his sleeve.  However, everyone seems to be playing Arsene at his own game by where he has famously insisted that targets will not be leaving in the near future and now we’re seeing a little payback.  With so little time left to make any deals someone has to blink first but the closer we get to the deadline the greater the prices are likely to go up.  Why else would Andy Carroll have cost £35 million.

So the fans are optimistic that Arsene is going to pull out a couple of rabbits out of the hat, but what optimism can we have.  In an interview with the BBC today Arsene tells a sad tale:

The summer was very difficult because we had [Cesc] Fabregas and Nasri on permanent transfer negotiations and that is draining in the end. We lost two great players and that’s a sad side of the story but at some stage it has to be over, because you want to focus on the future

Yet it’s the future that is the concern.  In some ways you can understand why a footballer wants success.  They do have short careers and only so many teams can win the cups.  For every Barcelona (of which there are not many), there are plenty of teams that will fail and players do not want to look back on their careers with an empty trophy cabinet at home.  This is what has hit home amongst the senior players in recent time, Nasri cannot necessarily complain of poverty if he’d signed his contract extension and with Cesc having to take a pay cut in order to facilitate his move to Barcelona it is clear that the chance to be a winner far outweighed the salary to stay at Arsenal.  There is also the risk that the ripple effect will reach other key members of the squad whose contracts will be expiring in the next year or two.

This sends out a clear message to the rest of the footballing fraternity that Arsenal may not have the same ambitions as everyone else and they run the risk of turning into a training academy for young players to make a name for themselves before moving to the first club with a gizzillionaire owner offering dream team set-ups.  If this is the expectation then Arsenal have suddenly degraded their buying power for new and exciting talent – in fact, Wenger has admitted this already and his prophecy may be coming true:

 “Imagine the worst situation – we lose Fabregas and Nasri – you cannot convince people you are ambitious after that.

“And even if you lose Nasri, to find the same quality player, you have to spend again the same amount of money. Because you cannot say that you lose the player and you do not replace him.

“I believe for us it is important that the message we give out – for example you see about Fabregas leaving, Nasri leaving – if you give that message out you cannot pretend you are a big club.

“Because a big club first of all holds onto its big players and gives a message out to all the other big clubs that they just cannot come in and take [players] away from you.”

So enough now of the transfer situation, things need to happen and happen quickly and when those transfers do happen will hear from them first on Arsenal.com.  There’s too much speculation on the newswires to be able to make sense of what might actually happen and my blood pressure will not last the next 7 days.

 

Udinese – Arsenal Preview

 

The headlines will say that this is the biggest games of the season so far.  Hard to argue really but as mentioned earlier, tomorrow’s game could define the future of this club over the coming seasons.  It sends a shiver down my spine to think that we may not have Champions League football this season.  I know this sounds very pessimistic considering that Arsenal are taking a 1-0 lead into the second leg but you cannot help but feel that Udinese will fancy their chances in front of a home ground and with better finishing they could well have taken an away goal too. 

The squad benefits from a lack of suspensions that impact the games in the Premiership so we can certainly expect to see Alex Song and Gervinho make a return. 

I would expect the starting line-up to look something like this:

Szczesny

Sagna  –  Djourou  –  Vermaelen  –  Jenkinson

Ramsey  –  Song  –  Rosicky

Walcott  –  RvP  –  Gervinho

I have stuck with Jenkinson in defence with the full-back line up being the same as the weekend.  I thought they both did well and they would be far more assuring than Traore at left back. 

It will be important for Arsenal to get an away goal early on as the team seems to have started this seasons games far stronger in the first half than they do in the second.  Let’s hope it they can manage it but we all know what it’s like to be an Arsenal fan, the team always seem to have a knack of doing things the hard way.  May need a few beers to get me through tomorrow evening – maybe a night of London Pride vs Peroni but will obviously be knocking back more London Pride in order to do my bit for karma.

 

Frimpong – A new cult hero?

 

On a final note, after his excellent starting debut (sending off aside) on Saturday, Emmanuel Frimpong should be applauded for his recent antics on twitter.  Not only does he have a profile header that you wish every Arsenal player would declare, as well as putting Piers Morgan truly in his place, Emmanuel was quick to remind his friend, Jack Wilshire, that the future can still be bright without Nasri being at the Emirates.  He obviously needs to keep reminding him at the training ground:

 

 

Can’t wait to see what other pearls will be posted in the future but with the performances and desire shown so far I can see Emmanuel quickly becoming a firm favourite (let’s hope the big money offer doesn’t come soon).

 

So, fingers crossed for tomorrow – the team are capable of completing the task at Udinese.  Time to out in a performance that will show we’re still in the running.

Come on you reds!

GG

Arsenal vs Liverpool Preview

In Arsenal, Campions League, Liverpool, Uncategorized, Wenger on August 19, 2011 at 11:38 pm

The second game of Arsene’s pre-season takes place tomorrow against the scousers at lunchtime. This is where reality hits home and the team get the opportunity to prove that they are ready to handle the gauntlet that Arsene has thrown down. If not, then the temperature inside the Emirates is going to go up a few notches.

So what can we expect? One thing that I was not anticipating is that Nasri might actually make an appearance tomorrow seeing that he is still under contract with Arsenal. As far Arsene is concerned that’s the way it should be :

“Everywhere I have worked in my life I have made sure that until the last second of where I was I did the job properly. He is paid this month by Arsenal Football Club so why should he not play?”

The problem here is that the way Nasri has conducted himself in the public has exactly been appeasing to the fanbase. Even if Nasri does start and performs well it will be interesting to see how the fans respond. I have a feeling that they might give him an initial chance as it would be quite vitriolic to boo from the off but you never know.

Taking this into consideration the start line-up should look something like this:

Szszceny

Sanga – Koscienly – Vermaelen – Jenkinson

Arshavin – Frimpong – Ramsey – Nasri

Walcott – RvP

The bench has been strengthed with the additional of Djourou to the bench. Whilst he may have receovered from his hamsting twinge I am not convinced that he will be risked unless necessary.

In complete contrast to Arsenal, Liverpool have been flashing the cash on players who are well known to the Premiership. Not that it means they have suddenly into a super fantastic world beating team overnight but they have certainly strengthed since last year. Of the players in their team that have the potential to cause us problems it’s likely to be the two upfront, Suarez and Carroll. Let’s hope that the back four continue their current run of form and keep another clean sheet.

This then leaves us to consider the likely outcome for Saturday’s match and given the current public goings on at the clubs the bookies are still making Arsenal the very slight favourites:

Paddy Power: Home Win – 6/4; Away Win – 15/8

William Hill: Home Win – 13/8; Away Win – 7/4

Ladbrokes: Home Win – 11/8; Away Win – 2/1

These odds are taking into consideration current squads and potential starting XI’s but it’s worth considering more previous clashes and determining the likehood of teams scoring from past performance. Castrol football has a great prediction tool that encompasses all these factors and they suggest a greater likelihood of an Arsenal victory. I’ll take that any day and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be pleasantly suprised with Saturday’s performance:

Arsenal Win 59%; Draw 22% and Liverpool Win19%

———————————————————————————————-

In other news, Wenger has been charged by UEFA for his attempts to remain in managerial control during the first leg of the CL qualifier against Udinese. Another case of the footballing authorities of being over zealous in the interpretation of their own rules and it’s not as if he tried to smuggle himself into in dressing room by hiding in the linen basket. It’s unlikely he’ll escape further punishment but to what extent we are yet to see.

Also, there has been confirmation that Joel Campbell’s move to Arsenal has been confirmed. His shirt number is yet to be confirmed as is a work permit, but you would like to hope that the work permit department at Arsenal have completed their homework this time and the application will be agreed first time around.

Roll on Saturday’s match and in a voyeuristic sense that the reaction between the fans and the team/manager will be interesting to say the least. Let’s hope that all the talking is left to the pitch and here’s to an Arsenal win.

Come on you reds!

GG

Arsenal 1-0 Udinese: Great Result, Considering. Much More to Be Done

In Arsenal, Campions League, Cesc, Nasri, Transfers, Udinese, Walcott, Wenger on August 17, 2011 at 12:39 am

Since the game against Newcastle on Saturday the world is starting to look very different.  Whilst there has been much anticipation and little surprise, Cesc Fabregas now dons the colours of his beloved FC Barcelona.  There has been a lot of debate as who got the best out of the deal and at face value it would seem that Barcelona are rubbing there hands with glee.  They have finally signed one of the world most talented midfielders  and somehow they have even managed to persuade him to forgo a £4M sell-on clause which means that Cesc has also been forced to contribute to his transfer fee.

On top of this Samir Nasri has firmly driven a wedge between himself and the Arsenal fans by publicly expressing his dismay at some of the chanting from Arsenal fans at St. James Park.  The fact that the travelling support were so open regarding their feeling on the Nasri contract saga just goes to show how low his stock currently is with the fans whose expectations, by default, are very high in terms of player allegiance and committment to the club whilst under contract.  To have publically tweeted the two texts below can be perceived by many as a sign of contempt not just for his own position but also to congratulate Cesc on achieving his departure.

For everyone’s sake now it’s time for Arsenal to help manoeuvre Nasri’s departure from the club and we can only hope that the recent actions have not limited the choices for an exit and, as such, reduced the value in a similar way to Cesc’s with a one and only departure to Barcelona being possible.

So with Cesc gone and Nasri unlikely to be in Arsene’s immediate plans who is going to step up to the plate and take on the role of as the engine of the midfield.  Well, it’s certainly not going to be Emmanuel Eboue and the club have today agree terms with Galatasary in what is officially an undisclosed fee but rumour suggest that a figure of about €3.5 million.  Again, this move was not unexpected and it’s the right decision for both parties following some cataclysmic displays towards the end of last season which was epitomised by the penalty conceded at the death against Liverpool.

The changing room will be a quieter place without Eboue as he was a larger than life character which was open for all to see when he stood on the otuchline and greeted each and every place as the left the pitch at both half-time and end of match.  His turn around in character following his substitution against Wigan at the Emirates was amazing and whilst he still had his faults on the pitch his ability to deal with that personal adversity mae him into a cult with some sections of the crowd.  Even during the last general election there was a campaign to vote for Eboue instead of the other candidates.  Whilst this may have been tongue his cheek it helped manifest the cult status.

But the deep down, Eboue was his own undoing as he alway tried to do that little bit too much.

Good luck with the move to Galatasary, Emmanuel, you conducted yourself with great decorum (which some others could take a lesson in) and here are some of your finer moments.

And so onto tonight’s games against Udinese and I must admit that I knew little about their team other than that they have Italy’s top scorer for the past two seasons in De Natale

Tonight’s starting line-up was:

Szczesny

Sanga, Koscienly, Vermaelen, Gibbs

Song, Rosicky, Ramsey

Walcott, Chamakh, Gervinho

Subs: Fabianski, Ox-Chamberlain, Arshavin, Frimpong, Bendtner, Jenksinson

On the day that he was announced as vice-captain, Thomas Vermaelen lead the team out due to RvPs suspension from last seasons encounter at the Nou Camp.

The game started at a high tempo and this suited Arsenal who were passing the ball crisply and making good movements across the pitch.  In their first true foray into the Udinese box a sharp cross from Aaron Ramsey was met decisively by Theo Walcott and it was One-Nil to The Arsenal within 4 minutes.

Following this no team really got a stranglehold on the game and barring a couple of chances for Udinese with Szczesny saving well in the first half from Di Natale, the first half passed by with plenty of movement but no real chances to speak of.  At half-time, Gibbs was replaced by Djourou with the former suffering from a hamstring injury.

In the second half you could sense that Udinese fancied their chances of an away goal and continued to pressurize the Arsenal defence.  Just after 9 minutes on the pitch, Johan Djourou was himself replaced by Carl Jenkinson due to the second hamstring injury of the evening.  Is it me or does the Arsenal squad not seem to have had a problem with hamstring injuries over recent time?

Therefore, Vermaelen switched back into the central defence and there were now two right backs on the pitch and Jenkinson played out of his natural position and took the left berth for the rest of the game.

Udinese continues to press forward but were unable to convert their chances and possesion.  By the end of the game, Udinese has 12 shots at goal by only 3 on target.  By comparison, the home team only managed half as many shots with an equal 3 on target.

Theo Walcott has one great chance after being put through by Aaron Ramsey and whilst one on one with the goalkeeper Theo contrived to completely scuff an attempted chip and the chance ended as a damp squib.

Szczesny pulled off an excellent save from a Di Natale free kick just outside the box with the Arsenal No. 1 diving across the length of the goal to turning a curling ball around the post for a corner.

Walcott had the final chance of the evening when put through following on of Gervinho’s dazzling runs only to not put the far enough away from keeper, Handanovic, who made a good save but it could have be made harder for him.

What can we take from the game?  There were certainly some areas of promise.  Our defence managed to keep a clean sheet; we take a lead, albeit a rather slim one to the second leg; and the fans were vocal and supportive of the team’s performance.  Note: there was no announcement of attendance as previously informed by Ivan Gazdis but official numbers state that just over 58,000 were present tonight – there seems to be many more empty seats that this suggests……

As for areas of concern, unfortunately these outweigh the positives:

  • the central midfield seemed to tire in the second half and suffered from a lack of concentration in passing movements Read the rest of this entry »