Posts tagged Arsenal
Posts tagged Arsenal
If it wasn’t for Andre Villas-Boas’ failure to make an immediate impact at Chelsea, something that he undoubtedly intended to do given his insistence that “there is no calling this a year of transition,” earlier in the season, despite evidently being in a year of transition - something that has become painstakingly obvious to the rest of the world who hadn’t already realised it was underway, thanks to Villas-Boas all but admitting the transition by stating, “we have a three-year project to change, not only the team but, the culture and structure of the club” - Arsenal’s season would be dead right now. Luckily for Arsene Wenger, they still have the much-coveted “trophy” of fourth place to cling on to.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s season has taken a rather different path to Chelsea’s, yet both teams are still going into the last thirteen games on level points (43) and the same goal difference (13). The only thing that currently keeps Arsenal in the top four over Chelsea, a position Arsene Wenger has never finished below during his Arsenal career, is the 22-goal Robin van Persie, rather than a 2-goal Fernando Torres.
Chelsea’s defence has been marginally tighter than Arsenal’s (I emphasize marginally) and whilst both teams have suffered defensively this season, with Chelsea’s Mourinho-instilled focus on strong foundations at the back finally all but fading out as Villas-Boas adopts a risk-taking and attacking defence, and Arsenal’s back four providing all but stability or consistency, with a total of eleven plays being used across the back, if The Blues were going to pip The Gunners to fourth place, it would be won at the back.
However, news that John Terry - who was set to be risked by the Portuguese boss against Napoli, a clear indication of just how important Terry is to Chelsea, despite not being quite the player he was a few years ago - is out for two months, could scupper Villas-Boas’ chances of Chelsea finishing in a Champions League spot and mount further pressure on the 34-year old.
John Terry suffered a blow to his knee in a collision with the goalpost in Chelsea’s F.A. Cup victory over Championship Portsmouth on January 7th: an injury he played through for two more games. Since then, The Blues have failed to keep a clean sheet and have slipped from 4th place and just four points off of 3rd and six clear of seventh, to 5th place, where 3rd seems unreachable at 10 points away and 7th placed Liverpool have closed the gap by two.
The reading doesn’t get much better for Chelsea fans as not only are Chelsea without a clean sheet in a Terry-less side so far this season, but in addition, last season Chelsea kept just one of their 15 clean sheets without Terry, in a season in which the centre-back missed 5 games. Last campaign, Chelsea kept a clean sheet with Terry 42% of the time and without him, just 20% of the time. This season, Chelsea have kept a clean sheet 27% of the time in which John Terry has played and without him, it currently stands at 0%.
Chelsea’s defensive woes are further encapsulated by the fact that they’ve only won two of their last ten games, one of them against relegation zone dwellers Wolves. And whilst they may’ve only lost two, both were bottom half at the time and their six draws have been score draws five times, with their only goalless draw coming against Norwich, a game fans would’ve hoped Chelsea would’ve won. Their 3-0 lead against Manchester United could’ve galvanised Chelsea’s season, but even that was carelessly thrown away, to add to their other two score draws that saw Chelsea lead.
Chelsea fans may take some hope from January signing Gary Cahill: however, the centre-back is stepping into the shoes of a Chelsea hero in an extremely frail Chelsea team that, simply put, is lacking leadership, belief and confidence. He’s stepped out of the fire, in the form of Bolton, who have only kept one clean sheet since the opening fixture, and into the fire at Chelsea.
So, can Chelsea turn to last season’s Player of the Year Petr Cech for help? Seemingly not. This season, you could make a claim for Petr Cech being the worst shot stopper in the league, although much blame should be put down to a defence lacking in organisation, something further hindered with the absence of Terry: this season, Cech’s saves-to-shots ratio in the Premier League is 65% and therefore the worst in the league.
Turn to Arsenal and in a season in which the Premier League’s top four has been more hotly-contested than Miss Universe and saw The Gunners seventeenth after an embarrassing 8-2 defeat at the hands of a ruthless Manchester United, their current position of fourth place is rather admirable. Yet, the past ten days has seen The Gunners lose everything they were fighting for but fourth place, crashing out of the F.A. Cup in a 2-0 defeat to Sunderland and their Champions League adventure all but over after a 4-0 first leg loss at the San Siro.
Yet, news that Laurent Koscielny should be back for Arsenal’s next Premier League game – the North London derby with Tottenham – has given a cloudy Arsenal week a much-welcomed silver lining. With Bacary Sagna firing on all cylinders again and Thomas Vermaelen at the heart of defence with the Frenchman, Arsenal fans have the right to celebrate.
The ever-changing back line, eluded to in the opening of this article, has finally mustered up some strength and stability: a blend of leadership, provided by Vermaelen, experience, courtesy of Sagna and ability, supplied in heaps from the much-improved Kosclieny, may well prove to secure fourth place in a season where defence has been far from Arsenal’s strong point.
It would be careless to rule out Newcastle or Liverpool sneaking in and snatching the last Champions League spot, especially with the momentum Liverpool are gathering and the focus Alan Pardew has on the league campaign: but, ultimately, if Arsenal or Chelsea do indeed finish fourth, the fight will be settled in defence.
The social network site, home to 300 million users, created in 2006, has allowed a closeness to the footballing world never experienced before: at least, not with such synchronicity. The quick, instant and concise characteristics of Twitter quickly attracted the attention of businesses, and football clubs rapidly followed, with many branching out to a global audience to promote themselves during recessionary times through this free method of communication, marketing and, most importantly and most valued, interaction.
The growth Twitter has experienced is undoubtedly down to, in large, the intimacy it provides the everyday person with its less everyday users, such as Piers Morgan, Rihanna and Rio Ferdinand: in its market, it is unrivalled on this selling point.
It has blessed the world of football kindly, too. In recent times, we’ve had: the overnight phenomenon that is @AnfieldCat, which has, since its creation in the immediate aftermath of a cat stopping play at Anfield during Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Tottenham, racked up over 60,000 followers; the ability to get instant access to England player’s views over the next England manager and captain, in such tweets as “Gutted capello has quit. Good guy and top coach. Got to be english to replace him. Harry redknapp for me (sp.)” and “For everyone asking i would love to be england captain. But thats upto new manager to decide. Gerrard is perfect choice for me (sp),” both from Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney; and lastly, but only indirectly strictly football related, are the parody accounts created on Twitter, which amass thousands of followers, look on the lighter side of what is sometimes a grim game and provide endless topical humour on the footballing world.
However, for all its positives, Twitter has a vile side when it comes to the relationships forged between the followers and the following: Manchester United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson slammed the social network site back in May, saying, “I don’t understand it…I don’t know why anybody can be bothered with …It is a waste of time,” having seen then Red Devils midfielder Darron Gibson axe his account having received numerous abusive Tweets from users of the site. Since May 2011, his views haven’t swayed too much, yet Rio Ferdinand’s following as well as Wayne Rooney’s, has since doubled: “I don’t know how to do these things….I’m not into that kind of stuff.”
Unfortunately, however, Darron Gibson wasn’t to be the first and last footballer to have to quit Twitter thanks to abuse. Although Newcastle striker Demba Ba wasn’t the direct recipient of racist Tweets, Peter Copeland, a 29-year old unemployed man living with his parents, still posted racist remarks concerning the Senegalese international: “With the number of darkies in your f**king team, you should be called the Coon Army.” Fortunately, for Ba’s 75,507 followers (myself included), Copeland’s case was adjourned for sentencing under breach of the Malicious Communications Act and the former West Ham striker has kept his Twitter account.
Yet, for Micah Richards, after three months of continual racist abuse, he did feel the need to close his account: “I did enjoy Twitter and the banter with the fans, but I didn’t like the abuse you get on it. Sometimes you want to retaliate, but you have to be the bigger man and not.” It’s a sentiment wisely expressed by a player that hasn’t always been the wisest and highlighted just how intimate Twitter can be: following a string of offensive Tweets in May 2011, Wayne Rooney threatened a respondent, seemingly unable to be “the bigger man,” but Rooney insists it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.
It’s a sad case that racism is still so prevalent in society, let alone football: however, when there have been numerous cases of racism in football itself, such as the on-going John Terry case and the Evra-Suarez saga, it is hardly surprising that the same behaviour is being replicated by so-called fans of the game. But, that is no excuse for such behaviour: so surely, some sort of moderation should be put in place to prevent such Tweets from ever being posted?
Take the recent Twitter abuse inflicted on Southampton’s January signing Billy Sharp for example: whilst Sharp was playing for Saints in their 1-1 away draw to West Ham on Valentine’s Day, a user who has since closed his account, like Copeland did, tweeted despicable and hateful comments directly to Billy Sharp. On October 29th 2011, Luey Jacob Sharp, Billy’s two-day year old son passed away due to Gastroschisis. @ChrisDRFCBoyd used this sad fact to taunt the Southampton striker with taunting jibes and sick comments. Surely moderation to prevent such comments from ever reaching users should be in place?
However, moderation takes time and, sadly, time is money and that is the selling point of Twitter: it is a free to use social networking site, valued by businesses for the service it provides in which companies can efficiently and instantaneously interact with the public and the same is said for footballers and their employees. Thisisfutbol editor, Harry Cloke says that for his website, Twitter is “pretty vital. In terms of creating a sense of community, creating discussion and controlling traffic it’s essential.”
The free promotion it provides has seen numerous football clubs rapidly take advantage to increase their social media presence and since it went big, English clubs have quickly dominated the scene with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United coming in at #5, #4 & #3 respectively, in the most followed clubs according to Facebook and Twitter: however, Real Madrid and Barcelona, in second and first place, is a harsh reminder that La Liga threatens to overshadow the Premier League.
So if moderation seems like an implausible possibility, surely Twitter can use a form of word filter, such as the ones utilised on forums, to prevent such offensive Tweets from being published?
Only time will tell. However, to challenge a concept favoured by one of Twitter’s more liberal users, Joey Barton, who’s love of freedom is clear in his posts, describing The F.A. as an “Orwellian institution,” when they requested he didn’t offer his predictions for Premier League games on Twitter, and stating he’d “gladly go to jail for a month, in the name of free speech,” I leave you with this:
Twitter allows the quick and easy access to a public domain in which freedom of speech is allowed: however, how long will it be before that freedom will inhibit others in their numbers, like it already has done to Micah Richards?
Is it time for football to give Twitter the red card, or is it too much of a crowd pleaser?
In a stinging attack on an Arsenal side that is not, according to World Cup and European Championships winner Emmanuel Petit, “the team that I knew,” the former Gunners midfielder, who won the Premier League and F.A. Cup double with the 97-98 Arsenal side, which included free-scoring Dennis Bergkamp, an ever present Patrick Vieira and a young Nicolas Anelka, stated that Arsene Wenger should “send out a strong signal” and “say to Arshavin and Rosicky: ‘Gentlemen, thank you, but goodbye.’”
The midfielder’s criticism comes in the wake of Arsenal’s hammering at the hands of an impressively potent AC Milan side, which scored with its first four shots on target, but enjoyed less of the possession than Arsenal’s spineless eleven on the night. According to a poll on The Telegraph’s website, 52.85% of the fans believe that it is too late for Arsene Wenger to build another trophy winning Arsenal side: but, considering The Gunners haven’t won a major trophy in seven years, the difference in opinion is barely noticeable with the remaining 47.15% of voters still believing the Frenchman can mould another winning side.
In a strong core eleven in the form of Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Kocielny, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Song, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott, Arsenal have a side capable of a top four finish: however, with depth lacking, Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie both within 18 months of contract expiry and a few names failing repeatedly to step up and provide what Arsene Wenger promised of them, a top four finish, something Arsene Wenger has always delivered, isn’t the guarantee it used to be, leaving Gunners fans on tenterhooks.
Theo Walcott is one name that is being more and more strongly linked with a move away from The Emirates with each passing week, as is Tomas Rosicky and Andrei Arshavin, only helped further by the scathing condemnation of Emmanuel Petit: however, with van Persie into the last 16 months of his contract and turning 29 this summer, should Wenger be looking to offload the Dutchman and secure the future of Theo Walcott, who the Frenchman believes is destined to one day play as a centre forward?
On explaining the difference between Theo Walcott and Arsenal’s other Southampton Academy product, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wenger stated “Oxlade-Chamberlain could be a central midfielder one day and Walcott a central striker.” Although selling a striker responsible for 46% of Arsenal’s Premier League goals this season and 28 goals in all competitions, a mammoth 22 goals ahead of their second top scorer in Theo Walcott, who before the Swansea game last month hadn’t scored since October 29th’s 5-3 victory over Chelsea, seems ridiculous on face value, Arsenal’s ability to keep hold of van Persie is suffering a major blow with every missed opportunity of success. Selling him, on top of expected announced profits of £55m last year, aided by the sales of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, would provide the war chest for Wenger to build a trophy winning side that 47.15% of fans still believe he can.
Despite the criticism Theo Walcott gets week-in-week-out, slating him if he plays poorly or condemning him to inconsistency even if he plays well, I cannot help but think that if he leaves, it will be on to better things than Arsenal and a move up rather than down. With a strong core, and seven years of trophy chastity anyway, the best bet for Arsene Wenger achieving success, before his contract expires in 2014, would be to cash in on Robin van Persie before his contract expires, play Walcott in the centre forward role, before his career is ruined and judged to have not delivered by the age of 22, and play the exciting and skilful Chamberlain one side of him and the unorthodox Gervinho the other.
The selling of Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, have not been adequately replaced and with the money there, just a reluctance to spend from an ever-stringent Arsene Wenger, it is not too late for the Frenchman to turn the fortunes around at Arsenal. His targets are very clear in Lukas Podolski, Mario Gotze and Eden Hazard: the execution of these transfers is all that is needed now.
The departures of several other players may well be on the cards and most will be welcomed: however, for all his goals and brilliance, a selling of Robin van Persie, when the chances of him staying beyond his contract are slim anyway, would provide not only the money to reinvest, but the removal of a reliance on him that has become so prevalent this season in the absence of other key players from last year.
For Arsenal fans, it is a case of the same questions, just a different season: however, there are foundations for a title-winning side in their ranks. All that is needed now is a decisive summer transfer window and a change in mentality at the club. Look forward not back; pass forward and not sideways and buy for success now and not in the future that never comes.
A culture change must arise, a mentality where winning becomes the precedent. For too long, Wenger has been investing in youth, when the current bunch of youth-turned-first-teamers isn’t delivering. Success breeds success and Arsene Wenger is seven years dry of it and only two away from never seeing it again. A clear out may well be needed, but not an overhaul and certainly not another failed transition from the old to the young: what Arsenal need is experience, players with an experience of success itself and, most importantly, readiness.