Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Go Nicklas, go!

It’s been exactly 97 days since I last wrote a post on our beloved site. Since then heaps have happened. You know the drill; the litany of painful woes that have become the hallmark of Arsenal in the past six seasons.
How we capitulated to relegation-bound Birmingham City in the Carling Cup finals; how we threw away a perceived “easy” fixture run-in that would have saw us challenge realistically for the title; how we capitulated before Messi and co @ the Nou Camp; how we slumped from nearly-winners, to a fourth place finish behind Manchester City – the first time to my knowledge we finished below the blue-clad Mancunians.
It has been 90days of pain, again and again. Since we limped over the finish line at the end of the season two months back, we’ve been forced to listen to Ivan Gazidis plead for patience and understanding of Arsene Wenger and his bunch – not forgetting to promise that this offseason, there would be lots of players’ movements.
Well, “lots of movement” was neither clarified as to which direction the players would be moving. So far, we’ve seen two move into the club and two move out. Very balanced indeed. Unknown Carl Jenkinson of the ninja-own goal and Gervinho have moved in, while Gael Clichy and Denilson have been offloaded. Gervinho apart, there hasn’t been much cause for cheer for this lateral movement. Clichy and Denilson surely had their numbers up and there definitely aren’t any tears shed for those duo.
It is however the curious case of one Nicklas Bendtner that bothers me. Clearly, he isn’t part of Wenger’s plans anymore after three years of absolute torture watching him fumble his way through games. We’ve heard that teams like Hamburg are interested in him (good luck to them) but nothing has happened to stir the blood so far.
Why isn’t he off the books yet? Despite their apparent inefficiency and lack of skills, it is becoming a pattern to see mediocre players become reluctant to leave when they are shown the door from the club. Even when they have burnt their bridges and thrown mud on both the name of the club and Wenger, we still see them getting icy feet when its exit time.
Bendtner (with the able assistance of his manger-dad),raved and ranted all season-long about how he was fed-up with warming the bench and how he was too good not to command an automatic shirt. One would have thought he had already signed, sealed and delivered his talents to another club elsewhere and was just waiting for the transfer window to creak open and he’ll be gone.
Same applied to Denilson, who was effectively and permanently shoved aside by the glittering talents of Jack Wilshire all of last season. He vented his anger late in the season when all hope of silverware was gone by announcing that he embarrassed he was to be part of a trophyless team and couldn’t wait to zoom away from the wasteland that was Emirates Stadium.
Well, two months into the much-awaited window and with no club falling over themselves for his unattractive signature, he’s been “loaned back” – whatever that means – to his former club for a season. Let’s hope that’s the last we see of him.
With the improvement of and promotion of returning-Aaron Ramsey, we look well-stocked in the middle of the park.
The likes of Bendtner, Eboue, Almunia and if I may add, Tomas Rosicky have done enough damage and contributed heaps to our trophy drought. The earlier they sign-out and leave us alone, the better for us all Gooners.
Move it Nicklas. If you are that good, why hang around?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

‘French revolution’ serves Wenger right

By the time you read, our faltering league win hopes would either be dead and buried at White Hart Lane, or still limps on with all the faults and inadequacies of this team propping it up.
According to L’Equipe, five of Arsene Wenger’s much-vaunted, much-heralded, very precious ensemble are considering their collective futures at Arsenal, and if we are to believe the highly-respected French daily, they will hand-in transfer requests at the end of the season. L’Equipe added that Samir Nasri is heading the rebel, breakaway group of which Sebastian Squillaci and Abou Diaby are other members. The newspaper didn’t mention the other two members of the group, but I suspect Gael Clichy will be among them.
So, that is that. What is however most preposterous was the revelation that the players were all considering their membership of Wenger’s ‘Colney Creche’ because – the team has so far failed to land any silverware in the past six seasons! How very unbelievable!
If a team doesn’t win anything, shouldn’t that automatically mean that the players have failed? Was it not their duty all along to go onto the field and fight for the right to win those silverware? Yes, player contracts don’t demand that they deliver trophies at the end of seasons, but the incentives and objectives of the bigger picture of their playing duties demands that. And of course, what player can boldly say they have made a success of their careers, if they didn’t have any trophies or medals to show for them? What player?
So, if Arsenal football club has failed to win trophies these six seasons past, who should be directly responsible if not the players entrusted with the task of winning games, that will ultimately deliver those trophies? But of course, Wenger’s bunch are now pointing accusing fingers at everything and everybody except themselves. Very convenient.

Wanting Out?? Nasri(right) and Clichy (left) considering their options

Typical of this spoiled bunch. Typical of the over-indulgent group that Wenger has placed so much faith in, and staked his career these six past seasons. No wonder the club has been going backwards since, with players bearing such misplaced attitude.
The French boys, whom Wenger took from nowhere and made into superstars and French internationals are now literally biting the finger that fed them. The French boys who owe their careers and fame and wealth to Wenger, are now thinking of jumping ship and abandoning the man who made them what they all are today, because suddenly the man and his club are both inadequately unambitious enough for their big dreams.
If only they would all stop for a while and think, they should realize that all the so-called big clubs like Inter Milan and Juventus that they consider more-serious, trophy-winning sides do not enjoy the stability they have been used to at Arsenal these six seasons. In addition, those ‘more-serious’ clubs do not have a French coach that would indulge all their whims and tantrums.
To put things into more perspective, what have the likes of Abou Diaby done to help us win those elusive trophies in his 4-5 years at the club? Wenger, in his typical style, bigged him up as the next best thing after Patrick Vieira. Since then, he has flattered to deceive with inconsistent performances and turncoat displays that leave you shaking your head in sadness and bewilderment. His form has fluctuated to and fro like a yo-yo so much, that an unheralded Alex Song has since usurped him in the starting eleven. Even after Song, “little” Jack Wilshire has pushed him further down the pecking order.
Rather than accept that he’s just not good enough to make it here despite Wenger’s extended patience and over-indulgence, he is now reportedly ‘frustrated” at the club’s empty trophy cabinet and is eyeing interest from the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and – wait for it - Barcelona. Dream on Abou! What exactly has he done in his Arsenal career to warrant any tangible interest from those teams? I’m scratching my head on that.
Nasri and Sagna apart, I doubt if any Arsenal fan will shed any tear seeing the ‘infamous five’ depart. It would be very good riddance to rubbish. They could as well as go now, rather than wait for the end of the season. If nothing else, it just shows the depth of dissatisfaction within Wenger’s crèche and how much surgical work “Le Professor” has ahead of him this transfer window.
Before they head off into their perceived greener pastures, the “infamous five” must look at “little” Jack Wilshire and learn a lesson or two about the fruits of endeavour. Since he was introduced into the senior side, Jack has seized his chance with both hands and held on tenaciously to his first place. He has won admirers amongst friend and foe; broke his international duck; and just last weekend, he deservedly emerged as PFA Young Player of the Year.
Poor Wenger must be wondering what to think of all this. Poor Arsene. After investing in his beloved French players and treating them with kid gloves as he has moulded their careers, he must be feeling like Julius Caesar now, as he watches with bemusement, his precious kinsmen stick in the knives and twist them. It is betrayal of the most-classic type. 
Hard as it may sound, methinks Wenger deserves it.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Decision time looms for Wenger’s weakest links

This Sunday, April 10, our season will either grind to a familiar but necessary end depending on the outcome of the game against Blackpool. Or we live to fight again.  Whatever slim hopes Gooners everywhere have of us resurrecting our title aspirations, will either be boosted or buried for good on Sunday.
With us lying seven points behind Manchester United, Sunday’s game will determine whether this season was another false dawn or the sum of all our expectations. Arsene Wenger, more than anyone else, knows it. I’m not too sure if all members of his pampered ensemble realize it, or actually care enough. Players the world over know that no clubside ever clears the deck of its entire playing staff in the consequence of failure. Rather, it is always the coach or manager who gets the chop while the players ride through the carnage.
Well, we all know that  at Arsenal FC, Wenger is too important, too spinal, too fundamental to the fate and direction of the club to be sacked because of the failings of players. He towers over and above the entire club and its kow-towing directors. Forget Ivan Gazidis. Forget the five-man board. They all owe their fat allowances and sumptous annual dividends to the genius and vision of Wenger. In the particular case of Gazidis, he must be the only football club CEO in the world, who was handpicked by the coach. So clearly, there won’t be anyone calling for the head of the coach of Arsenal FC, if our trophy barrenness enters its seventh season.

Forever crocked....perennially fragile Rosicky succumbs to yet another injury
Rather, it is the players who may bear the brunt of another disappointing campaign. Of course, no wholesale,  firesale will be happening, but surely Wenger has to act to save both his reputation and avoid alienating the fans. That action will surely mean that some players, identified as perennial under-performers, will have to be moved on.
Already, the players must know who they are. Serial scapegoats such as Denilson, Manuel Almunia, Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eboue must be high on that list. Already, there is talk that Eboue is attracting interest from Tottenham Hotspurs. Well, it is just that – talk. But it is an indicator of who will be leaving the club as the transfer window swings open in June.
It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to identify that we have always been three-four players short all season. It was why we lost to the Carling Cup final to ‘little’ Birmingham, soon as a couple of key players succumbed to injuries. It was also why we got flogged by Barcelona and also why Man Utd ended our FA Cup dreams. Soon as the likes of Alex Song, Wojciech Szczensy, Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas – all starters – were knocked out by injuries, we never had capable replacements to fill their large boots. In the space of three weeks, the mythical ‘quadruple’ dream shrunk to a ‘singleple’ – if there’s any such word.
Since the weekend of January, we’ve staggered around like a bunch of drunken sailors. Goals have dried up and the players have lost their collective self-belief.
Martin Keown, an ex-player who has an inkling into what goes on behind Wenger’s ever tightly-shut doors at the Emirates, put it best during the week, just after the cowardly draw against Blackburn last Saturday. His words:
"The fans have become disenchanted with certain areas of the team and they want players to be replaced. But the club went with a five-year plan to invest in youth because of the constraints of building the Emirates Stadium. However, if the players don't win the league this year, there will be more money ploughed in. And there's nobody I'd sooner have spending money than Arsene Wenger because he spends wisely. He hasn't really been able to compete because of the demands of the new stadium but that must be changing now. I know from experience that Wenger invests a certain amount of time in you as a player and once he feels you are at the end of the line he gets someone else in to do the job."
Well said by Martin. And despite what may happen to the league title, Wenger must know that some of his well-trusted players don’t give a toss about the directions and aspirations of the club.
Now, clearly the under-pressure Alsatian is fast losing his aura of invincibility and endless latitude with the fans who have stayed faithful since he arrived here in 1996. That, simply put cannot be allowed to happen. Not even the bootlicking board members can stand up for him if the fans turn against him.
Which is why some of Wenger’s very-trusted players will have to pay the price and look for new employment elsewhere, regardless of whether we win the ‘singleple’ or not.
On a last note, add Tomas Rosicky to the afore-mentioned list.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Let’s do it for Jack, at least

Events of the past three weeks have obviously put a huge dampener on all sorts of expectations and hopes that this season promised. So much was expected, nothing so far has been delivered. The Carling Cup apart of course, no trophies are handed out by March of any season.

It was never expected that we would be in possession of anything in terms of silverware by March. Our serene and surprise progress to the final of the Carling Cup however raised expectations skywards that before May when trophies are normally handed out, we would have at least have the League Cup to show for our season’s efforts. Well, as we all know, Birmingham put a brutal end to those expectations and immediately after, Barcelona and Manchester United both got in on the act to compound our misery and leave us empty-handed. Or almost.

March is coming to an end and with it, the business end of seasons everywhere in Europe is fast approaching. While our so-called rivals, the likes of Man Utd, Chelsea, Tottenham and Man City are all involved in do-or-die battles for silverware, we are left licking wounds both physical and psychological as we contemplate what might have been for the sixth season in a row. Our perennial betenoire, Man Utd are actually involved in fights for silverware on three fronts.

One of those fronts, the Premier League, is interestingly, where we are destined to cross swords again as we lie second behind them with a game in hand. It is inn the premiership, which we haven’t won since 2004, that ironically we now have the only real hope of any silverware and if you ask me, the brightest chance.

We may be three points behind Man Utd, but everyone acknowledges that we have an easier run-in. Taking the spotlight away from us though, the real story is what is happening to everyone else around us.
Immense..Jack has stood tall all season despite our disappointments

Man Utd, the only team above us, are battling injuries especially in the defence. Sir Alex Ferguson will never admit it, but the chances of Rio Ferdinand playing again this season are fast receeding. Captain Nemanja Vidic is also hampered by injury and needs injections to complete minutes. Fabio, the anointed successor to Gary Neville at right back is out for a month with a hamstring. Same for John O’Shea who can play almost anywhere at the back. Only Patrice Evra is left standing at the back and he has to midwife the likes of Wes Brown and Chris Smalling. With such suspect backline, Man Utd have to take on Man City in an FA Cup showdown that as always packs in all the bitterness and hatred both sides reserve only for each other. Not mentioning a two-legged Champions League arm wrestle with Chelsea next month before they arrive at the Emirates in the first week of May for their league date.

I do not consider Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham as serious threats in the league but nonetheless, they are all burdened with internal issues and pre-occupied with the lure of greater glory in either the Champions League, or the FA Cup. Just dumped out of the Europa Cup during the week, Man City know they have to give everything for the FA Cup, or else they stand the big chance of missing out of Europe altogether next season. Of course, they are involved in a neck-to-neck with Tottenham and Chelsea and even Sunderland for that last Champions League fourth spot in the league, but that is a race where no bets can be taken until the last ball has been kicked on May 15.

So, where does that leave our dear Arsenal? Well, if the truth be told, in a nice spot indeed. Injuries are aplenty of course, but so is it with all the other sides. Positively, the likes of Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song should return in 2-3 weeks and we do not have midweek games to disturb our serene march to the title. What title, you may ask?

Wenger would never admit it, but we have a golden, almost-unbelievable chance to nick the premiership if we just hold our nerves, concentrate and win games. Tottenham’s ever-pragmatic manager, Harry Redknapp said what everyone at Emirates is avoiding to put into words last night. He declared:

“What an opportunity Arsenal have. They are not playing Saturday, then midweek. They are going to play Saturday-Saturday, while everybody else will be playing Saturday-midweek. Arsenal have a great chance of winning the championship now. They are out of everything now except for the league…I think you have to say Arsenal have the most incredible opportunity ever”.

Well said Harry, but the hard yards need to be put in on the pitch. We signed on veteran Jens Lehmann to provide back-up in the goal for Manuel Almunia and it was a clever move. If Wenger wasn’t positive that we could nick, he wouldn’t bring in someone who’s been there, done it before like Jens.

So, let’s go nick it for Jack Wilshire, who for me, has been our most outstanding player all season and a beacon to all the rest of the team. He doesn’t deserve to finish the season empty-handed and what better way to mark his first full season, with the premiership!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Guardiola reveals why Wenger will never win the Champions League

Success, they say, breeds success.
In his nearly-three years at the helm of Barcelona, Josep “Pep” Guardiola has amassed trophies in triplicates in every season he has coached the Catalan clubside. In his first season, 2008-2009, he actually won six trophies, which is something almost unheard-of in this modern era of intense rivalries and fierce competition. Notable amongst those trophies was the Champions League, which he won by dominating and beating Manchester United in the final.
He looks set again to lift that trophy this year at the final in Wembley stadium after steering his team to another functional win over us last night.
He calmly and rightly pointed out the reasons why his side beat us over two legs and unless you are seriously jaundiced or suffer from a flawed type of blind support, you just must agree with the 40 year-old tactitian.
Some of his analyses were just too spot-on to be ignored. Listen to this:

“If you analyse the game 11 against 11, we managed to dominate the game. I perfectly understand his (Wenger) complaints. In the future we might sit down together to watch both legs. Maybe my feelings are too fresh but we have been better than them”.

In both legs, just as was the case last year, I have never seen the entire Arsenal side chase the ball so much or given the run-around by any other team. The possession count in the second leg last night rightly gave us 32% while Barcelona got 73%. The scattered moments when we managed to get the ball, we gave it back almost immediately because Barcelona never allowed us to settle. For a team like Arsenal whose game is based on superior possession and endless passing, it cannot be fun to chase your opponents around the pitch for almost the entire 90 minutes.

Game changer...Van Persie getting sent off by Busacca
Wenger, typically, railed and railed about the injustice in the Robin Van Persie sending-off. Indeed it was a wrong call by the Swiss ref Bussacca, but as Guardiola rightly pointed out, it wasn’t the reason why we lost. Even while Van Persie was on the pitch in the first half, Barcelona still dominated us convincingly.
But you just have to admire Guardiola’s clear-sighted reading of the game and it gives an insight into why he has been so successful in so short a career. Hear him again:

“I can understand their view that they are out of the quarterfinals because of the card for Van Persie. If they believe that, then okay but the reality is that they didn’t have three passes in a row. We had almost 70 percent possession. They played in the back, not a shot on goal at all and not had three passes in a row. Of course with players like Nasri and Fabregas they have great players. Only Song was not there”.

I admire this man a lot. I put him in the same category with such great football minds like Kenny Dalglish, Alex Ferguson, Louis Van Gaal, Johann Cruyff, Fabio Capello, the tempestuous Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti. These are men who have won the big prizes in various countries, with different teams over and over again. I wouldn’t mind adding the likes of Harry Redknapp and David Moyes to the list because of their pragmatic and hands-on approach to the game. All the men mentioned above understand the nature of the game as well as what is required to survive on the pitch and win games in the space of 90minutes.
Arsene Wenger cannot, sadly, belong to that list because he is indeed a scientist and not a football manager. He delights in endless experimenting, of which its aim and objective is to defy accepted norms and go against conventional wisdom. When his experiments work, they make him look like a genius which is how he has come to covet the name Professor. When they fail though, he moans about injustice and refuses to blame his tactics and players.
Despite his obvious weaknesses, he is still a man to be respected for his revolutionary style of coaching which is admired the world over. But in truth, Wenger will never reach the heights attained by the likes of Guardiola and Sir Alex Fergusson because he is too stubborn and proud to accept that his methods are faulty and he needs to change them. But as we all know, you can’t teach an old dog, new tricks. At 61, he cannot now dump a lifetime of set principles for something new and novel.
If only he could learn from the younger Guardiola. If only he could eat humble pie and accept the unworkability of his methods. If only he could stop for a second and listen to the free advice Guardiola offered him after last night’s defeat at the Nou Camp, in which the Catalan suggested that:

“The only way they can grow is to think about the bad things they have done and improve. We have played great 11 against 11. They are nearly leaders of the Premier League and did not have a shot on goal, which says a lot”.

It is always a sorry sight whenever things are not going right for Arsenal on the pitch and Wenger starts waving his long hands in the air and arguing with the fourth referee. It is too immature and trite. A man of his stature and reputation ought to have outgrown things like that. Yes we all know he cares, but no amount of hand-waving by any coach on the sidelines has ever influenced any referee’s decision. It actually only helps to incur the referee’s wrath.
In as few words as possible, Guardiola has thrown a lot of light on the reason why Arsenal will always remain second-fiddle to the likes of Barcelona. He has explained the problem with Wenger and invariably with his team. It might sound like bitter truth, but it still remains the truth.
Pragmatism has never killed anyone. It might be too late to expect Wenger to change his ways but as long as he remains at the helm at Arsenal, let us all know that trophies as competitive and tough like the Champions League will always elude us.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Parody of Arsene Wenger's explanation Carling Cup loss

This might sound a little deluded, but let’s just pretend it is an open letter from Arsene Wenger to all Gunner fans following last Sunday’s capitulation at the hands of little Birmingham, who just three seasons ago were foraging in the championship and fighting for their football life.

Hello All Ye Gunners,
Well, ladies and gentlemen (no offence gentlemen that the ladies take pre-eminence even in this so-gentlemanly of sports). Ok, ladies and gents, I know we bottled it. I know we failed to bring a smile to your faces. I know me and the players failed to deliver as we promised. But I still believe in this team. I still know that this group of players deserve a trophy.
We have remained competitive since I came here in 1996. We have never failed to qualify for the Champions League. We have always, until 2005, always been in the first two positions in the premiership. Since the coming of Abramovich’s era at Chelsea, life at the top has been hectic but we have still never finished a season below fourth position. Yes, the trophies may have dried up since 2005, but so has it dried up for Liverpool since 2006.
I don’t know what the real reason is. Or why the trophies have decided to give us a wide berth. Sometimes, I think it might have to do with the move to the Emirates stadium. You see, I am not superstitious or anything as mundane, but you guys hardly ever sing when we play in front of you at the Emirates.
The place is so silent and hollow, it sometimes feel like you are all waiting for us to lose matches. Often when I look up from my well-padded seat in the dug-out, I think you guys are spoilt. You are all seated in your own padded seats up there, while me and the boys strain every muscle and dodge tackles from rugby sides like Stoke, in order to make you guys smile and enjoy your afternoons.
I’m not exactly saying that is the reason why we haven’t been winning trophies, but I mean, me and the boys would appreciate a little bit of love. We wouldn’t mind a little bit of tender-loving at least to know that we are not in enemy territory. Because, to tell you guys the truth, it sometimes feel like that when we play before you all and we ain’t cheered or serenaded with oles at every touch.
Even at Wembley over the weekend, you guys only started singing after Robin scored the equaliser. I know we are a London team, but the fans of Birmingham all the way from the Midlands outsang and outcheered you guys. Com’on, we are the biggest team in the biggest city in Europe!
It is none of my players’ fault that we lost against Brum. I must say we played like champions, if not for that former Newcastle bloke that frightened poor, little Wojniech to drop the ball and he sneaked in without any shame to score. I mean, why would a self-respecting, gentleman do a thing like that? No wonder he couldn’t last too long at Rubin Kazan. They buy proper footballers who know how to dribble and make a 1,000 passes like my players. And not sneaky, dodgy types like the ex-Newcastle bloke who scare goalkeepers into making mistakes and then shamelessly poke the ball into the net before flipping and turning over in the air like a deflated balloon.
I thought of making an official complaint to both the FA, FIFA and even the United Nations on such dangerous tactics by strikers, but I was talked out of it by my very considerate players, who are gentlemen of the highest degree.
So back to you guys. I am getting fed up with all of you talking and moaning about a lack of trophies. I mean, how often have I said that we need to be patient with these players? Which other team in all of Europe can claim to have such gifted, skillful and also very handsome players who qualify them for the Champions League consistently every year? And most importantly, which team in Europe has been able to assemble such a talented bunch at such cheap, rock-bottom rate?
Tell me also, which team in the whole world can survive and remain competitive by living out of a piggy bank? We have brought all these most-wonderful players and sustained our very high level both in the league and the Champions League by scrapping and penny-pinching for years. While everyone else around us has been splashing the cash and raking up mountains of debt, we have lived on scraps and crumbs from the table literally. Not only have we spent almost no money, we have also got astonishing value for the pittance we have spent. I am talking about the great, world class players that have passed through this club in the past 15 years. Players like Patrick ‘One Man Army’ Vieira, Dennis ‘The Menacing Specialist’ Bergkamp, Thierry ‘Prima Donna’ Henry, Fredrik ‘The Lunatic’ Ljungberg, Robert ‘The Ghost’ Pires, Marc ‘Runaway Train’ Overmars, Nicholas ‘Almighty Sulk’ Anelka just to mention a few. I don’t want to bore you too much by adding other world beaters like Sylvain ‘Sly Fox’ Wiltord, Pascal ‘Slow Motion’ Cygan, Igor ‘No Nonsense’ Stepanovs and Oleg ‘Incredible Hulk’ Luzhny.
These are just a tip of the player iceberg. I brought them from all corners of the world to help make Arsenal a world class side. The trophies have come as well, until the last six seasons due to the fact that you guys have refused to cheer this current group of world class players.
May I warn you all right now that if you continue to refuse to cheer them,, the trophies will continue to stay away from Emirates. It is not a threat, but a fact. You guys have all become too comfy in your padded seats, you’ve forgotten the real reason you are allowed into the ground in the first place.
And one day, when my world class players have all had enough, they will seek greener and noisier pastures elsewhere and I will go with them. While going, I will equally take the tea lady with me, as well as Mr Ivan ‘The Terrible’ Gazidis, the club CEO and my self-appointed sorcerer.
When that happens, I promise you, Arsenal may start appreciating me more when they suddenly find themselves playing in the Conference League with the likes of Brentford, Leyton Orient or Walsall.
A word is enough for the wise. If there is any amongst you ungrateful lot.

Signed: Professor AW.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Don't worry, be hopeful all ye Gunners

Now that we’ve failed to break our trophy drought yet again, it seems like the end of the world for many a Gunner. Now that Arsene Wenger has failed to deliver  - yet again – on the promise of turning this team into winners, it may look like an early end to yet another futile season.
It is always great and convenient to become wise after the event. Many comments picked up from Arsenal fanblogs scattered over cyberspace were naturally filled with frustration, exasperation and people fed-up with our latest failure and Wenger’s lily-livered tactics.
Yes, we bottled it. Yes, Birmingham outfought us on the day and showed greater hunger for the prize at stake. Birmingham, whom we have trashed both home and away in the league, suddenly found a hardened resolve from somewhere to hold us at bay and sneak-in goals from nowehere to claim the Carling Cup.
Some comments of bitter fans looked interesting to me. One of them mentioned that the line-up lost us the game; that it was a mystery how Tomas Rosicky managed to play a full game despite not contributing anything meaningful. Nothing new there. Rosicky has been in terminal decline for almost three seasons now and surely does not merit a starting spot in any game we play – least of all our first cup final in five years!
I’ve written severally about him here and how he has lost his mojo, or desire, or fighting spirit, or even legs. He hardly stays on his feet. He can’t score anymore (forget that freak effort against Leyton Orient last week, which was his first goal since Everton in January 2010). All in all, Rosicky rightly contributed nothing, as expected, and if you ask me he should be seeing out his final season with us.
We all know he played due to the injury to Cesc Fabregas. But Wenger should have picked Abou Diaby ahead of him. The Frenchman may be infuriatingly inconsistent, but in a game that promised and turned out to be hard-fought, his muscle and physical presence would have been crucial. Nothing ought to have stopped Wenger pushing Jack Wilshire into the Fabregas role and deploying Diaby alongside Song to stop the combative Lee Bowyer and co in Birmingham’s midfield.
Well, like I said earlier it’s always great to be wise after the event. It’s all done and dusted now. The Carling Cup, edition 50 is gone to St. Andrews, rather than the Emirates. The history books will always give it to Birmingham and disregard all the nitty-gritty and pre-post game permutations. Period.
However, one other thing I picked up from all the fanblogs was the role played by Jack Wilshire in this game. If anyone had any doubt about his abilities, he laid it all to rest in this game. Not that he needed to prove anything to anyone. Not even to Fabio Capello, who was an interested spectator at Wembley.
Jack was our standard-bearer. He was a one-man warrior. He was our own Roy of the Rovers. He has come of age, if it is possible to say that of 19 year-old.
He constantly and tirelessly took the fight to Birmingham as his teammates allowed the occasion to play havoc on their nerves. The awesome shot he cracked against the bar from 30yards, ignited panic amongst the Birmingham ranks and produced our equaliser in the 28th minute.
That shot apart, he was full of boundless energy. He was positive, inventive and full of gutful running. He never gave up and drove the team forward in the absence of Fabregas. Sadly, very few of his teammates were on the same wavelength with him and fewer had a stomach for the fight.
Well now, it might be early days yet, but Fabregas can now depart in peace and re-unite with his Catalan  kith and kin at Barcelona. He has a successor and heir in Jack. Ian Wright put it best that you don’t have the Arsenal captaincy handed to you on a platter, but for Jack, as preposterously as it may sound, he has shown enough bottle to be a great player and leader of men.
Talent is one thing; character another matter entirely. He has them both in full measure and will be probably the greatest captain this team will ever know.
Yes, the Carling Cup has been won and lost. For all Gunners, the pain will take time to go away but what has emerged form the ashes of the defeat is that we have a leader and a beacon for a glorious future. That beacon is a bandy-legged 19 year-old who is an Englishman with the skills of a latino.
That is the greatest consolation from our Carling Cup debacle.