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Posts Tagged ‘Champions’

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

Arsenal: Deadline Day Roller Coaster!! How Did It Feel?!

In Transfers, Wenger on September 1, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Do you remember the day’s when you were young when your parents tell you that you’re being taken to your first theme park where they have proper rollercoasters.  Not your poxy little ones at Southend Pier that just go round in a circle and dip up and little and bounce down a bit. 

Oh no, the one’s where if you try eating an ice cream whilst on the ride you just end up wearing most of it all over your face and the odd one will going flying into the passenger behind.

And just when you think that it’s all over, you do the whole thing again but backwards leaving you in a complete mess and the end, stomach turned upside and with jelly legs.

That’s how I feel after last night’s transfer deadline orgy via our friends Sky Sports News last night. 

After the rumours from Tuesday about the shoring up of defence with a 6’6” German and a Brazilian left back with wizards feet Wednesday was being embraced with great anticipation. 

Yet things started slowly and it wasn’t until late afternoon that we started to hear that we were in for two midfielders – Yossi Benayoun and Mikel Arteta.  Great, we all thought.  Arsene’s listened to the pleas of the masses and he’s trying to fill the void left by the absences of Nasri and Fabregas.  Two players of Premiership experiences and both creative in their style of play.

That was until midway through the evening we heard that the Arteta move was off.  Mixed reports as to whether or not the clubs couldn’t agree a fee or whether it was in fact personal terms that had led to a breakdown in negotiations.  Therefore, the conclusion was the Arsenal were playing with their usual pokerface and withdrew from negotiations.

There was discontent across the Arsenal twitter world.  Suddenly Benayoun wasn’t enough and certainly not just on a 1 year loan deal.  There was contempt in the air and the summer transfer window was nearly confined to the world of “could have beens” and the usual anti-climax of signing yet another out of favour Chelsea playing prior to the deadline (re. Diarra and Gallas).

But like the momentary eye in the rollercoaster storm, we’d only reached the end of the first leg and with an hour left in the window the train starting rolling backwards again and the Arteta move was back on!  Hoorah, we all cried!  Come on Arsene, sort if out before the Premier League fax machine runs out of paper, we can save our season if we can just get this one player from Everton who had had mixed fortunes recently on the injury front.

And so Big Ben chimed, Jim White’s excitement reached explosive proportions and…….and…..did it go through?……..it did?………yes!  Everything is alright in the world, forget the 8-2 drubbing at the weekend, forget that we are 8 points behind the leaders with only 3 games played already.  We have some players and they’re not still studying their A-levels.

To be true though, the shopping list requirements have been clear for the past 2 years – 1 goalkeeper, 2 centre backs, 2 midfielders and another striker with at least 20 goals in his bag.

Szczesny can fill the GK role if he can add maturity to his already maturing years. 

We could potentially have a 1st choice back four of Santos – Mertesacker – Vermaelan – Sagna.  These line-up can stand up on it own to some of the best. 

If we needed 2 midfielders before the summer then we needed another 4 prior the season start.  However, with the emergence of Frimpong, less petulance from Song and Gervinho, Wilshere remaining fit and Diaby and Arshavin potentially finding fitness and from the addition of Arteta and Benayoun are good solid additions.

Up front, Young is untested really.  He’s led the line at Monaco in the past season but they were recently relegated.  He’s the captain of his national squad but how competitive that team really is would need to be questioned.

So what does this crop of players provide the current squad.?

They certainly bring experience and maturity with the ages covering  the range of 26 – 29 years old.  Mertesacker is a great signing in terms of his international experience (75 caps for Germany at the tender age of 26 – eat that Gary Cahill).

Apparently we now have an inventor and genius in Yossi Benayoun whose other talents involve the creative design for the Israeli Coca Cola bottle.  Well, that was what Wikipedia was stating last night but funny that id doesn’t anymore.

And Mikel Arteta?  He grew up in the Barcelona youth academy before plying his trade elsewhere?  Was his signing truly the lure of Champions League football or could it be that he wants to be next summers perennial Catalan target?  Oh, the cynicism!

We now enter the mundane period of International football and to hope and pray that all the players return fit and well.  Some come down from last nights excitement and with a balance still of £50M+, roll on the january transfer window.  See Arsene, you can have a bit of excitement in your life!  There are reasons to be confident again but maybe not too optimistic. 

GG

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