Bzzz….

Running out of good titles here as yet another day of season transfers ends. No big news on the transfer front after this week’s flurry of signings. In Arsenal news, it seems somebody saw Arsene on a flight to Sardinia, no doubt scouting the Next Big Thing ( or the Next Little Thing) to wear the Arsenal shirt and guide us to victory. Or maybe just a vacation. Arseblog maintains it’s the cheese. Here’s some info on Sardinia. Yes, you’re welcome. And here you thought you’d never learn anything by browsing soccer blogs. ( Man, I feel like the paparazzi with this post.)

Another transfer is that of Aliadiere to Boro, which starts the inevitable exodus of second-teamers from the Grove. He’s had good times and bad times here, but never really justified his place as a first-team player though Henry’s and RVP’s absences were a great opportunity to do that. He’ll get far more first team football there, so best of luck to him.

Also, Graham Poll who can’t count his cards but was otherwise a solid referee, hit out at the Premiership managers and players. He also accused the FA of being coquettish towards the players, and added that FA stood for “Fawners’ Association”. Can’t argue with him too much, although the FA’s discipline has been alternately Spartan and Caribbean this time around.  I do feel that players need to get more accountable, and that there need to be rules which prohibit players from venting, or just plain intimidating, the referee. Maybe they should recruit referees from Big Brother and American Idol. They’d probably have thicker skin.

Bzzz.

Offseason rumblings

It’s the start to the monsoons and thunder here in Mumbai but you can hear the rumblings over at Arsenal. Henry said that he is an Arsenal player “for now”. Barca seems to have been hanging on those two words, as it resulted in a virtual explosion of headlines. “Henry frustrated with Arsenal” screamed one, and that’s a load of crock. “Fed-up Henry casts doubts over Arsenal future!!!!” (exclamation points mine) yells Guardian football, and it’s only within that you learn that this gem of a headline is based on that piddling disclaimer. I’ll  believe that Henry is leaving when he says it, not before.

Henry is frustrated with the Arsenal season, yes; and part of it has to stem from his absence at a critical point in the season. Van Persie’s metatarsal played its part as well; so while Henry can pout all he likes, we haven’t had the dice rolls to give us the best results. Our Champions League exit was disappointing; however, I feel that sides which lose CL finals somehow falter easily the next time round. Look at Liverpool’s tame exit in ’06.

So to put it frankly, we’re gonna see Henry around for at least a season. What happens in this season will tell if Arsenal have used this period well to get together a coherent playing style. Also vital are the transfers; what Wenger brings in this time could well spell out the future. Man U, Chelsea, Liv’pool, even Spurs are competing like Christmas-time mall-shopping ladies and Arsenal looks like the token male. Our only signing so far has been Lukasz Fabianski, a Polish keeper, who is slotted as Lehmann’s successor when the Mad One goes blind by the light shining off the bald pates of our back four. In Wenger fashion, it is also aimed at keeping Lehmann on his toes and committed( not that committed ). It would seem weird to lose out to Fab-2 ( Cesc is Fab-1 ) while you’re making claims of being German no. 1. 

And in news not so hot off the press, Chelsea have signed Pizarro from Bayern and Man U have gone for Nani, Anderson, Owen, Anelka and the Sepp Blatter( “I’m happy to be here till 2011”,he said) . Spurs got Gareth Bale, a marauding wingback who talked about how he loves Arsenal and then snubbed for Spurs. Ah, the PR that youth do. We’re apparently looking at options all over the world, but what we need is some bolstering experience in defense, a versatile winger to give us some width, and a good diver. Right now our width is that of Posh’s derriere. And we’re the team most fouled against, which is a nauseating stat. How many times have we seen Bert in 1v1 vs the keeper? Bert probably keeps track of the matches played by penalties taken. “Chelsea was the bottom right corner, West Ham was the left…no, right…center? yeah, center.”…

And it’s 1-0 to the English against Brazil in the friendly. Beckham curled in the free kick and Terry headed it in. Look for lots of self-back-patting from McClaren if results persist, though knowing Brazil, it’s not over by a long shot. “Long shot? Where?” says Lampard, but he’s having a bad day. Becks, Terry, Gerrard and Owen seem to be keeping them alive.

Anyways, this post is done. Look for more enlightening commentary on offseason transfers and Julio’s tearful reunion with Fabio Capello, on Arsenalysis.

It’s hopefully boom time this season, and I’m not talking about the monsoons.

Another day,another season.

And with the FA Cup action last night the English football for the season comes to an end. This is not a season that Wenger would like to remember; we started off well but stumbled and then narrowly avoided dropping out of the Big Four. Given our resources in the latter half we were stretched to have this result; the trophy board is bare for the season, and now we look forward to the next one. Hopefully, the team has achieved some measure of chemistry after the exodus of talent, and I expect at least second place from Arsenal next year, plus one Cup. Our youngsters are improving every match they play, and I believe that it would do us good to focus on one trophy next year; whether that’s CL or PL. Chasing triples proved too much for Chelsea and Man U, so I’m not putting out any great hopes next season. We have to win a trophy, attract talent and bolster our squads.

Arsenal’s chief magnetic factor for European talent is our semi-continental style of play and I’m surprised that more upcoming Mediterranean prodigies aren’t knocking at our door. We’ve been linked with Ribery and Malouda, and also the Ajax striker Huntelaar. Arsenal blogs are pontificating everywhere about the changes to be made. My money’s on Ribery to be part of the team as we need someone pacy and good at crossing out on the wing; width is something we lack presently. Strikers are not what we need; a good winger and a stronger defense would help us best at the moment. Quite a few players might leave us at this time; Poom, Flamini, Hleb, Baptista, Reyes, and maybe even Ljungberg.

<RANT> It would do my heart good to see Gallas leave as well; he hasn’t gelled too well with the team. Why he keeps shooting his mouth off at the youngsters is beyond me; he’s not spouting any original words of wisdom there. He knew what Arsenal was like when he agreed for the trade; he knew that we would need time for the youngsters to find their footing. Any time you have changes, you have a period of readjustment. Plus he hasn’t been stellar anyway; he cites the World Cup as being the reason, but you don’t see Henry, Rooney, Ronaldo complaining a lot. France’s loss must have hurt but when you’re as experienced as Gallas is, those arguments lose their cutting edge. Whatever happens, though, you need to keep this stuff within the team. Spouting off to the media just creates more pressure on the young ‘uns which they don’t need. They’re pretty mature soldiers with good heads on their shoulders 😛  <RANT >

And yeah, Chelsea won. Drogba scored. I’d never thought I’d see long ball games from the top two of the EPL but there you have the FA Cup in a nutshell.

Till next season, then. Keep the faith, Gunners.

Are we therd yet?

Yawn…plenty of happenings soccer-wide but none that concern Arsenal much. Oh yeah, Man U are now champions again. Arsenal held the Blues to a 1-1 draw and they were pretty blue about it.  Mourinho asked the fans to hold their chins up and Terry cried ( Cesc denied having anything to do with it). I came pretty close to crying when I saw Arsenal’s second half display. They played weird football with Cesc giving the ball away politely when a Blue asked for it. Our defending was not great shakes technically, but they harried Chelsea enough to keep them from scoring the second. Earlier in the first half, we played a neither-here-nor-there game. Baptista was his usual impotent self and Addy didn’t set the Grove on fire either. Finally, though, Baptista makes it into the box, and is dragged down by a man 75% his size. Bouhlarouz brought him down in the box and earned himself the send-off and you could see Jose’s chin try to stay up in defiance. Gilberto scores the penalty, a sight which seems too common all season, sending Cech the wrong way.

And we lead. With 11 men against 10. We pressured them but couldn’t get the match-sealing goal. And after Jose’s pep talk, they come on in the second half and keep forcing us back. Small wonder then that a beautiful SWP cross flies across and Essien gets a glancing header in. Pure beauty. It doesn’t end there, however. Joe Cole smashes a rocket past Lehmann, getting disallowed for offside. Kalou gets the ball at his feet after some pathetic defending and launches it straight at Lehmann, who palms it over. Lampard tries for the long-range deflection goal but Lehmann easily turns it around the post. Man of the match, Jens Lehmann. Cue a parting shot from Eboue that whistles past Cech and onto the bar, and then the whistle, and the Chelsea league season is over.

Normally a Chelsea draw would be very pleasing, but you’ve to remember that they didn’t have Sheva, Ballack, and the long ball lover Drogba. And they were a man down! Essien was playing his heart out, defense to midfield to offense. He’s the only Blues player I really admire; skill and work rate. Arsenal should have crushed them but didn’t. I guess the priorities made the difference; one side trying to save its title  and the other vying for 3rd place. Not even close. I guess Addy nailed it when he said they would’ve preferred being on the other side of the situation. A season without any silverware, and that’s gotta hurt. The only light I see is that we beat the other Three more than they beat us, and especially Man U both times in the league and at the FA Cup.

We’re dangerous. But we’re dangerous to ourselves as to the other teams, and we’ve tripped over our laces far too many times this season. The deciding fixture is against Portsmouth, while Liverpool play relegated Charlton. Given that we need more points than the Reds, we’re fourth unless we can beat them by a +2 margin over Liverpool. A chance, but a chance nonetheless.

History, History

That’s my poor attempt at “History repeats itself”. Ha-ha. But seriously, if you aren’t pumped at the thought of one of the classics of Champions League match-ups rearing its pretty head again, you’ve been in soccer hibernation. Welcome back. It was the sentimental choice from the start; a blast from the past. Makes you believe in karma, doesn’t it? Sorry, Man U and Chelsea, but true to the plot of one of those old cheesy Bollywood films, reincarnational stuff and all that, we’ve got ourselves a ticking bomb here. Will Milan pound the Reds and make Italy happy? Will Liverpool fans get the opportunity to taunt the Milanese for the next year? What score lines will we see? All in due time, on 25th May…

The matchups were always going to be crazy and were they. ‘Pool trounced Chelsea in the penalties and Milan all but decimated Man U. The Man U defense got an upgrade from back door to revolving door, and Milan’s midfield went in and out at will. Kaka showed why he’s rated as one of the best and sang the starting number for the elegy with a beautiful drive into the lower right corner. Seedorf, the Flying Dutchman, got into the act after a vaudeville by Heinze and why-are-you-passing-to-me Vidic and struck the second in. Gattuso prowled the field and jealously guarded the Milan gate.

Rooney and Ronaldo couldn’t show their skills, completely choked by a veteran defense even in the absence of Maldini. Oddo and Jankolovski made F-16 runs up the sides forcing Giggs and Ronaldo to concentrate on their half. Truth be told, Everton had shown Man U’s defensive frailty in the first half, and it was only their own mistakes that allowed the Devils back into the game. Milan were never going to do that at San Siro, though, and had learnt their lessons at Old Trafford. Dida was tested once by Giggs…he was turning out paper sculptures for the rest of the time.

Liverpool, on the other hand, had nothing great to show from its match, lambasted as tres boring. They showed their scrappy fighting, though, and kept notorious grinders Chelsea from equalising. Reina was superb in goal and sent Liverpool onto the finals. To me though, it’s Milan all the way. Maldini will be back for the final, and if Kaka and Gattuso can pry open the Reds’s defense just a chink, it’s over. The Reds can pull off the win if Carragher and Agger stifle the strikers, and it if stays 0-0 then Liverpool’s penalty skills will surely give them the edge. My two cents worth is Milan though; they’re focused on the Champions, they’re fresh, they’re coming off the high of beating Man U. If they manage to keep their feet on the ground, unlike in 2005, they’ll be able to hold their heads high at the end, unlike in 2005. And they’ll do it.

Unless they want to repeat history.

Wayne to go, Rooney

Credit is due to Man U for keeping it together despite their back four being more like the back door. Kaka (i’m too lazy for the accents, pardon)  showed his stuff with two goals , one fed by the ever dangerous Seedorf, as usual. I like Seedorf as a player in that he’s the sneaky passer and playmaker, setting up the others with splenderiferous assists. Ronaldo gave Man U the starting whinny by making Dida back the ball into his net, and his twin awards  have done him good( three he says actually, one for the Most Beautiful Diving that reached him the same night ), but Milan was never to be denied their share.

Leave it up to Rooney, then, who doesn’t have Ronaldo’s ball gymnastics but can make the easiest of shots with ease…Boom, Boom  just like that. That too in injury time, followed by the inevitable Rooney-love. He’s the player to watch out for.

Now Man U simply have to not lose to progress, so say the English media. Err…it’s an away game for Man U next, so the ‘just’ isn’t as easy in San Siro. Milan are going to lay it on thick, and Man U will be happy to get a draw. And score at least 2 goals.

Chelsea and Liv’pool go head-to-head and that’s one been of the trash-talkiest matches with Rafa and Jose going at it…you can hear the hmphs ring.

All’s quiet on the Arsenal front. Cesc says he’d like to go to Spain once he finishes his contract with us. Madrid have some interest in him, but again all smokey speculation. Go Arsenal…zzzz.

Good boye Lehmann?

More than a week since I wrote the last post and so I figured I’d fire up ye olde blogge while I download some manga. Can’t say I was too happy with the Spurs draw a few days ago, but considering the way we were going in the first half, a 2-2 was beyond my expectations. Arsenal played beautifully for the most part – it was again a number of chances for us vs a few less for Spurs. Difference was, and a really great difference, that we scored off free kicks. Normally Arsenal free kicks have me heading to the kitchen for refills but this was different. Two free kicks, two goals – one cleverly snuck in by Toure, who deserves it after all his ceaseless running, and a header by Adebayor who finally got the ball under control to beat Robinson comprehensively.

Fabregas was magic as usual, although why Ljungberg played with his hamstring was a mystery and Arsene admitted his error after the match. We did come away with the draw, though we could have had the win but for our misses once again. What irks me is not the speculative attempts, but the goalmouth debacles. Eboue made a beautiful dribbling Sunday morning walk into the Spurs goal, tried to put it in at the far post, and the ball rebounds, and all Addy has to do is administer the tap o’love but he skies it from 10 yards out. Baptista of course has made a career out of missing and he managed to put a header wide with Robinson nowhere near. Was he attacked by a goal as a kid?

4-2 anyone? That’s the main issue; even if our defense concedes a few, our guys miss chances like Woods misses the three-inch putt. If our offense is firing on all cylinders, I would be willing to overlook the defense; with that many goals we could bring the keeper to tears. Speaking of defenses, Lehmann was pure lousy. I’ve been giving him the benefit of the doubt so far, but his keeping has undoubtedly deteriorated and he’s not the mad genius he was, just mad it seems. His antics at the corner were instrumental in the first goal, and what was up with the charge during the Spurs end rush? I don’t fault him too much for the second goal, that was pure Genas. Damn, I want Arsenal to score goals like that!

Anyways, it seems Arsene too didn’t like his performance much; for him to say it publicly means he’s really pissed. It’s a sign, I think, that Lehmann is not going to be with us any longer; a lot of names are being bandied about but we’ll have to wait for the dust to settle. Solid keeping at the back would give our squirrelly back four some confidence.

The title race is still hot, and it’s going to be entertaining all the way. Man U must win the next three games to clinch the title on goal difference, and Chelsea has tough games, one of them against us. We’re firmly in 4th spot with a 9-point lead over Bolton and Everton. Liverpool are 4 points ahead and look to be coasting for the remaining matches. Our only chance at 3rd spot is for us to win two more games than they do, so they need to lose two and we need to win all. Tough prospects, but it’s never over till Baptista sings.