Archive for April, 2011

Blackpool + Takeover thoughts: Old friends and new owners

22 comments April 10th, 2011

Jens Lehmann played his 200th, and possibly last, Arsenal game

Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal (Diaby 17, Eboue 20, Taylor-Fletcher 51, Van Persie 75)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

Arsenal hadn’t won in the league since 23rd February…
I don’t know about you, but I’d forgotten what it felt like.  You could add a lot of caveats to this victory: it should have been by a greater margin; we looked shaky at the back; it was only Blackpool.  But that, in the circumstances, would be churlish.  This game was about getting back on something approaching the right track.  Three points were essential, and we got them.  On to the next game, the next cup final, and the next step in attempting to remount our title challenge.

Blackpool were architects of their own downfall…
Their decision to play such a high line baffled me.  If you were to ask Cesc Fabregas to design a defence that would allow him to play his game to most devastating effect, he would’ve come up with a tactical plan almost identical to the one Ian Holloway employed yesterday.  The skipper, playing his 300th Arsenal game, was able to clip balls over the defence at will, and were the forwards more clinical we could’ve been looking at a cricket score.

Jens Lehmann became Arsenal’s oldest Premier League player…
…after Manuel Almunia picked up a knee injury in the warm-up.  For a guy who’s 41 and had been retired for almost a year I thought he acquitted himself rather well.  When he brought down DJ campbell inside the penalty area there were shades of Paris 06, but the referee played advantage and allowed Taylor-Fletcher to tap the ball home for Blackpool’s goal.  Had he blown up, Lehmann could’ve seen red again, and with no sub ‘keeper we would’ve been looking at Robin van Persie in goal.

Abou Diaby had his best performance in months…
Not only did he score after a lung-bursting break from midfield, but he also broke up the play well and showed more positional discipline than usual.

Theo Walcott was the perfect sub…
He allowed us to stretch Blackpool on the break, and his assist for Van Persie’s clincher was perfectly executed.  He now averages an assist every 169 minutes – the highest from open play in the Premier League (thanks @optajoe).

And so, the takeover…
As Arsenal attempt an improbable takeover of Manchester United in the league table, it seems much more certain that Stan Kroenke will soon complete a takeover of Arsenal Football Club.

There had been whispers last week from the guys at about some big boardroom news – those rumours solidified on Sunday evening when Sky News reported that Kroenke was about to buy out both Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith.

That pair own 16% of the club each – completing a purchase would give Kroenke around 62% of the club, forcing him to make an offer to buy out all the remaining shareholders.  Bracewell-Smith and Fiszman are selling for very different reasons – the former’s shares have been on the market for some time, ever since she was forcibly removed from the board.  Danny Fiszman’s decision to offload his holding, however, is a more recent turn of events.  What’s certain is that he’ll have the club’s best interests at heart.

Assuming the news is confirmed on Monday morning, there will only be one major obstacle to a full buyout – Alisher Usmanov.  The Uzbeki billionaire owns some 27% of the company – a particularly significant portion, as he is single-handedly able to prevent Kroenke from reaching the 75% at which he can change aspects of the capital structure of the club (eg. the issuing of new shares).

Usmanov has three options:

1) Cash in on his shares now
2) Launch a rival bid to Kroenke
3) Hold on to his shareholding in the hope it increases in value

I think we can rule out option 2) – the ‘Lockdown agreement’ means that Fiszman and Lady Bracewell- Smith can only sell to other board members.  Usmanov has been alienated and isolated by the existing board, and any attempt to increase his stake will be treated as hostile.

It’s possible that Kroenke merely wants a majority stake and isn’t interested in private ownership.  At the moment, all we can do is wait for more news.  I’ll have more to say about the implications of a takeover as and when it becomes a reality.  In the meantime, this piece by Swiss Ramble gives a bit of background on Kroenke.

Thanks to Tim Payton of the AST, Gingers4Limpar,, and the BBC for supplementary info.

Football is back. And nothing has changed.

30 comments April 4th, 2011

I feel like I’ve been away from football for a good while. Circumstances in my personal and professional lives have conspired to force me to take some time away from the blog. Fortunately, the timing of the international break has meant I haven’t missed as much club action as I otherwise would.

Throughout my ‘time off’, I’ve felt unusually unenthused by the prospect of the season’s finale. Going in to yesterday’s game with Blackburn, we were nine games away from the end of the Premier League, with the title in our hands. And yet I couldn’t muster the appropriate level of excitement.

Perhaps I foresaw what came to pass yesterday. I’m not claiming to be any kind of psychic – a blogging Tiresias or footballing Mystic Meg. The simple fact is you didn’t need to be any great visionary to predict what happened.

On a day when United stormed back from 2-0 down at half-time to win 4-2 at West Ham, we slumped to a second consecutive home 0-0 draw. Unlike against Sunderland, we can’t claim to be unfortunate. We were poor. With Chelsea also failing to win at Stoke, United will probably look back on their result as the day the pendulum finally swung irreversibly their way.

A week or so ago I wrote in an email to the venerable Arseblogger that I couldn’t help but feel like our season was over. It was the sort of sentiment I’d normally avoid making public: it’s not good for me or you to allow the gloom to settle.

But for me the game was up as soon as we failed to win the Carling Cup. That game at Wembley was hugely significant, and in it every fearful suspicion about the team’s soft core was reaffirmed.

Beating Barcelona 2-1 at the Emirates was signposted as a turning point for this team. What no-one envisaged was that it could be a turn for the worse. Of the nine fixtures that have followed that one, Arsenal have won just two. One was against Leyton Orient. In the same spell, we’ve crashed out of three competitions, and are all but out of contention for the fourth. It has been a spectacular demise.

Spectacular, but not surprising. This is what happens to this team. They flirt with success, only to make an inappropriate move and be publicly rejected. It’s never a polite, “it’s not you it’s me” rejection, either. It’s a hard slap cold across the face.

The truth is it’s becoming boring. There’s been a lot of talk about empty seats and empty voices at the stadium on Saturday. That’s because fans are getting tired of the same old same old. Part of football’s attraction is the diversity of narrative – that every season tells a different story.

Not if you’re an Arsenal fan. The plot is more clearly laid out than an episode of Ballamory. And fans are tiring of it.

The longer it goes on, the more grating it becomes. When Arsene first started his project, Arsenal fans knew they had to be patient. It’s easier to get behind a team of young underdogs. When they’ve matured, and we’re constantly being told they’re ready to fulfil their potential, it’s all the more frustrating.

I’m not saying the season is entirely without merit. If we can finish second, above big spending sides like City and Chelsea, then that’s an achievement. But it’s not enough, especially considering the position we were in a month or so ago. Since then, the wheels have come off, and between now and the end of the season they’ll probably roll way off the track.

Forgive this stream of consciousness. But I had to get some of it off my chest. That, I suppose, is what the blog is for.

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