Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Reading 2-5 Arsenal - *Inserts Crap Santi Pun Here*

Hello. I do love a good win don't you? Personally I put it all down to the fact I bust out the retired "lucky" shirt last night, it hasn't seen the light of day since that day at Wembley so I was secretly pleased it still fit as well. Overall I think we did well but there are still a number of things that worry me about this side, they go through stages of passing to one and other like they've just met before kickoff, it's clumsy and fizzed at them or its played behind them which kills the fluidity of the move, but last night saw a return to counter attacking football we haven't seen in a long while, whether it's Arsenal waking up or Reading letting them remains to be seen. Podolski played 90 minutes and had returned from being AWOL in Humberside and Theo got his chance up front. Typical Arsene when he's off in Jan or May. Theo upfront was what destroyed Reading whether Theo meant it or not because The Reading defence were wary of his pace and with the centre midfield playing as false 9's it generally meant that Arsenal's trio had the freedom of the pitch to make things happen. "Shit the bed" Arsenal came out to play for a brief time in the second half but Theo's goal settled nerves. Wigan away awaits and a sterner test I'd imagine. But it was just nice to win.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Diving Is A Skill

Delighted to welcome CNN's Kim Newsome to the blog and her first piece talking about Diving and it's place in the modern game. Over to you Kim....

"A few years ago, when I first began working for a sports show on a prominent news network, I was editing training video of a Premier League squad.  My eyes had long glazed over at the shots of muscled bodies doing press ups and stretching, but an oddity made me freeze for a second.  During a routine scrimmage, one of the players, a speedy but sturdy forward, was pushed lightly by one of his teammates and he collapsed to the ground, face contorted in agony, clutching wildly at his ankle.  This motion went on for exactly three seconds, and then he hopped up and continued to play.  I moved the scene back and forth on my editing timeline, looking at the light push to the man's shoulder, and freezing the video at the moment when the player clutched at his ankle.  "He's diving in practice", I said to no one in particular.  I began to watch the rest of the scrimmage session with new interest.  At any point when contact was made, a player would collapse to the ground, hold their ankle for a few seconds and then get up and sprint several yards to retrieve the ball.  Practice.

A few weeks later, while watching a match on television I saw the same player I'd initially identified take a slight hit to the shoulder.  The 6' tall, burly athlete writhed on the ground with the exact same motions and grimaces I'd observed in the training video.  The referee awarded a foul on the spot.

Football players are like any other athletes.  They're trained at a very young age, taught the rules of the game, and also taught (and paid handsomely) to win at all costs.   Footballers learn how to throw themselves to the ground properly, so they won't actually injure themselves.  They learn to sell the dive, but not at the expense of their team or their own bodies.

I remember when Michael Owen was injured in the World Cup in 2006.   The look on his face was not one of grimace and outrage, but he went white with shock and crawled to the touch line for safety- a very visceral, and very human reaction to injury.  It wasn't game then; it was a man in real pain, whose career was in danger due to an opponent's challenge.

At what point do we as fans, media, and the football governing bodies recognize the difference?  

I believe that time will not come.  Diving is gamesmanship and an art taught as often as one practices taking penalties or delivering clean tackles.  Diving is a part of football, just as drawing a foul is a part of basketball, and positioning the arms just so- to avoid a pass interference call is a part of American football.   I'm not openly accusing coaches of teaching players to dive- but the players learn it somewhere; from watching match footage during the week, or from playing on the small pitches as young children.  They know their team will be rewarded if they go down, no matter how muscled their bodies are, or how well trained their limbs are to respond to action.

I'd love to be proven wrong.  I'm pleased every time I see a referee wag a finger and give a yellow card for an obvious dive- but it's not up to each and every referee to police diving.  They know what it is- and some may feel that if they ignore a dive, they may have just ignored a serious injury that could cost them their career and the career of a 21 year old millionaire.  

It's up to the game to change.  As long as there are rules in sports, there will be players looking to get around the rules in any way they can.

Play to win: that's the underlying message of the beautiful game.  I have no outrage when I see a player rolling around on a pitch unless he does it for too long and misses a playable pass, or causes a delay that costs his team a scoring opportunity.   I don't need to be upset-  I know the managers and the media and the fans will be upset for me.   

Diving is part of the game;  an ugly one- but part of the beautiful game nonetheless.
Kim Newsome is a sports journalist currently working for CNN, and can be found at @KimNewsome "

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


Alright kids, I make no bones about this being original but here we go, here's what I've heard going into January, people are speculating that this is the most important transfer window under Wenger, so let's hope it's going to be a good one.

General disclaimer - This is what I've been told etc etc. Might happen, might not.


Arsenal are looking in this area, competition for Szczesny is the requirement here, whether Fabianski is too injury prone or Wenger has lost faith in anyone's guess but here's the names in the frame

Ali-Al Habsi - Has auditioned well for his prospective new team in recent weeks by chucking a few into his own goal. I would see him as being maybe the most likely in terms of price and name value, I don't think Szczesny would kick off too much if he was bought in.

Jose Reina - This link never goes away, whether Liverpool would let him go, wages etc or even would he be prepared to move for competition as his age.

Asmir Begovic - The dark horse in the three. This comes from a very good person so not to be discounted.


Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa - Gilles Grimandi has been seen in Montpellier a few times now and the rumours are that he's watching captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa or midfielder Younes Belhanda. Yanga-Mbiwa has recently penned a new deal to maximize the money Montpellier get from him, I always expected him to leave in the summer but Montpellier's elimination from the Champions League may bring this one forward.

Jetro Willems - Controversial one here, while all in sundry believe Arsenal's presence in Eindhoven has been all about midfielder Kevin Strootman, I've been told it's also to run the run over emerging left-back Jetro Willems. Andre Santos faces an uncertain time and could return to Turkey in January so Willems would provide cover and competition for Gibbs.


Mohamed Diame - Thankfully his hamstring injury may see him out for weeks rather than months. Cut-price release fee makes the most sense for Arsenal.

Luis Gustavo - I would love to see this happen. Set the Bundesliga alight at Hoffenheim before moving to Bayern, would definitely give the bite to the Arsenal midfield


Thierry Henry - 6 weeks or 6 months. The Return of the King returns again. Just for how long?

Wilfried Zaha - A Gooner by admission, Zaha is an exciting prospect, whether it's for Walcott or Arshavin to make way if Wilf joins, is another matter and the signing will be judged against which one leaves.

Adrian Lopez - Gone a bit quiet on this one, but release fee of around £12-14m may make this appealing.

So that's it. Going to be a long January ahead, eh?

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Olivier Giroud - A Closer Look

Thanks to Tom Marshall-Bailey (TMB04) for his first and hopefully not last post.

Arsenal seized the advantage after just 52 seconds during their 1-1 draw with Everton at Goodison Park through Theo Walcott. Manchester United raised them by registering a goal of their own after just 35 seconds of their 1-0 win over West Ham, but it was the goalscorer which had most significance.

While Robin Van Persie was scoring another superb individual strike to add to an already bulging collection, Olivier Giroud was struggling to get to grips with the rigorous nature of the English game once more as he was dominated throughout the stalemate by the seasoned Premier League veterans of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin.

The Frenchman has divided opinion amongst Gunners fans since his summer move from Montpellier but has been applauded in some quarters for both his work-rate and the ability to bring a different option to the club's attacking ranks.

Being brought in to replace, arguably, the best striker in the league when arriving from a foreign division was always going to be difficult and caution must be taken when fans form judgments on the 26-year-old, who has yet to properly acclimatise to his new surroundings.

But Gunners manager Arsene Wenger admitted that his side "need some improvement in the final third," and will be concerned by the way in which Giroud failed to use his aerial presence to successful effect against the Toffees, with his inconsistent first-touches and flick-ons failing to relieve the pressure on his defence.

Giroud is supposedly meant to be what Marouane Chamakh never was at the Emirates - a targetman - but his failure to hold the ball up for his teammates, coupled with the inability of the likes of Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs to deliver the sort of crosses he thrives on, made for a frustrating evening for the Frenchman.

The one successful centre he did meet - an inviting ball from Walcott - flew inches wide, despite Gunners fans celebrating slightly prematurely assuming the ball had sailed past a statuesque Tim Howard, much to the Goodison crowd's delight.

Everton had a targetman of their own in Marouane Fellaini, who punished some slack defending to earn a well-deserved draw for the home side with a sweeping finish, showing the awareness and composure on the ball that Giroud craved in his attempts to help his side grab a much-needed winner.

Van Persie's move to United added inevitable pressure to Giroud and established a slightly unfair 'replacement' tag, given the Dutchman's goalscoring exploits for the Gunners last season and for United so far this campaign.

The sense that anything could happen was evident with Van Persie leading the line for Wenger's men, whereas it appears Giroud is being forced to adapt to a system which Wenger has trusted since the Cesc Fabregas days, as the 4-2-3-1 formation leaves him deeper and more involved in play, something not naturally belonging to his armoury.

Of course, it would be a narrow-minded approach to suggest that Arsenal aren't playing to Giroud's strengths in the same way he isn't to the club's, but there has to be something of an impasse if the Gunners are to seal a Champions League spot for the 14th season in succession.

Wenger made the surprise choice of resting Lukas Podolski for the testing trip to Everton, leaving the team without a natural left-footed winger, and the Gunners often found themselves running down blind avenues in an attempt to craft an opening, epitomised by the way Aaron Ramsey crashed into Santi Cazorla during the first-half, when cutting in from the left.

This method of play often worked when Van Persie was able to link up with the midfielders, displaying slick footwork to create chances for himself, as well as showing clever movement to make the space for others to exploit, but Giroud's powers surely lie in the penalty area, where Arsenal have been sorely lacking this season.

Van Persie's moment of ingenuity last night as he turned Winston Reid before seeing his shot deflected home off James Collins was unjustly compared to Dennis Bergkamp's exquisite goal against Newcastle 10 years ago but served as a timely reminder to Arsenal fans of just what they have been missing since his controversial move.

The Gunners must instead look towards the future and hope Giroud can lift the shadow of the man he 'replaced' from above the Emirates and, crucially, the one looming over himself.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Arsenal 0-2 Swansea - Powder may be dry, but not in the Cannons

Probably the most alarming thing about Saturday is that you're not really surprised by it anymore, which in itself is surprising. Swansea won this at a canter, playing fluid, angled football that used to be Arsenal's calling card, but Arsenal haven't played good football in months, even when the results were going against us, we could always hold on to the fact that if we were crap, we were entertaining crap, we're not even that anymore.

We face probably 8 more games before any new faces could arrive, and even then we all know how Arsenal's transfer skills work, so you're looking at the end of a month which contains Manchester City (H), Liverpool (H) and away to Chelsea (A), fills you with oh so much confidence.

Arsene Wenger is starting to look like a man who might be finally bereft of ideas, there's a nasty malaise hanging over the club, from the team to the fans. We are too easy to play against these days, and teams can be pretty sure that Wenger will not change things until the 70th minute so they're allowed to gain a foothold on the match and even though Swansea's goals didn't come until late, they were coming a mile off.

It's quite disheartening writing about Arsenal because it's continuously Groundhog day these days, amazingly we are only 5 points off 3rd position which is the same position as last season (Thanks F365) so there's not reason to panic about league position this early.

I really want Arsene to turn this round, when you consider what he's done for our club and what it means to him, this must be hurting him as much if not more than us, in an ideal world he gets the statue and the great send-off, doing a lap of honour around the Emirates that both he and Danny Fiszman made their baby filled to the brim of supporters standing to applaud an Arsenal legend. He genuinely deserves that so I hope he does what is necessary to achieve this. It's not looking so nailed on these days though. Uncertain times ahead.