Saturday, September 1, 2012

Arsenal in crisis? Not even slightly.

It's been a while since I wrote a post. And a lot has happened since then. To sum it up, Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla have come in, and mainly Robin and Song have left us. There hardly seems any point in discussing that, plenty of posts have done so! There are majorly two "crisis" Arsenal seem to be in 1. Not scoring goals and 2. Not buying enough players. I shall call them Crisis-1 and Crisis-2, respectively.
Moving on to the start of our season. Two games, two goal less draws. Not great, but not too bad either, considering the fact that one of the games was against Stoke, a team that has always bullied Arsenal physically. But something that seems to be worrying Arsenal fans is the lack of goals. Or no goals at all. Honestly, that does not worry me one bit. Losing Robin is a big loss, but I don't think that will lead to Arsenal not scoring goals. And here is why - In 2011-12 Arsenal scored 74 goals, third highest in the league, in 2010-11 Arsenal scored 72 goals, second highest in the league, in 2009-10 Arsenal scored 83 goals, third highest in the league and in 2008-09 Arsenal scored 68 goals, second highest in the league. Now, if you look at these past few years and think about the number of strikers, attacking midfielders and attacking formations Arsenal have played, it's a huge huge number. But Arsenal have always managed to score a huge number of goals. This shows, that apart from maybe last year, Arsenal have not been reliant on one player to score over a long time. We have changed players, but have always scored goals! The answer is, the way Arsenal play, the philosophy with which we play, leads to goals. Arsenal's silky attacking playing style is responsible for the goals. This is helped by having an able striker up front. But, are Giroud and Podolski not able? Yes they are! And that will ensure that Arsenal will score in coming games. That should be the least of our worries. Rather I think we have had a strong start to the season, with our defense looking absolutely brilliant, that too without Szczesny, Sagna and Koscielny. The key to Arsenal doing well this season will be to concede fewer goals, have a stronger defense, and I think we are well on track there. So,  Crisis-1 not so much a crisis.
Moving on to address Crisis-2, Robin and Song left us. Let's say, for the sake of convenience, that together they helped us score 30 goals last season. Just Robin and Song together. Are not Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla capable of scoring those many together? Again, yes they are! I think more than 30 goals. This year we may not have one super goal scorer, but combined together I think Arsenal can score more. If you are going to say that we cannot be sure that they will score those many, then let me ask you, before last season did you ever think Song and Robin would combine to score the goals they did? Or that Robin would play every game? No. No one did. That's how football is. If we look at the midfielder in Song that we have lost, we have gained Diaby and Wilshere. Arn't those two enough to replace Song? They are. If you say that they are injury prone, wasn't Robin also? Hence, I can safely say, Crisis-2, is laughable.
I would have loved Arsenal to add to the current team too, but not doing so, is far from a crisis. We have successfully replaced all our outgoing players and are in a really good shape. I have said this before, amongst the madness in the football world right now, Arsene seems to be the only sane one. Trust him to do a good job, as he always has. Any team, player or fan thinking Arsenal are weaker this season is kidding himself. Keep the faith.
Liverpool tomorrow then! Expect goals. 
The goals are coming.

Friday, March 30, 2012

What is Tomáš Rosicky doing?

So Arsenal are on the best run in a couple of years, 'big' teams have been brushed aside and I can't think of a team in Europe that won't hesitate before taking on Arsenal right now. We are a handful when we get going aren't we? Oh yes. We are on a roll!
In the game against Aston Villa last week, I could not take my eyes off Rosicky. No, it was not because of his perfectly silky hair. It was because of some seriously slick football the man was playing. It just made me realize how much Arsenal have missed him. Injuries have played spoil sport again here. Anyways, long spells on the sidelines had pushed Rosicky into a cherished memory. We all knew he was class, technically absolutely amazing. But he wasn't on the pitch. Many an Arsenal fan deemed him 'deadwood'. So, the game last week got me thinking about Rosicky's role in the team, what he has been doing. Rosicky has been crucial in some of the large victories lately. Think spurs. Here's my take on it.
I happened to watch great videos on Rosicky's performance in the last few weeks. Have a look at his performance against Aston Villa here. His role in the team is essential to say the least. Rosicky is the reason Walcott has found his pace again. We all know that Walcott needs a good full back and Sagna does more than enough justice to that. We have seen how Walcott's performances have improved after Sagna has come back. But it's not just Sagna who has helped Walcott, it's Rosicky as well.
Rosicky plays a little higher up the pitch, behind the two wingers and our striker. When the ball is played to Rosicky, he makes a small run with it, he retains possession, and releases the ball when our wingers have gotten into runs in the right positions. Rosicky's biggest quality is his timing of releasing the ball. His understanding of the game. His run with the ball and clever twisting and turning, gives Walcott enough time to find comfortable space. And then Rosicky plays the ball to him. Walcott is a good player, but he needs good players around him still to get the best out of him. In the last few weeks Walcott and Rosicky have been amongst our best players. Rosicky has found his game again, and he has helped Walcott find his. It's great to see how the players are complimenting each other. This may seem like a simple enough thing, but it has played a key role in our recent run of wins. Rosicky is getting the best out of Walcott. And when Walcott gets the ball in a good position with space, few defenders can stop him. Arsene has found a lethal combo here. And it's working like beer and pizza for us. Good times.
However, this revival of Rosicky seems to have turned quite a few fans against Ramsey. Yes, there have been no fireworks there. But this is his first full season, he's a talented youngster who has done well enough to come back from a horrific injury. Let's give him some time, I still think he's going to be one of the best in a few years time!
That seems to be it. QPR tomorrow then, let's look forward to another great game! As always keep the faith. 
Oh and thanks to great videos on Rosicky by Alex A Carpenter (@CarpenterAAA11) on his YouTube page.

Rosicky vs Spuds


Friday, March 23, 2012

Transfer talk. Difficult for Arsene.

A lot is being said about the coming transfer market. For the first time since I remember, theres news of Arsenal signing players before the market starts. Yes, Podolski looking done and dusted if most views are to be believed. Many also believe that Matias Suarez has also signed a pre contract agreement and will be joining Arsenal for sure. So, that looks like two players done already, and I have to say, very un-Arsenal like, isn't it? Moreover, we seem to have started talks with Mario Götze, another fantastic player, the kind every team would love to see in their ranks. 
I did a poll recently on TalkOfTheArsenal, on which players would fans want to see in an Arsenal shirt next season, here are the results. First is Lukas Podolski with 26.01% votes, second is Mario Gotze with 22.47%, third is Jan Vertonghen with 20.45% and the Eden Hazard with 10.61%. 
All the above players are fantastic, their technique is second to none and are all players anyone would love to see in their team. And I do believe that Arsenal needs to sign a couple of more players to really have a go in all the four competitions. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the team we have right now, and we're doing great, but sometimes we lack a little bit of an edge. To just kill the game off, or to find that killer defense splitting pass. Here is something else I also believe in, technique and skill is important to win the league, but so is team spirit. Look at our teams in the past few years, you'll see something missing which is there this time around, it's fantastic team spirit. 
Before I go on to why this transfer market will be difficult, let me help you recall the 2007 Carling Cup final that Arsenal lost 2-1 to Chelsea. I remember a fellow gooner saying that Wenger should play the big players, we have to win the trophy, but Wenger played the same team that had taken Arsenal to the final, and we lost, against the likes of Drogba and company, our players were probably not there yet. Why did Arsene do that? Why didn't he play the big players? Here is why, playing the 'kids' in the final was only being fair to them. They were the ones who got the team to the final, they deserved the plaudits for playing the final. Would you like it, if you worked hard for something and then were replaced by someone else just before the finale? No. It would leave a bitter taste in your mouth, wouldn't it? Wenger tried to keep the spirit alive. And kudos to him.
Now look at what I just said above with a broader perspective, when we started this season, we were classified as a team that were not good enough for the Champions League spot, and look at where we are now. These players have proved everyone wrong, they've worked together and clawed their way back to where they belong. They deserve all the praise they're getting right now. Now, how do you think a first team player will react when he is just replaced at the start of next season after he has fought so hard this season? He won't like it. How will other players around him react? There will be a question mark in their minds. People may say this is part of a players life. That maybe, but how many players who have taken Arsenal to third place this season be happy sitting on the bench next season? Few. And fewer will take that positively. Let's say we sign Vertonghen, who do we replace? Koscielny, who has been so instrumental at the back? Or Vermaelen? Who is one of the best defenders around. And if we don't will the Ajax captain, who is one of the most wanted defenders in Europe right now, be happy on the bench? Think about it. 
I do think Arsenal need a few more players, but not at the expense of the spirit they have right now. We need cover for Van Persie, Podolski would be a good option. But we need to make sure that we look after the players we have right now, make sure we tell them that they are integral to the club's future plans. We need a good center back, but I think a capable understudy to Koscielny, Vermaelen and Mertesacker would suffice. Someone like Jenkinson , or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who we can rely on. Arsenal do not need someone like Eden Hazard, who has made it his duty to flirt with every big club. Trust me, one difficult season at Arsenal and he'll be flirting with all the clubs around. We don't need that. 
Money can buy good players, but it cannot buy team spirit, which is equally important. Arsenal have to maintain the balance. And that is Wenger's responsibility. That's why I say, this transfer window is going to be the toughest one for Wenger. And I think he knows it. Think about it, it's never as easy as it seems. Simply signing players is never the solution.
I'll leave you with that thought! Until next time then! Keep the faith!

Smells like team spirit


Monday, March 19, 2012

Mr. Stan Kroenke. Behind the silence, is a genius.

Stan Kroenke is a sports entrepreneur from America. His company currently owns Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Mammoth, St. Louis Rams and is the majority shareholder of Arsenal. However, we got to know most about him after April of 2011 when it was announced that he would own 62.89% of Arsenal. That was when Arsenal fans turned to look at him, wondering if Arsenal was going to join the 'big-spending' club?
Since then, it has become a known fact that the Arsenal board opted for Kroenke to resist the pressure exerted by Alisher Usmanov. Whenever I think of Usmanov, a certain Russian comes to my mind. Oh yes, Roman Abramovich it is. The mighty tycoon, who owns Chelsea. He spends big on big players and sacks managers twice in a season. Well, okay. Would Usmanov be how Roman is at Chelsea? I know not. But, I have a cheeky feeling that he might have been. So you've started thinking that would have been perfect? We would probably have players like Gotze already with us? We would be on our way to a double? I think not. And here is why.
I have been and always will be a big big supporter of Arsene Wenger. He has pulled us through a tough financial time, something no other manager would dare to do. When Kroenke became the majority shareholder, I remember Wenger saying that he should be in charge of the football. Kroenke agreed. And that was it, fans knew that Kroenke was not going to spend big, because Wenger was in charge. This was a time, when Arsenal fans were yelling out for proven stars, but Wenger stuck to his guns. A lot has been blamed on Kroenke. He hasn't interacted with the fans, he's remained silent and nobody knows what he plans. In one such instance, there were reports that the players did not even recognize him. I agree, he is not like the other owners, he isn't present on all the matches and he is hardly ever in the news. I'm sure you agree with me till now. Agree with me on just one more thing, even on their worst days, Arsene Wenger, Peter Hill-Wood and Ivan Gazidis amongst many others at Arsenal, know more about football than Kroenke does. 
The best way to run any organization is to hire the best people and then let them run the show. Kroenke had the best people available and he is letting them run the show. I say these are the best people because the have together pulled us through some of the most challenging times. Stan Kroenke trusts them to do a good job. And that is what a good leader does. He gives Wenger the freedom and the power to call the shots. Would you rather have an owner whose manager is just a puppet? I wouldn't. Would you rather have an owner who sacks a manager every year? Treats his players as if they are disposable? I wouldn't. 
Would you rather support a club that leaves no legacy? I wouldn't. Stan Kroenke is involved, but he trusts Arsene Wenger to run the daily show. That is the sign of a good leader. He clearly knows how to run an organization and I'm happy we have an owner who thinks before he does. Who consults with the people running the show and takes a collective decision. Spending big is a short term thrill. To be at the top for a long time, you need people like we have. The biggest trait of a leader is to trust his subordinates to do the right thing at the right time. Stan Kroenke does just that.
This team will win a trophy again, and we'll do it the right way.
Till then keep the faith. Pray for Muamba.

"I'll let you do what is right" "You do that"

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pray for Fabrice Muamba

I write this as a football fan and a human being. There are very few moments in football, when probably all the fans in the world think in unison. When every fan in the stadium hopes for the same result. When, irrespective of what jersey you wear and which player you celebrate, we all come together hoping for the same. 
On saturday, at White Hart Lane, we witnessed one such event, where a completely fit player suddenly collapsed, not moving at all and seemingly not breathing either. In no time at all, Fabrice Muamba was surrounded by paramedics and concerned colleagues. It's a sight nobody ever wants to see. A sight that sent shivers down millions of peoples spines, within minutes 30,000 yelling, screaming fans were silenced, all praying for the same result, that Fabrice Muamba would move or show some sign of encouragement. He was taken off the field straight to the ambulance and the match was abandoned. I hear that Tottenham fans chanted Muamba's name as he was carried off. In the ambulance, he started breathing again and is 'critically ill' now, in a hospital in London. I'm an Arsenal fan, and Tottenham are our rivals. However, I congratulate every Tottenham fan who chanted Muamba's name, for showing respect and sporting spirit. It's a quality that should be admired and is much needed in football fans today.
It was a terrible scene to witness, Van der Vaart's face said it all. Fabrice Muamba has always been described as a warm person, it was touching to read about his early life, when he fled his country as a refugee and came to England, to become the spectacular football player he is. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for him then, and kudos to him for achieving what he has today. Clearly, he's a fighter. Great article about his early life, "Fabrice Muamba: The refugee who has made football his home" by Daniel Taylor on
Here is what disgusted me, I came across a video today titled, "Loser spazzes out between a match". I was shocked at the ignorance and the heartlessness shown by some fans. The racial abuse that was directed at him is unbelievable. It's time football picked up a zero tolerance policy against racism. These are moments when everyone, irrespective of the team they support, where they come from, what color is their skin and other such insignificant comparisons come together to support a fellow human being. Not only when such a moment takes place, but even otherwise, racism should not be tolerated. Even by fellow fans. If you are one such fan, I'd like to tell you, that even the team you support would be ashamed to have you as their fan. It's time to grow up. We are all passionate about our teams and football, but we should know where to draw a line. I hope such fans will realize their mistake and change their outlook.
Fabrice Muamba is now in the intensive care unit in a hospital and the next 24 hours are critical for his life. I urge you to pray for him and his family, irrespective of which team you support, where you come from, what race you belong to and what is the color of your skin. Here is a human being who needs all the good wishes possible right now, that's the least you can do for him right now.
As I said, he's a fighter, I'm sure we'll see him back in no time. I wait for the day he will play football again. Till then, keep the faith. He will be back, mark my words. Let's all pray for him in the meantime.

Our good wishes are with him


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Silent. Calm. Poised. Arsenal's engine - Mikel Arteta

Arsenal has taken to not just winning, but doing so from spectacular situations. In the last four premier league games, Arsenal have come back from losing positions to win the game. I'm told that is a record, and I'll believe that. Against Sunderland, Tottenham, Liverpool and Newcastle, Arsenal have conceded first and then gone on to win the game. And these teams are not pushovers, three of them are challenging for fourth spot and Sunderland were reborn from ashes after Martin O'Neill took charge. Amazing performances. Amazing results. If there was anything in this world that could stop Wenger's 'mental strength' speeches, well, this is it. These performances show enough mental strength.
On monday night again, we fell behind to a well taken goal by Ben Arfa and responded immediately by Van Persie scoring. Theo Walcott has really stepped up and is delivering world class performances, and he did so on monday as well. Arsenal dominated the game, and looked stronger everywhere and finally were rewarded in the 94th minute when Vermaelen charged in and put the ball in the net. Kudos to him for running 80 yards for the goal, he really is a winner, the kind of player who will score the winning goal in a cup final. 
In this game, Newcastle rarely looked threatening. Arsenal seemed to hold on to possession very easily and run the game at a good pace for the entire 90 minutes. This is what brings me to Mikel Arteta. Arteta comes from a country with midfielders like Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas, so maybe he does not get due credit for how good he actually is. On monday night, what he does so well was on display clearly. Arteta sat right in front of Vermaelen and Koscielny, took the ball from them and distributed it all over the field. He had the most passes in the game and had 20 more than the second highest number of passes. Arteta rarely looks for that killer final through ball that splits defenses, he calmly switches wings, he brings players into the game who weren't being utilized in that move. Arteta runs the game for Arsenal.
Arsenal have the highest average possession this season at 58.5%, most credit goes to Arteta for this. When the defenders win the ball, all they have to do is give the ball to Arteta, who then picks out the right pass to the right player, he frees the defenders from the burden of picking the right pass. Should any player lose the ball then, our center backs are prepared and in position to meet the oppositions attack. Arteta's clever distribution has helped Arsenal keep possession and hence concede fewer goals. His clever distribution keeps the opponents chasing the ball, it doesn't let them settle into positions and make it difficult for Arsenal to find the gaps in defenses. His quick distribution ensures that players like Rosicky and Song pick out the gaps. Gaps that Arteta creates by keeping the ball moving. And this helps the attack. In Arteta, Arsenal have their very own midfield magician. Most cameras are never aimed at Arteta, he's never the most exciting player from the neutral point of view. He's silent, calm and his passing technique is second to none. He sits behind the scenes and directs Arsenal's every move. At the beginning of every attack stands Arteta. The world seems to think he's Cesc's replacement, he's not. He plays another role, a role as important. A role the press will never concentrate on. Arteta might not be as good as Xavi, but he's not too far behind either. Let's give him due credit. He has an amazing impact on the game, and I don't think he'll be the one on the bench when Jack is back. The Newcastle game was a testament to how good Arteta is.
 Apart from that, I loved the fiery Van Persie we saw on the pitch. It's something we often saw in Viera and this passion is something you want to see from your captain. I've gone on and on about this teams team spirit, and Vermaelen shielding Van Persie in the tunnel was just that. You don't mess with out captain. Wasn't that what Jack tweeted? It's great to see how much respect Van Persie has earned from the squad. 
Lastly, I think I should stop saying 'Keep the faith', because clearly everyone does now. Have a happy week gooners. Everyone reading this while at work, don't worry, next midweek will be here soon, and we'll watch Arsenal again. Cheer up. Till then, stay happy, keep others happy.

'I can pass it there'

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Longest Weekend.

You know why I am saying that. A weekend without an Arsenal game, just not a weekend. Although seeing Liverpool and Spurs face defeat does make up for it a little bit. 
All the good in the world right now seems to happen to Arsenal. In recent weeks we've won everything, and our competitors have lost everything. Podolski seems to be done and just has to arrive in London and smile in front of the camera wearing an Arsenal jersey (Yes, I know it isn't official, seems close though, does it not?). And we have only seen positive news on the injury front, Jack seems to be getting closer and all the others bar Diaby seem to be back! Clearly, if there is a god, he's turned into an Arsenal fan. 

Anyways, I am pleasantly surprised by Arsenal signing a player before the transfer window. There seems to have been a change of mind upstairs, and the fans love it. Podolski is exactly what we have been crying out for, right? A proven player, not an 'un-cut diamond'. A big name signing, someone every player at the club will look up to. Also at the perfect time, he's 26 right now and will play his top game at Arsenal. Something a lot of past players at Arsenal, didn't do. I love Cesc, but it's him I talk about. Either ways, Podolski seems to be perfect for Arsenal right now, some also claim such a signing will help convince Van Persie to sign a new contract. 
Coming to that, I know Van Persie has said that he will talk about his contract only after the season, but something tells me he will stay. With Cesc I had a constant feeling that he will go, a feeling encouraged by his constant flirting with Barcelona. And Nasri just decided to behave expensive after a couple of months of good football. I do not see any of the two situations arise with Robin. He's playing well and he seems to want to lead this team somewhere. He really is the ideal captain, and an ideal captain does not leave things when the going gets difficult, he stays put and makes the change he wants to see. And I'm sure Robin will. Does seem like I'm writing a Cesc-bashing post, does it not? So be it. 

Coming to the game on Monday night, I think we will be very close to full strength. Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Gibbs at the back. Arteta, Song and Rosicky in the middle. And Gervinho, RVP and Walcott up front. Newcastle is a good team and a good football club, but I do not see this team lose after the couple of weeks we've had. Rosicky is in the form of his life and if he continues that, Newcastle will have trouble just dealing with him. Forget Van Persie up front. 
Honestly, I would love to see Oxlade-Chamberlain in the role he played against Milan, but he's been sick all week and Wenger has said he's going to be cautious with him. So I doubt he will have a large part to play. All said and done, no Joey Barton this time so maybe we can rule out any sort of provocation this time. I expect we will win and remain fourth with just a point behind Spurs. "Best North London team". Still laughing over that.
All that there is to it, I think Arsenal will finish third this season. And have Van Persie and Podolski next season. Look forward to the game on Monday. 
As always, keep the faith. (Do I need to say that anymore?).