Up The Arse

Middlesbrough 1 Arsenal 1

Posted by Up The Arse on December 14, 2008

The Riverside is usually a tough fixture. We lost there last season, so that may have more to do with the combined absence of Cesc Fabregas and Alex Hleb, two members of the team who had been integral to our magnificent start prior to that defeat. 1-1 then isn’t terribly disappointing, though of course missing out on what could have been an additional two points at a time when we are desparate to make up ground isn’t ideal and it truly feels like an opportunity missed what with the rest of the ‘top four’ also recording stale mates.

Though the game was on Sky Sports I didn’t see it, a rare blip on my part. I woke up late round a mate’s house after a heavy night of alcohol consumption and couldn’t secure a lift back home to see the game until it was too late. So as with the Porto game, I’m going by the accounts of others with what I write about the game and haven’t much to say.

We didn’t look great, lacking sharpness, creativity and looking unbalanced and lacking width owed to the injuries of our natural wingers.

So yeah, truly not a lot to say but that’s partly because of laziness and me being seriously hungover. Sorry.

Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool all drew (with Tottenham, West Ham and Hull, consecutively) so at least we’ve not lost ground but on the other hand it was an opportunity to make up ground. Villa won though, which moves us to 5th and we should probably be just as concerned with our title chances right now as losing our Champion’s League spot to Villa.

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0 Arsenal Porto 2

Posted by Up The Arse on December 11, 2008

I missed this one, maybe fortunately. By all accounts it was said to be a poor and forgettable performance.

Bendtner I hear was very bad, as has been the case from him lately. Time’s running out for the Dane, at the moment he’s getting a look in because we are short of options up front behind RVP and Adebayor but Eduardo’s on the mend, only a severe lack of match fitness delaying his return and Carlos Vela’s mounting an increasing challenge for Bendtner’s spot in the team.

He wasn’t alone though – Diaby (who I’ve liked this season a lot) and Eboue come in for criticism also. Ramsey, Vela, Denilson and Wilshere (came on for the last thirty I believe) were the few to come out of the game with a little credit, Ramsey widely touted as our best player before being substituted.

I’m not too concerned. It was a game we didn’t need to win, it was a case of the same last year against Sevilla. We’re happy to finish second because we feel we can take on anyone and beat them. Losing the home advantage is the main bitch but we showed last season that it didn’t bother us much, drawing at home to Milan and then beating them 2-0 at the San Siro.

We can draw the following in the next round:

Roma

Panathinaikos

Barcelona

Bayern Munich

Juventus

Four of those don’t really concern me. Panathinaikos are clearly the easy option but I’d be very disappointed to lose to Juventus and Roma, both of whom have had better days. Bayern would be tough but I would be confident of our chances. Which of course leaves Barcelona, Champion’s League favorites and the form team of Europe. Pep Guardiola took the reigns in the summer and they’ve been quite fantastic ever since. No, it wouldn’t be ideal to come up against them next round but far are they from unbeatable.

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Arsenal 1 Wigan 0

Posted by Up The Arse on December 8, 2008

A short one today. I’ve been ill and still am so that explains the recent lack of activity and in particular lack of anything on the mid week Carling Cup result where we bowed out to Burnley.

Let’s get started with the whole Eboue episode then. He had himself a poor game but to be fair to him he had just come back from injury and was expected to play more than Wenger had probably wanted him to as Nasri got injured fairly early. He was also placed on the left flank, a position quite unfarmilar to him. The treatment he recieved at the end of the game was very harsh. It didn’t help matters at all, it merely took away all his confidence and after that he became a real danger. I’m pretty sure Wenger didn’t want to take off Eboue and subject him to the chorus of boos or rather, cheers but he was left with no choice. I was there and felt very sorry for him. I can understand those that booed though, it was a nervous last ten minutes and the fans took their frustrations out on Eboue which only made him worst, which then only made the fans worst. I don’t condone it but I understand it, it’s easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment. Coming back from that will take some character.

Where the other players were concerned, I was very impressed with Denilson. He was the outstanding player in my opinion and in a position which I don’t feel is his best. Van Persie looked lively and close to scoring. Cesc was also good, not at his best but good.

I don’t think we were that bad but it wasn’t great, was it? We created chances and should’ve finished a lot more of them off, which might have saved us from the nervy final ten minutes of play that inevitably followed. There’s still a bit of a dent in confidence around the squad (maybe because of what happened after the Man Utd game) but with three wins under their belt in a row (The Carling Cup squad being an entirely different team) hopefully that’ll get better and better.

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Chelsea 1 Arsenal 2

Posted by Up The Arse on December 2, 2008

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect for this one. Consecutive defeats to Villa and City ensured our confidence would be shot but on the other hand, despite some indifferent Premier League form, we had recently turned up and beaten Manchester United in a game I had expected us to lose, maybe even heavily. I thought hard about how it would turn out and decided a draw the most likely of outcomes, as we were after all at the Bridge. Some were less optimistic but I knew we’re always up for it against the big teams, irrelevant of recent form.

The opening 10/15 minutes showed we lacked confidence and had me a little on the nervous side but we grew into the game as it went along and come the next fifteen, up until Chelsea’s equaliser, it was I would say an evenly matched game. Right on cue Almunia misplaces a quick throw, Chelsea win possession, a cross comes flying in and Djourou fires it in to the wrong net. More fault with Almunia there than Djourou. Sky commentators and pundits suggest Almunia had no reason to attempt the quick throw with Chelsea players still in our area but he was obviously trying to spark a counter attack and just got the throw a little off key. It happens. Despite Chelsea having one shot on target he had a bit of a shaky game and made some unnecessary punches too. Djourou though didn’t let it get to him and recovered accordingly to have himself a good game.

Chelsea then enjoyed the share of possession though failed to capitalise on it. They didn’t trouble us too much as the one shot on target all game statistic proves. Robin Van Persie is presented with a chance in the 59th minute and fires home. It’s later shown to be offside in the replay but I don’t care so much, we were due some luck, certainly. Not long later and RVP pops up again with another good finish, this time onside and it’s 2-1.

Chelsea may claim they were unlucky in this fixture given the offside but despite that, they must be disappointed at how they failed to pose any real threat to us after we went ahead. At home and knowing Arsenal struggle at times to hold onto a lead they should have done more but we held on comfortably and almost knocked in a third. Scolari complained afterward that the offside killed his players. Well then I’d question the mental strength of such players myself. The referee wasn’t pro Arsenal anyway, Ivanovic was very luck not to receive two yellows and Terry made a two footed challenge out of frustration late on that could have seen him shown red.

As a Chelsea fan you may have something to complain about but I’d be more concerned with your lack of ability to threaten at home and practically concede defeat with a fair while of the game to go. They’ll also be worried about their record against the top four this season (2 home defeats, 1 draw.)

Does this mean we can win the title still? Maybe and a slim maybe at that. Looking at the rest of the top three there are frailties there and there’s the potential for a good December, the challenges of which comes in Villa away and Liverpool at home before we get to January where I expect Wenger to strengthen the squad with a defensive midfielder which will make a world of difference, believe me. Our problems aren’t that deep. It’s still possible, we’re not completely out of the race but it’s tough, especially considering there’s another three teams in that race.

Plymouth argyle in the FA Cup third round at home 3rd/4th Jan weekend. Should play the kids and win that game, might even pop along for it.

Burnley tonight in the Carling Cup, set to play the youngsters again which is no surprise. Vela for another hat-trick?

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Long Time No See

Posted by Up The Arse on November 29, 2008

We’re back in business, having replaced my broken computer with a new and improved model and successfully made the switch to Sky Broadband. Anyone that did pop in from time to time probably doesn’t any longer, so in that respect it’s a bit like starting from scratch but ah well, the site hadn’t been going all that long prior to my technical mishaps anyway. Naturally, not having updated since July, there’s plenty of ground to cover so forgive me for summarising.

England might actually win something with Fabio Capello in charge, who would appear to be just what was needed, the highlight of course being a 4-1 drubbing of Croatia in Zagreb, a national outfit I rate very highly nowadays. Even better was that Theo Walcott, who has since become an integral part to the England set up, scored a hat trick. Well played Theo whose improvement has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise disappointing start to the new season. He now of course finds himself injured after dislocating his shoulder on international duty and will be out for roughly three months. Bummer!

More on the dissapointing start then. We are out of it, it being the Premier League, already. Not officially, no but ten points is a big gap and five defeats at this stage is unacceptable. We haven’t shown we have what it takes to challenge Man Utd, Chelsea and maybe even Liverpool. I’m far more concerned with the threat posed to our Champion’s League status by Aston Villa. Annoyingly, I thought we would put our problems to bed following a morale boosting victory over United but defeats to City and Villa followed. Tomorrow we play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge but I’m not worried so much about that because we do turn up for the big games. If anything it’s a chance to get the confidence roaring again. If we win and go on a run before reinforcing in January we might have the slightest of chances but I don’t see it myself. We have though qualified for the Champion’s League and our run in that might be interesting. Despite our Premier League troubles we do seem to turn it up on big occasions and have done well in the Champion’s League of late. I think we could surprise people and win it but Barcelona (enjoying an excellent run under the new management of Pep Guardiola,) Chelsea and Manchester United might have something to say about that.

We need to reinforce come January, of that there can be no doubt. Eduardo and Rosicky will recover but that wont resolve our defensive issues. A midfielder is essenstial as Flamini was never replaced and I believe that’s what we are missing. Maybe a center back could be drafted in also but I don’t know. The main problem is the lack of a defensive midfielder, a role Denilson and Alex Song just aren’t capable of filling on a permanent basis. I believe are issues aren’t that serious. I genuinely believe that all we are missing is a Flamini. Frustratingly we had the answer in Lassana Diarra, a player I rate very highly since his stint at Pompey and let him go. He wanted to go, I realize that but I wish he’d waited until the end of the season at least. Ah well, no point crying over spilt milk and all that.

If there’s been one highlight to the season it’s been the Carling Cup, where we have fielded an outrageously youthful line up against both Sheffield United and then Wigan. The results? 6-0, then 3-0. In the case of the Wigan game I was there in person, having paid a bargain basement £10 for a behind the goal ticket. It was excellent stuff doing so well against a Premier League side fielding their strongest line up. Jack Wilshere, Ramsey and Vela were terrific in particular and all will enjoy successful careers at Arsenal I strongly believe.

What else? We have a new captain in Cesc Fabregas, replacing William Gallas after the latter’s outburst. Good stuff that although I believe the captain’s job is an overrated one.

Eduardo’s on the mend. He was supposed to play in a behind closed doors friendly mid week but I don’t think he did in the end. The road to recovery will still be a long one, as he’s eased back into the squad. January’s a good guess for when he will be back good and proper. Rosicky too.

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Goodbye Alex Hleb

Posted by Up The Arse on July 17, 2008

Alexander Hleb yesterday, after a long running saga, officially signed for Barcelona.

Hleb’s a decent player who enjoyed his best season so far with the club last season. He may have lacked the confidence to find the net as much as we would have liked him to but he finally came good last season all the same.

What annoys me is the patience we had to show while Hleb adapted to the club. His first two seasons were frustratingly full of inconsistent performances as he struggled to find his groove. He finally comes good and as soon as he does is looking for the exit door. That’s why there will be no good luck from me.

While a good player Hleb’s also one of those players that can be replaced easily enough. The reported twelve million is a pleasing figure given that there were rumors not so long ago he would seek to leave for zilch via the webster clause. With that amount I am confident an adequate replacement can be found (it could of course be Nasri but I’m hoping Nasri is cover on the wings rather than a direct Hleb replacement.)

Of Hleb’s going Wenger had the following to say, ‘We must firstly thank Alex for his contribution towards Arsenal Football Club during his time with us. Alex played a significant role in the three seasons he was with the Club. We are comfortable with our decision to let him go and we are all looking forward to continuing our preparations for the new season ahead.” Everyone at Arsenal Football Club wishes Alex the best of luck’

I too am comfortable with the decision to let him go, now let’s hope he doesn’t get struck by the Arsenal curse on his way out of the door.

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Hello Samir Nasri

Posted by Up The Arse on July 15, 2008

Finally. I knew it was on the cards but while Arsenal.com were yet to announce it as a done deal there remained an ounce of doubt in my mind. Well the deal is now a done one, as of July 11th and Samir Nasri is an Arsenal player officially.

Whether he is a replacement for the soon to be departing Alex Hleb or merely the extra quality on the wing that was needed last season, is still in doubt, with I rooting for the latter and hoping that an extra winger is bought in once Hleb’s move to Barcelona becomes final. Some of you may complain it’s just another young player bought into the mix but Nasri isn’t just any young player, he’s already gotten a plentiful of experience under his belt and comes very highly rated.

Hleb looks all ready to be out on his way, to Barcelona for a fee of fifteen million. That’s good business in my eyes, the sort of fee I wanted for Hleb and it beats him leaving for zilch thanks to the Webster clause which some predicted a while ago.

Adebayor looks a whole lot further to the exit but his leaving remains a possibility with Roque Santa Cruz, a proven scorer in the Premier League his touted replacement. There’s talk of players coming the other way (Eto’o & Gourcuff) and an ambiguous quote from Ade’s agent that Arsenal have slashed their asking price. I would rather he stayed but he’s far from irreplacable.

Rumors seem to be picking up that we are set to hijack Liverpool’s swoop for Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry. Martin O’Neill, one of my favorite Premier League managers, has claimed Pat Rice gave them a phone to see how the deal was going and confirmed Arsenal may show an interest. He’s a good player and one I’d like to see replace Flamini but we will have to pay a touch over the odds, as you strangely have to for English players in this day and age.

The lapse in updating is owed to some computer troubles I’m experiencing on my home computer, which I should, fingers crossed, be able to get fixed on my return.

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Amaury Who?

Posted by Up The Arse on July 2, 2008

Amaury Bischoff up until recently played his football at German side Werder Bremen. The twenty one year old midfielder has a history of injuries and has made just one appearence for Bremen’s first team. With his contract expired he has since left the club and claims a move to Arsenal is imminent.

This appears to bother a lot of people. What people ignore is that it’s a win win situation. Bischoff sounds like a decent enough talent so why not take a chance on him if he is available on a free? If reports are to be believed a one year contract is on offer and so if Bischoff doesn’t cut the mustard in a season I expect that will largely be spent in the reserves, no harm will have been done. Wenger will probably extend his contract and if he isn’t good enough further down the line he will be shipped out and we will make back the money we shelled out to him in wages through a transfer. No harm done.

He’s not a replacement for Mathieu Flamini and I’m not about to question Arsene Wenger’s eye for a talent. He doens’t always get it right, granted but I’m sure I recall cries of discontent at the arrival of Kolo Toure, a similarly unknown player at the time.

Wenger may see Bischoff, a midfielder or right sided winger, as someone who can play in a different position, as he often does. Whatever the reason for his signing, it’s pretty much risk free and so I’m surprised at the reactions of some who have the taken the opportunity to rant at Wenger for making a move for yet another kid.

In my absence Adebayor is said to have said something about wanting a higher wage. He can’t seriously want 120 grand though, not after one very impressive season. He deserves a pay rise, sure, but Thierry Henry wasn’t on that much and he’s a way away from proving himself to be at the same level. Barcelona or Milan wouldn’t seriously consider paying the greedy bastard that much would they?

Nasri looks ever closer to signing. I’m not really frustrated that it has yet to be announced officially, I’m patient and am sure it will be done sooner or later. Marseille have signed Ben Arfa who has taken Nasri’s number and now the replacement has been signed, I would assume that inches the Nasri deal inches closer to completion. The Marseille chairman says it will still take a few days to iron out the finer details.

Earlier today there was a story linking Nicklas Bendtner with a move away to Italy. That was quashed fairly sharpish though by the Dane’s father.

Spain and Villarreal’s almost thirty two year old defensive midfielder Senna has been linked with a move to Arsenal, to replace the void left by the departed Flamini. It’s not very concrete, with one Pascal Cygan claiming he has heard we are in for him and that Arsenal rarely make mistakes. Funny you should say that Pascal as you must have been one of the exceptions.

What else? Eduardo looks to be on the mend. I’m doubtful he will be rushed and the recovery process will still be a long one. I would imagine he’ll be playing football in the reserves for a fair while upon his return to a football pitch in order to regain match sharpness.

And Theo Walcott has been handed the number 14, which of course was Henry’s number before he made the switch to Barcelona. Well done Theo!

I returned from my outing to Vienna Monday, of which Sunday was obviously the highlight. It turned out we wasn’t in a box but the seats were great and it was a good game, fortunately. The atmosphere throughout the day was brilliant and my only grievance was that England wasn’t a participant, which didn’t stop them from stealing some of our songs for the prematch shenanigans.

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The Ernest Happel Awaits

Posted by Up The Arse on June 26, 2008

On Sunday I will be in attendance at the Euro 2008 final due to take place in the Ernest Happel stadium. Germany, having beaten Turkey 3-2 and Spain, having beaten Russia 3-0, will both meet in the final and I’ll be rooting for the Spaniards.

It’s not just that I don’t like Germany (damn Nazi’s!) They would have to do an awful lot Sunday to convince me they deserve to win, having looked rather weak throughout the tournament so far and certainly second best in their loss to Croatia who I actually fancied to make it to the final before they lost out to the Turks cruely on penalties. Spain on the other hand have been the more entertaining of the two and they do of course have Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas in their ranks.

To Arsenal now and the Adebayor stories continue to pick up steam. Wenger reckons it was the Milan game where the world’s top clubs (I say top, but I consider Arsenal to be better than both Barcelona and Milan, certainly the latter whom failed to even qualify for the Champion’s League this season) started to take notice of the wealth of talent Arsenal possessed. He’s probably right. Some bloke says that Ade has a 70-80% chance of joining Milan. He also says Arsenal are looking at signing Peter Crouch though so maybe he’s just bonkers.

Somewhere it was mentioned that Adebayor is demanding 120K a week. I think that’s nonsense myself but if it wasn’t and I was Le Boss I would probably laugh and tell him not to be such a greedy fucking cunt. 120K after one very good season? Barca and Milan will not offer him that, surely not. There are rumors abound that Arsenal don’t pay top dollar wages but we do, a player has to earn it first though. While Adebayor may have deserved a rise, anything above the 60K bracket for me is pushing it. But, like I say, probably nonsense.

Papers today linking us with a move for Miguel Veloso of Sporting CP, basically Manchester United’s feeder club. We do I would say need a defensive midfielder to replace the departed Flamini and Velosos is very highly rated.

Oh and Marseille signed Hatem Ben Arfa I think the other day which would seem to pave the way for Samir Nasri’s arrival at Arsenal. Happy days!

Off tomorrow to Vienna so don’t expect any updates until my return Monday. I hear the weather’s fantastic out there.

Posted in Football Around The Globe, Players, Transfer Rumourings | 1 Comment »

Nasri done deal?

Posted by Up The Arse on June 24, 2008

Yes, I would think so. The major hold up was the small matter of the Euro 2008 but now that France are out, eevrything should be cleared up rather sharpish. The player himself yesterday confirmed that he had signed a four year contract with the club on his website though Marseille and his agent later went on to rebuff such claims. Arseblogger understands that everything is pretty much near to completition but for whatever reason, there’s hold up on Marseille’s end, who perhaps want to get a replacement in before the deal is announced good and proper. If further confirmation was needed pictures of Nasri appeared last night on the Arsenal website if you did a little digging. These though were later removed.

My take is it is as good as done, like 99% done if not more and that it was done a long time ago otherwise Wenger would not have opened my mouth. All we are waiting on is official confirmation from Arsenal or Marseille.

Russia pulled off the shock of the tournament to date when they beat Holland 3-1, albeit taking until extra time to do so. This wasn’t a lucky victory either, Holland were not at their best but Russia certainly were. They should have had the game done and dusted long before Van Nistelrooy managed a late equalizer for Holland. Some are tipping them to go all the way but I don’t think so. Their defense is shaky and they aren’t ruthless enough in the finishing department. Well played to Guus Hiddink who got one over on fellow countryman Marco Van Basten (who will be taking the reigns at Ajax next season) and has continued an excellent managerial record at international level.

They face Spain next, the same Spain who beat Russia in the group stages by a 4-1 margin. This time round Russia have Arshavin though, the revelation of the tournament that everyone has been talking about. He was banned for the opening two group games. What a year for Russian football. First Zenit St Petersburg win the UEFA Cup, giving favorites Bayern Munich a hammering en route and then Russia reach the semi final of Euro 2008. Arshavin was integral to both achievements.

International tournaments are not the best judge of a player. People can get carried away when in fact the quality levels often vary. Arshavin though isn’t an unknown quality and was raved about for the duration of Zenit’s UEFA Cup run. Wenger knew about him and if he wanted him he would have signed him before Euro 2008, like Nasri. If Hleb leaves though he may be an option. The Euro wont neccessarily have raised his price tag because he apparently has a minimum release clause in the region of ten million. Arsenal target? Possibly, but only in the event of Hleb’s departure.

The other semi final is Germany V Turkey. Turkey are missing several first team players, including star Nihat to injury. I will be very surprised if they beat Germany, shocked even, certainly a lot more than when Russia beat Holland.

My gut feeling is that it will be a Spain V Germany final. Russia and Turkey have done well to get so far but I think their tournament is over.

Speaking of the Euro 2008 final, guess who will be in attendance at the Ernest Happel when it all kicks off? That’s right, me. I wont be in any normal seat either, no, I’m in a box. I’m jetting out to Vienna Friday and will be spending my stay in a luxury five star hotel before returning Monday.

There was some interest in Gael Clichy from Italy. He responded though by signing a new contract. Well played Clichy, who is fast becoming a fan’s favorite.

Fabregas says he’s going nowhere, again. Surprisingly actually transfer speculation concerning him has been a little unexpectedly light. He commits his future to the club anyway, which is great.

Posted in Arrivals, Football Around The Globe, Transfer Rumourings | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »