Talksport and Arsenal

As I drive for a living, I tend to listen to the radio a lot during the week. I’m obviously well aware that we are waiting for the start of the new football season and as a result of this, radio stations like Talksport have to improvise a bit to find things to talk about.

When presented with the problem of not really having anything to talk about, Talksport have had a history of coming out with some crackpot ideas, but what I heard from some of their presenters last week about Arsenal was just unbelievable.

Certain Talksport presenters claimed that the club are in crisis, that everyone is leaving, that they are getting left behind in the transfer market, all the usual stuff, etc. I even heard one presenter who is on from 4pm-7pm every night claim that Arsene Wenger’s position had become untenable! What is he talking about?

I sometimes think that the Arsenal fans take the bait a bit, that Talksport deliberately wind them up and wait for the bite, and it generally does come. But even by those standards, certain presenters got just a touch carried away last week – they’d of had you believing that the ground was about to be repossessed and the club wound up.

It’s almost like Talksport are using Arsenal to fill the void created during the close season, they seem obsessed with the situation at the club.

Personally I don’t think things are that bad at Arsenal. I’ve had a view for some 12-18 months now that some minor surgery is required, but nothing major.

Assuming they hold onto Nasri and lose Clichy and Fabregas, I believe that only a few signings will be required. Clichy is not a major loss, he will obviously need replacing, but I think his sale was good business for all concerned as he had the look of a player that needed to move on.

Fabregas looks set to finally leave – I can’t see that not being resolved this time. So the main issue for Arsenal now is to try and keep hold of Nasri. If they can, he could fill the roll vacated by Fabregas.

Maybe to show a sign of intent, Wenger needs to get hold of Nasri, give him the improved contract he wants and tell him he wants to build the side around him, convince him he is now the teams focal point.

What else is needed? Well I believe a few experienced players, for both the 1st team and for on the bench. The club have potential coming out of their ears, what they now need is a few ‘been there and done it’ signings.

I would like to see them sign an experienced keeper, I know they have Wojciech Szczesny coming through who looks a good keeper, but I still feel they would benefit from a short term signing of an experienced keeper like Shay Given, leaving Szczesny to go out on loan and finish his football education somewhere else in a similar way to what Manchester City did with Joe Hart.

They also need a centre back or two desperately. Arsenal fans say that Thomas Vermaelen is the real deal and that he was badly missed last season. So maybe one centre back would be enough, Gary Cahill and Christopher Samba are two names continually linked, I think either man would be a welcome addition.

Just look at Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and the importance he places on strong centre backs. He has built nearly all of his teams on a strong central defensive partnership, and over the past 12 months we have seen him already recruit his next partnership with youngsters, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.

He obviously decided that Jonny Evans and John O’Shea weren’t up to the task, so he went and bought two players he thinks are good enough.

Arsenal also obviously need some experience to go in the midfield, Arsene Wenger has never really replaced Patrick Viera and his departure basically marks the turning point in Arsenal’s trophy count. He could also do with a spoiler to sit on the bench, I remember a player from the past that I hated, Gilles Grimandi. I couldn’t stand the bloke, I thought he couldn’t play football and was just a kicker.

Well, I believe if Wenger had a player of Grimandi’s ilk to bring on for the last 20 minutes at St James Park earlier this season, Arsenal would have beat Newcastle rather than drawing 4-4, they probably would also have beaten Liverpool at the Emirates in the 1-1 game – they seem to have no one who knows how to close a game down.

Arsenal weren’t that far away last season, they were well in the hunt until around March. That’s why I believe they don’t need a major overhaul, just a bit of tinkering.

I also don’t buy into this crap that Arsene Wenger needs to make marquee signings, what the hell are they? Does that mean going out and spending £30 Million on one player who is probably not worth it, just to show some intent? Absolute rubbish. Sensible signings are needed, not necessarily ‘big fee’ signings.

Another thing I also don’t get is all these fans that have now turned on Wenger, what’s that all about? He is still one of the best managers in the world, what do they want from him? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, without knowing what Arsene Wenger’s mandate is, it’s hard to judge him. But to get rid of him would be madness.

If he’s working on a shoe string budget delivering Champions League football every year, then that is remarkable success. If he’s choosing not to spend because he thinks he doesn’t need too, then he is now -after 6 years with nothing to show – short selling the fans. But no one ever tells us what the real situation is.

Until I know what that situation is, and until the end of the transfer window when Wenger’s actions can be judged, I am going to give Wenger and Arsenal a chance, I’m sure Talksport will continue to fill their boots though.

Arsenal Goalkeepers

If it’s not Almunia, it’s Fabianski. The latest Arsenal goalkeeping blunder turned a probable 2-1 victory at Wigan today into a 3-2 defeat.

At 2-1, Fabianski just had to catch a simple corner, he fumbled it straight onto the head of Titus Bramble allowing him to equalise and that was that, momentum had turned, and Wigan went on to record a remarkable victory that should see them safe in the Premier League for another season.

Almunia was rumoured to have been dropped for today’s game, but it was later said that he has a wrist injury, whether this is true or not, only time will tell.

While Almunia might not have been directly at fault on Wednesday night, although it is debatable, the evidence on show proved that the Gunners were second best between the sticks.

Put simply, if Almunia and Gomes had been on the opposing sides, Arsenal would have won. Gomes made some exceptional saves in an Arsenal onslaught over the last 15 minutes, he single handedly prevented a Robin van Persie hat-trick.

Whereas, when Almunia was called upon he came up short, could he have saved Danny Rose’s 10th minute volley? Probably, a top class goalkeeper surely would have.

Add to that the fumble against Birmingham that cost them 2 points, his mad dash out of goal for Barcelona’s first at the Emirates, and the list is growing. He has had quite a few previous incidents as well, like last seasons champions league semi-final against Manchester United for example.

As for Fabianski, add to today’s blunder the ones against Porto in the Champions League and his portfolio is starting to replicate Almunia’s. The decision between the two looks to be the lesser of the two evils.

Maybe now Arsene Wenger will finally admit defeat and get a new goalkeeper this summer. Such potential signings could determine whether or not the likes of Fabregas stay at the club.

I tend to agree with Paul Merson’s comments on Sky Sports earlier, that Arsenal won’t win the league or compete in Europe until this position is sorted out.

Fingers burnt at the DW today

Wigan’s remarkable turnaround in beating Arsenal 3-2 at the DW Stadium today looks to have cost some big hitting punters a fortune on Betfair.

As you can see on the screenshot below, over £1 Million was traded on Arsenal at prices from 1.05 down to 1.01.

Thats not all, £6 was staked on Wigan at odds of 800/1, and over £100 was backed at odds of 350/1, just to list a couple.

With Arsenal leading 2-0 in the 79th minute, you wouldn’t have given Wigan a chance. The big layers just look to hoover up so-called ‘free money’ at low odds, hence the amount traded in the screen shot. The layer (layers) of 800/1 on Wigan, would have thought it was just money for old rope.

It just goes to show that there is no such thing as free money.

Wenger no fan of La Liga

Arsene Wenger’s veiled threat to Cesc Fabregas that going to Barcelona would be a backwards step, will surely not be too well recieved in Catalunya.

Wenger said that the Spanish league isn’t competitive as the the 3rd place team is 24 points behind (the leaders). Although he did go on to admit that they “have two good teams”, which was big of him, considering one of those “good teams” recently made his side look very average.

Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of La Liga, it looks like it has it’s appeal to Cesc Fabregas. After all Barcelona is his home City and his former team so why wouldn’t he want to play for them, and who could blame him.

Fabregas is still only a young man (22), and Barcelona have a young side who look set to dominate world football for a long time to come, imagine the success he could have with them.

Couple that with the lack of success at the Emirates Stadium and it’s not hard to see why Wenger is clearly rattled. For Wenger to make such remarks says to me that he is worried that Fabregas wants a move back home.

Could this be the catalyst to make Wenger at last invest in his team? Who knows. It is admirable the way he gives youth a chance and promotes players from within. But at the same time the professional footballer is a selfish beast and Fabregas will know that he can’t go on waiting forever for Wenger’s youth policy to deliver a title.

To insult La Liga might not endear him to Fabregas much either, it looks the kind of style of football that would suit him.

It is arguable that the technical side of football in Spain is far superior to England. As it also said that the Premier League is far more exciting and competitive.

Whatever the truth of those arguments, if Wenger wants to keep Fabregas I would imagine he will need to prove it to him this summer in the transfer market.

Wenger moans at the pitch this time

First the equalizer was offside (nothing to do with Almunia), then the tackling was a bit tough from Birmingham. Now apparently we have got to the real source of the problem, it was the fault of the pitch.

Not content with blaming opposing players, or on other occasions the referee, this time the pitch is to blame!

I’m surprised he hasn’t had a go at The FA for not banning the groundsman, or maybe he might suggest that they impound his lawnmover, forcing Birmingham City to buy some new and better pitch grooming equipment.

The pitch clearly wasn’t good enough for Arsenal, how insulting is that!

The clearly frustrated Wenger let rip in the aftermatch press conference after he got a question he didn’t like, saying,

“How is Fabregas? I don’t know. We will have to assess him tomorrow. But it was a bad tackle, one more. He got tackled at the knee, kicked just under the knee. We tried to take him off but he said he was all right.”

“Am I suggesting there were a lot of bad tackles? Leave me alone with that, for fuck’s sake.”

“You are always looking for controversy, you do not need me to tell you what happened on the pitch. I can give you my opinion about our game but you always create this controversy.”

In fairness to him, he did also say that Arsenal “had enough chances to have scored a second goal,” and in failing to finish Birmingham off, they left the door open.

After backing Almunia in January by not buying a new goalkeeper, when everyone involved in, or who watches football, could cleary see he needed one. Wenger has to accept his proportion of the blame as well. Arsenal can now no longer afford any slip ups at all.

This could have been the mistake that cost Arsenal the title.

Chelsea the big losers

As a result of Sunday’s 1-1 draw away at Blackburn, Chelsea now find themselves 3rd favourites in the Premier League Betting at a best price of 11/4. Manchester United are Even money favourites, followed by Arsenal who are 5/2.

Chelsea’s plight is still in their own hands, but only just. When they win their game in hand (away at Portsmouth on Wedensday) they will be 1 point behing United on the same amount of games played (Man Utd currently have played 31), they then visit Old Trafford on 3rd April, Arsenal are home to Wolves that day and will be looking to capitalize on their two rivals clashing.

For a side looking to win the league Chelsea didn’t really convince me against Blackburn today, I thought at times they lacked urgency and also didn’t ever look like scoring after Rovers equalised in the 70th minute. They huffed and puffed a lot, but never created a clear cut chance.

If I were a Chelsea fan, which I’m not, I wouldn’t be too convinced after that showing.

Manchester United looked more the part against Liverpool, and with Arsenal looking more solid at last, you would have to think it is more between these two at the moment.

United have the know how to finish the job from here, this is the time of the season when they have historically put their foot down and pulled away.

I can’t see them pulling away this season though, as it looks like going down to the wire. The big concern for them though, is an injury to Rooney as they don’t have the squad cover they had this time last year.

Arsenal have impressed me a lot lately, they have a more steely look to them. They are picking up the neccesary points without looking at their best, thats the impressive part, that they are finally grinding out results.

On paper Arsenal’s last four results look routine. But if you look at them more closely they struggled to finish off West Ham and Burnley at home, needing late goals in both games to finally finish the matches off.

They were awful at Hull, playing against 10 men for the whole of the 2nd half, they needed an injury time winner from Bendtner to complete a lucky 2-1 win.

The result which might have gave them the most belief must have been the 3-1 win over Stoke, again with two 90 mins plus goals. With the injury to Aaron Ramsey occcuring in this game, Arsenal really had to dig deep to finish it off, and I believe if they go on to win the title they will look back at this game and say that is where we turned it in our favour.

Wenger insults O’Neill this time

Arsene Wengers claim that Aston Villa are a long ball team is yet another cheap swipe from this bitter, twisted, bad loser.

Ok, so Arsenal didn’t lose, and in fairness to Wenger he openly admits to being a bad loser.

Arsenal are also the best side to watch in the country by a mile, and Arsene Wenger should be applauded for the way his teams play and have played over the years, they are a joy to watch.

I also admire the work Wenger puts into youth, the fact that he is prepared to develop a player and put him in the first team, rather than go out and spend £15 million.

But why is it that after every game he dosen’t win, someone seems to get lashed out at? He ruins himself in my view.

If it’s not the referee’s fault, then the other team were too physical, or didn’t want to play football in the correct manner, etc.

It may be the case that Villa can be a little direct at times, it may also be the case that Villa were more direct on Wednesday as they didn’t fancy their chances at playing Arsenal at their own game, but what has Villa’s tactics got to do with Whinger?

Villa can and do play some decent football. just look at James Milner’s goal at Blackburn a couple of weeks ago, they also like to get the ball forward quickly at times, they are not like the Wimbledon of old though.

Basically his complaint can be summed up as follows.

The fact is that Villa didn’t play the way he wanted them to as they would have got beat. Villa adopted tactics that didn’t play into Whinger’s hands, and when his side was incapable of overcoming that and winning the game, he had to find a scapegoat for the fact that he and his team are still not good enough.

Why can’t the man show some dignity after a game and just accept it when his team are not up to the task? Other managers can do it, so whats his problem?

After all it could be said that he has built a ‘one man team’. As when Fabregas is not playing they don’t look half the side they do with him in it. I don’t see Martin O’Neill coming out and throwing that at Wenger.

Maybe that is because Martin O’Neill has more class. Grow up Arsene.

Wengers Bolton Revenge Mission

After what I heard from Arsene Wenger tonight, I can only come to the conclusion that he would of been happy if his team had kicked lumps out of Bolton to pay them back for what he insinuated, happened last Sunday.

Arsene Wenger was rightly questioned in the aftermatch interview about William Gallas’ tackle on Bolton’s Mark Davies in Wednesday nights fixture.

His reply shocked and surprised me. He said that he could show the interviewer the marks on ‘his’ players legs, from tackles received during Sunday’s match against Bolton if he wanted to see them, and then smirked in a rather sickening, childish manner.

Does this mean that Arsene is advocating an ‘eye for an eye’?

Is this really the sort of answer you would expect from a manager of Wengers supposed intelligence?

A manager who is always complaining about rough treatment from opposition players towards his team, but happily presided over Bould, Keown, Adams, Petit, Viera, Grimandi ect, kicking lumps out of the opposition and getting numerous red cards in the process.

It is one thing sticking up for your players (which Wenger is admirably consistent at), but it is another to come out with a poor, insulting explanation like that in the face of the evidence on view.

I’m not saying for a minute that Gallas did it deliberately, as I don’t believe he did.

It looked like one of those unfortunate incidents when a player is stretching, and just nicks the ball away a split second before the opposing players foot comes down.

Never the less, in my opinion Wenger should have been a touch more graceful as the player could be badly injured. It lacked class for me.

If weak explanations are acceptable to Wenger now, maybe the next time someone breaks one of his players legs, the opposing manager might say with justification ‘Oh well, what goes around, comes around’.