Archive for July, 2006

How Kolo Toure got lost on his first day at the Emirates.

1,031 comments July 20th, 2006

As you’ll know if you read yesterday’s entry, this morning I was lucky enough to be allowed in for a glimpse of The Emirates Stadium as part of the club’s Members Day.  I had to leave at around 11am, and the doors opened at hour late at 10.30, so I have to confess it wasn’t too eventful. However, I will always remember the occasion, for two reasons.

Firstly, my first look at the stadium.  It’s simply gigantic.  However many pictures you look at you can’t be prepared for what it’s like when you finally get there for real.  It’s like an enormous concrete spaceship, containing the most beautiful green pitch you could possible imagine.  The only criticism I can have of the new ground is that due to the inward sloping roof, the big screens are quite hard to view from the upper tiers.

The second incident is the one that gives this article it’s title.  As we queued outside the Orange quadrant, desperate to get in, a silver car came flying round the outside of the stadium.  Except, it was going the wrong way.  And it was about to crash into a team of paramedics, who were treating someone suffering from the intense heat.  After much waving and shouting from the paramedics, the driver stopped, and wound down his window.  It was Kolo Toure. He was looking for the dressing room, and he was lost.  After learning he was infact going the wrong way aroung the circuit, he was forced to perform an embarassing u-turn to the ironic cheers of the Arsenal fans.

Being the diamond guy that he is, he still found time to chat to the fans and make fun of himself.

I took a not-too-great picture on my camera-phone which I’ll post tomorrow.  ‘Till then.

I’m going to the Emirates Stadium tomorrow.

94 comments July 19th, 2006

That’s a pretty amazing thing to be able to say. After years of anticipation, it’s finally ready. The club shop opened yesterday, and tomorrow sees around 20,000 lucky fans allowed in for a sneaky preview at Members Day. Whilst I have to head off pretty early, most fans will get a glimpse of the player’s first training session on the new pitch.

Whilst some say our new ground is soulless and lacks character, for me that will all change once we’re allowed in. We now have the best ground in the country by some distance, and that is something we really ought to appreciate whilst it lasts.

Even the name, for some the most disappointing aspect of the stadium, no longer bothers me. It’s never bothered me that Bolton play at The Reebok Stadium, so why should this? It’s time for us to realise that we’re now locked into this bond with Emirates for fifteen years, so we’d better get used to it.

Personally, I can’t wait for tomorrow. And I’m even more excited about Bergkamp’s testimonial on Saturday, which will feature the likes of Edwin van der Sar, Marc Overmars, and Marco van Basten.

As for which players will ply their trade at the Emirates beyond Saturday, you can forget about any stories linking us with Lillian Thuram: all the best-informed sources indicate he’ll soon be signing for Barcelona.

Spanish paper Marca suggest that Arsenal amusingly want Baptista and Robinho in exchange for Cesc. To be honest, I’m not sure we’d even accept that for our new number 4 (which, by the way, I had printed on the back of my brand new shirt yesterday).

You can’t help but feel the transfer market is one big move away from igniting: could it be Van Nistelrooy to Real? Torres to Man U? The return of this bloke? Or maybe even Ashley Cole to Chelsea?

Cole’s future is intertwined with those of Roberto Carlos and Gianluca Zambrotta. Current rumours suggest Zambrotta will join Milan or Barcelona, meaning that Cole and Carlos will almost certainly play for Chelsea and Madrid – except no-one’s quite sure which.

The new home of Arsenal opens tomorrow. That’s the most exciting thing that will happen this summer, whoever we sign.

Oh, and please, enoy this.

Doing the math(s).

38 comments July 18th, 2006

Take a look at this picture. The date was Sunday, April 25th, 2004. Arsenal had just scored one of the goals of the season to take a 2-0 lead in a game which would see them crowned Champions, winning the league at the ground of their most bitter rivals, Spurs. They were unbeatable. They were “The Invincibles”.

That feels like a long time ago now. Of the four faces celebrating Vieira’s goal in the picture, only one remains, and now even Ashley Cole’s future is subject to doubt. The summer of 2005 saw Patrick Vieira sold to Juventus, and this year Robert Pires joined Villarreal, with Dennis Bergkamp retiring. This doesn’t even include the giant Sol Campbell: another key member of our record-breaking side.

Since then, the squad has evolved massively. Some would say it’s been “in transition”. It’s true that in place of these players the likes of Philippe Senderos and Cesc Fabregas have helped to form a new spine.

Wenger’s faith in the young players remains unbowed. But there comes a point where one has to recognise that we need recruits. As things stand, the squad simply doesn’t add up. Last summer we lost our captain, Patrick Vieira. Coming in were the two men called Alex: Hleb and Song. Arsene showed a recognition for the need to buy in pursuing both Robinho and Baptista, but both of those chases ended in defeat to Real Madrid.

This summer has seen yet more key players depart. Pires, Campbell, and Bergkamp were vital cogs in the Arsenal machine over the past few years. If you add the best left-back in the world to the list of leavers, it’s clear that the balance needs addressing. However, so far we have bought a Hleb-like attacking midfielder, Tomas Rosicky, and… yes, Alex Song. Again.

I’m not suggesting that Arsene is incompetent. I’m sure he knows everything I’ve said above full well. But amid rising concerns that we are yet again being priced out of the market, is an injury hit squad going to be good enough to compete next season?

Liverpool have made some good additions, and Chelsea are continuing their Championship Manager-style expansion of their squad. Hell, even Spurs are adding real quality. Can we afford to be left behind? We only came fourth next season, and the third and fifth-placed team have doubtless improved. Just how many transitional seasons can we afford to have?

The most important thing is not to panic. It’s clear from his actions in the January transfer window that Wenger is not afraid to splash the cash when neccessary. But if he is serious about making the first season at the Emirates Stadium a successful one, then he needs to open his cheque-book again, and soon.  Perhaps Portsmouth’s £8m bid for Curtis Davies will force him into action.  Or maybe, if we’re even luckier, he’ll go for Micah Richards.

Buffon for £12.6m is a genuine possibility

20 comments July 17th, 2006

If Arsenal sign Gianluigi Buffon, they will have the two best goalkeepers from this summer’s World Cup. Some would call this madness. However, when one notes that Jens Lehmann is 36 whilst Buffon is a sprightly 28 (maybe 29?), it begins to make more sense. Brilliant though Jens is, he won’t last forever, and Buffon is the best possible replacement. If the Italian were to arrive, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jens was released from his contract and allowed to return to Germany.

Buffon’s agent has confirmed that Arsenal have made a “very serious offer” for the goalkeeper, and elsewhere has denied that his client is determined to remain in Italy, stating that he is equally likely to move to London. The move is made even more plausible when you consider that Arsenal are still owed around £7m for the transfer of Patrick Vieira (whom, incidentally, we all hope doesn’t end up at Man U).

If United are set to join the fight for the relegated Italian players, Arsene seems in no rush. Nor is he going to continue his pursuit of Javier Saviola:

“We are not interested in Saviola at all. I have enough forward players. We have Rosicky, Ljungberg, Reyes, Van Persie, Henry, Adebayor, Walcott, Lupoli, Bendtner, Aliadière, so where do I put the strikers?”

Well, you put “Rosicky, Ljungberg, Reyes” on the wing, “Walcott, Lupoli, Bendtner, Aliadière” on the bench, and that leaves you with Van Persie, Henry, and Adebayor: not exactly brimming with depth. In spite of Arsene’s comments, my sources indicate that he was indeed interested in Saviola, but the move hit a stumbling block over the Argentinian’s gigantic wage demands.

This too might explain his reluctance to splash £10m on Curtis Davies: a relatively unproven talent with a huge price tag. In my opion, we really need some experience at the back in the wake of Sol’s departure. The Times mention that Arsene wants a “a defender who can play at centre or left back”. Strange then, that he allowed Carlos Salcido to slip through his fingers.

However, if you choose to believe Mihir Bose (and I suggest you don’t), Arsenal’s tight purse strings can be explained by the release of their new bonds, which are dependent on the following clause:

“In order to get the bond Arsenal have had to agree to twice-yearly solvency tests, in September and March, and to forecast how much they will spend on transfers. They say they will keep net transfer spending to £12m a year for the next three years.”

Oh well. We’ll just have to sell Ashley Cole to keep net spending down.

Earlier on in the post I was a bit dismissive of Jeremie Aliadière. But then, I think that’s quite understandable. Despite some promising displays and being hyped to the moon and back, injuries and competition for places have meant that two goals in a loan spell at Wolves last season is probably the high point of his career so far. He even had his website closed down: disastrous. However, despite missing plenty of chances his performance against League Two Barnet was apparently fairly promising. He is back with the squad now, and having turned Saviola down Arsene may be willing to give him one more chance. Considering he’s now 23, this is probably his last one.

He’ll certainly be hoping there isn’t much truth in this. After the trauma of last summer, so will many Arsenal fans.

Have a good day. You never know, we might sign someone. Probably not, though.

Ashley Cole should be sold, and soon.

67 comments July 16th, 2006

His comments over the past couple of days have been an absolute disgrace.  I don’t care about him not inviting Arsene to his wedding – who does invite their boss to a party?  But this simply will not do:

“Arsenal hung me out to dry, using me as a scapegoat to get back at Chelsea.  The board “rewarded” me with an insult, and threw years of loyalty back in my face.  I’ll reveal the shattering truth about who fed me to the sharks.  It changed my view forever on the club I regarded as family.”

Note: “regarded”, past tense.  The feeling’s mutual, Ashley.  Arsene seems none too pleased either:

“I don’t like it when there is too much in the newspapers.  Football players are there to play football and not to talk too much.  He has two years on his contract and unless we sell him he has a future at Arsenal.  I want him to stay, but there are three parties to have to want that.  With Ashley Cole, when one day he looks back on his career he will see Arsenal has helped him a lot and he is intelligent enough to make the difference.”

I’ve highlighted the part that I believe is most significant.  After this latest debacle, Cole surely will be sold, and it’s not unlikely that he’ll finally get his wish and join Chelsea.  It’s a shame, because he’s a brilliant player.  He’s also English, and a product of our youth system.  However, all of the above become insignificant when you consider just how massive a twat he is.

For all his transgressions, Patrick Vieira never openly disrespected the club with such bravado.  Cole’s autobiography is to be released later this year, and the “shattering truth” he threatens to reveal will do very little for team spirit, if the rumours I hear about it’s content are true. 

The “shattering truth” is that you’re a knob, Ashley.  Goodbye.

In my last post I speculated that there might be some transfer activity that day.  I was right.  However, it was not quite as exciting as I’d hoped, as we completed the signing of a 19-year-old who was thrown out of Watford Reserves for bad behaviour.  Well, now we’ve got Joe O’Cearuill we probably don’t need Lillian Thuram.

He made his debut in our first friendly of the summer, a dull 0-0 with Barnet.  Jeremie Aliadiere missed a hatfull of chances, and not very much happened.  The Cannon has a much better write-up, and a picture of pretty boy Hleb in our new kit.

After the game, Arsene suggested that he’d be making a couple more signings.  A new left-back is probably very near the top of his list.

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