The Armchair Gooner

An Arsenal blog bringing you news, opinion and humour on a daily basis. Well, I'll try at the very least…

Arsenal can splash-out a bloody fortune!! New players! Yippee! Falcao here we come!

Yes, I stole this picture. Still, it’s bloody good…

Afternoon, folks!

In case you missed it on Monday, Arsenal have announced half-yearly profits of £17.8m. That by itself doesn’t sound all that spectacular, but the real figure that’s caught everyone’s eye is the £123.3m we have in reserve. That’s an astounding figure, especially if you consider it’s just sat there, waiting to be used, like a triple-cheeseburger on Frank Lampard’s bedside table (although, that would hardly still be there).

With the financial announcements, came one of our ability and intent to compete. Ordinarily, such remarks come close to season ticket renewal time. This time, Peter Hill-Wood has chosen a seemingly strange time to let us know what’s happening. He said, talking to the Daily Star – of all the rags he could take to:

“We are in a position where we can compete with most people.

“If there is someone we really want, then the price guide is secondary.”

Arsene Wenger has even stated his intent to join in the race for Colombian wizard, Radamel Falcao, with his newly acquired wealth. Sounds that little bit too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Well, to be perfectly honest with you, it probably is. If you go back through the years, I’m sure you’ll come across plenty of stories and reports eerily similar to Monday’s. It’s been a bone of contention amongst supporters for some time that Arsenal’s board regularly appear to make funds available, only for the money to not be used towards improving the team.

Could this be the exception to the rule, our board finally recognising that financial prudence off the field doesn’t necessarily aid matters on it? Perhaps, and I’d like to think there’s a happy medium to be made between securing the club’s finances and being competitive in the transfer market.

The real trouble I have is I simply don’t see anyone as parsimonious and intent on implementing his philosophies as Arsene Wenger being open to dropping £40m+ on any one single player. Our manager seems to glean far greater satisfaction from unearthing treasures and polishing them up than he does outright buying the finished article. As he likes to say, “We don’t buy superstars, we make them” – a noble concept, but I’ve never understood why we can’t buy superstars AND make them.

That said, in recent years his transfer policies appeared to have changed. Where once we sought out the best young talent around (errr… Bendtner and Denilson…), the players we’ve signed most recently have been of a higher age bracket, and with plenty of experience.

I guess we’ll all just have to wait until the summer to see what fortunes arise and what wondrous acts are conducted by Dick Law and his renowned powers of negotiation. It could well be that the current plight of our beloved team has finally called for a shake up of how we conduct business. That all said, I shan’t be getting my hopes too high. All this has been discussed and mentioned many, many times before.

That’s all for today folks. For the sake of a talking point, now that it is alleged we have bundles of cash, who would you realistically aim at buying? Is Falcao now a possibility? Should we really lay down a marker of intent in the summer? Does a lot depend on our final league position? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading today, you beautiful bastards. I shall return tomorrow with more.

“The balance of power in North London has shifted. Spurs are far, far superior…”

An obvious sign Of Spurs’ superiority…

Afternoon folks!

You know the drill by now. The North London Derby is but a few days away, and their ex-players, ex-managers, and any no-mark with the ability to talk about our grubby neighbours are all using the moments to exclaim of a shift in power.

Tottenham have a far superior squad.

Tottenham are way, way ahead of Arsenal.

This season will see the balance of power shift in North London.

And so on, and so on. Every year with clockwork regularity someone affiliated with Spurs makes the mistake of declaring something before it’s happened, and every season that’s past has seen those words look very foolish indeed. You need only remember these idiots below:

“Don’t worry guys, we won’t look like complete twats in a few months…”

As things stand, the supposedly greatest squad they have assembled sits a few points higher in the table ahead of ours. What many have described as Wenger’s worst squad of players during his tenure at Arsenal, in a season stated as often as his worst, has already seen Arsenal put another 5 goals past Spurs.

You see folks, power shifts don’t happen in a season. For the tide to truly turn, a significant period of time has to pass. Even if Tottenham should finish above us and secure Champions League football, it will only be a blip. Until they’ve accomplished  that for a sustained period of time, then no power has shifted whatsoever.

Look at Manchester City as an example. They won the Premiership title last season but is there a shift of power in Manchester? No, not at all. Unless they can consistently out-perform their greatest rival, and do so for a lengthy period, the red half of Manchester will be rightly considered the most successful. The same argument even applies against us in regard to our achievements in Engalnd. We won titles, we had glory, but there was never a shift of power to us from United.

We go into the game at the weekend knowing that a victory will put the cat amongst the pigeons, but a defeat could prove extremely costly for us. Even if we do lose, the race for that much coveted fourth spot certainly won’t be beyond us. However, I for one can’t abide the notion of finishing lower than Spurs in the league.

The days that lead up to that fixture are sure to be filled with a cacophony of rants, raves and general poppycock. The media love any chance to stir up the hornet’s nest and blow things out of proporation. As it stands, Spurs have won nothing, proved nothing, and accomplished nothing. For all the trumpet blowing, all the wild-eyed comparisons made between Gareth Bale and Jesus; our feculent and rwody neighbours have no bragging rights.

The years have taught us they like to capitulate when the pressure hits. We tend to finish the season better than we start it. There’s no debating that finishing beneath them is a very real possibility. Our form and performances have been patchy at best, but even those facts haven’t enabled them any serious ground to be made ahead of us.

What is important now is that we come together as a club against our favourite adversary. The competition is welcome as it makes it all the more enjoyable when we beat them. Let’s put aside disputes, bickering, banners and complaints and focus on what really matters. The players will need our wonderful away support at their vociferous best when they take to the field.

That’s all for today, folks. The comments await below, and today I’d like to hear your favourite memories against Tottenham – best goal, best moment, greatest victory. Let me know a few.

Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. I shall return tomorrow.

Cazorla, Giroud, Monreal, Walcott, Diaby, Arsene and welcome calm waters after a maelstrom of sh*t.

Arsenal 2-1 Aston Villa: Proof that Jack Wilshere is an ethereal being. (Image courtesy of @murtz_abidi)

Morning, folks.

Ahhhhhhh, and relax.

There’s nothing quite like Arsenal’s ability to turn the relatively simplistic into an afternoon of fingernail-gnawing terror. Villa, to their credit, did come and at least attempt to make a game of it, but a narrow 2-1 victory should really have been achieved with little or no fuss.

When Santi Cazorla popped in our opener on 6 minutes, I foolishly thought we’d be in for one of those games where we pulverise our opponents and register a large goals tally. Unlike those of you fortunate to have jobs that don’t require working ridiculous hours, I was paying no attention to my work in the kitchen, and instead permanently attached to my phone keeping up with the game.

Through the various mediums utilised, I thought things appeared to be comfortable for the Arsenal. Having watched the game back in the wee hours of Sunday morning – when I’m writing this – I realise we made fairly hard work of a team we should really be giving a good hiding.

Of course, that matters not a jot. When all the statistics and reports are long forgotten, the history books will simply inform that Arsenal won by 2 goals to Aston Villa’s 1. After a week as soul destroying as that which has haunted us, the victory was all important, and the manner it was accomplished  merely a secondary point.

In patches I thought we played well, and Nacho Monreal especially caught my eye. The Spaniard has only 3 Premiership games under his belt in an unfamiliar team, yet he looks assured and rapidly growing into his role. I like him – he’s effective both defensively and offensively, and he’s only going to get better once fully adjusted to the rigours of English football.

There were downsides. Abou Diaby managed to last only 60 minutes before substituted with yet another injury. You have to feel for the guy. There’s little doubting his talent, but I fear there may come a point when the club just can’t afford to put any more faith in him. Underneath all the aches and pains lurks a truly excellent footballer. However, time is no longer on Diaby’s side, and the summer could very well see the club say, “Abou, thanks for kicking John Terry in the face, but we have to let you go”.

Elsewhere. players I expect more from had a bit of an off day. Big Olivier Giroud showed occasional glimpses of the profligacy that plagued the start of his Arsenal career, and once again Theo Walcott was a special kind of fucking useless. Don’t get me wrong here, folks; I’m not one of these naysayers that enjoys trashing Walcott because it’s sometimes the popular thing to do. Given his wages, and his contract saga, I think we are entitled to expect better from him, and that’s something we’ve only seen briefly since he did put pen to paper.

The hero of the day, and the match winner was, as I’m sure you’d all agree, Santi Cazorla. Many people criticise Arsene’s transfers, but the brilliance of our diminutive Spanish trickster shows that when he gets it right, he’s capable of some truly magical deals. At £12m, someone as packed with talent as Cazorla is fantastic business any way you look at it. We are certainly very luck to have him, and one of the undoubted highs of the seaon is watching him and Wilshere combine in midfield.

All in all, we go into next weeks enormous game at Tottenham’s dungeon with a win and something to aim for. Victory in that game will really put us in a good position for obtaining 4th. Let’s hope we can build on our good points, and learn from the bad.

Thanks for reading today, you beautiful bastards. The comments await. Use them, or forever regret missing out on your opportunity to be heard. I always enjoy reading them.

Arsenal’s starting XI for the visit of Aston Villa.

Saturday February 23rd; FA Premiership, Aston Villa (h)

Hello, fellow Gooners.

Ordinarily, the visit of mediocre opponents wouldn’t be considered a game of huge importance. Aston Villa are not flying high on the back of impressive results, nor do they posses a squad capable of competing with anyone on their day. However, they will turn up at the Emirates confident of being able to get a result. Arsenal’s persistent floundering and recent disappointments empowers the teams we face, and I view today as a tricky fixture indeed.

The team news sees Bacary Sagna unavailable with a knee injury, but Nacho Monreal is back after missing the Bayern thumping through ineligibility. Thomas Vermaelen’s recent poor form might see him miss out, with Arsene expected to bring in Monreal and Carl Jenkinson at full-back, and stick with Mertesacker and Koscielny in the centre.

Up front, Theo’s piss poor showing through the middle on Tuesday probably didn’t go unnoticed, so I’d wager Giroud will return to lead the line, with Walcott dropping to the right side where he tends to be far more effective. Our regular midfield triumvirate will remain as it was.

My guess at the team would be:

As is so often the case, I view the game quite simply; if we play to our capabilities and concentrate in the defensive areas, we will win. Sounds simple, right? Well, with Arsenal it is invariably anything but. Lethargy and complacency creep into to our game with such alarming regularity that it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen.

Today’s game is vitally important with fixtures against those competing for 4th place with us coming very soon. 3 points are what’s needed today above a reactionary performance. The future may look pretty bleak, there may not be any silverware on the horizon, but getting 4th is still important – if not exactly a bloody trophy…

I’m confident we’ll emerge the victors today, and I’ll say we will do so 2-0.

If you fancy having a cheeky flutter on the outcome, head on over to my friends at Bet Victor. They’ll kindly offer a free £25 bet to those of you that sign up as new members. You can register here, and check out all the latest odds by clicking below.

Arsenal vs Aston villa odds.

Thanks for reading today, you beautiful bastards. Use the comments to forward a few of your own team selections. Who would you start? Rosicky for a bit more urgency in the midfield? Would you drop Vermaelen after his recent performances? How do you think the match will go? Let me know.

I shall return tomorrow with a review of the game.

Sagna out, Wenger in, Vermaelen gushy and the importance of bouncing back.

“What? I haven’t left anything on the carpet. Or in your shoes”

Evening folks.

I’d like my current relationship with Arsenal to the one I share with my cat. I love that silly cat. She’s adorable. Then she shits on the carpet and I want to bloody throttle her. Against Bayern and Blackburn, Arsenal well and truly shit on the carpet, and there’s going to be a great deal of purring and cuteness required in the coming weeks for the nagging desire to strangle that overwhelms me at present to subside.

With such focus on the manager, eyes have wandered slightly from the importance of our up coming fixtures. Before we make the frightening trip to Germany in search of an act of God, we face Villa, Everton and a trip to White Hart lane. Expecting anything from Bayern would be like me waiting patiently by my front door for Penelope Cruz to show up naked, but the league fixtures are as important as they come. 9 points from those 3 game won’t just put us back on track, it’ll make the shining trophy that comes with 4th place a distinct possibility.

I’ll be previewing the Villa game tomorrow.

Elsewhere in news, a few stories has caught my beady little eye. Firstly, captain not-quite-so-fantastic, Thomas Vermalen has predictably lent his support to Arsene in these trying times. With the guns from fans blazing, our manager – rightly or wrongly – has made it abundantly clear he won’t be stepping down from his position.

Arsene said, when asked if he had considered quitting:

“No. Not for one second.

“Of course we had no euphoria because we have gone through a disappointment on Tuesday night but apart from that we are responsible people who know what it is to fight.

“We live in a world of emotion, of excess, and it is down to people who have responsibilities to put that into perspective and keep solid and keep guiding the club in the right way.”

You can almost hear the plethora of keyboard warriors temporarily suspending excess masturbation for the day to flock to message boards with harsh words to say. I admire his stubbornness, his refusal to quit when the chips are down. But there is a part of me that thinks, for his own sake as much as anything, that the time to do exactly that may not be too far away. Nothing lasts forever, and even the greatest of things has to be replaced.

Lastly, Bacary Sagna has been warned that Arsenal will only sell him if they want to - he has no say so in the matter with a contract until 2014. Perhaps that’s stance we could have considered last summer when Manchester United came calling. I’ve long been a fan of Sagan, but in recent months his form has dropped drastically. Once you could rely on him to give you a consistently good performance, these days he’s huffing, puffing, and look utterly disinterested with it all. I personally wouldn’t have a problem moving him on in the summer, and he’s not quite the huge name departure the media are sure to make him out to be.

And that’s yer lot for today, you beautiful bastards. Thanks for reading, and, as always, head over to the comments and pour your little hearts out. I always like to hear from you.

I shall return tomorrow.

Over in 21 minutes, down and out in February.

Rough translation; Bayern are great, Arsenal are shit.

Evening folks.

The main memory I’ll take from last night’s game is how much it reminded me of the Champions League semi-final we played against United. For the opening few minutes of play, and for the minutes leading up to kick-off, The Emirates was a sight to behold – loud, passionate and awesome. Then we conceded early, and it was all over.

Unlike the FA Cup on Saturday debacle when we whimpered out against inferior opponents, last night we we’re comprehensively outplayed by a far better team. There can be no qualms or debates about the result. Even with the greater share of possession, our players couldn’t match the quality and control facing them. The defeat wasn’t unexpected, and it’s difficult to be too annoyed by it.

However, it does serve as an indication of just how far Arsenal have fallen. As my memory serves me, I don’t recall a European side coming to our home ground and looking so vastly superior. This season, it’s happened twice – last night, and when Schalke visited. And such things will invariably come back to our manager.

To an extent, Arsene is to blame; his selection, his team, his responsibility. Yet, there are some players who we are entitled to expect more from. £100k-per-week Theo Walcott was nothing short of woeful in the strikers position last night, Bacary Sagna looked hapless and disinterested, and, other than Wilshere and Ramsey, no one especially looked as if they gave a shit.

Perhaps it’s a motivational issue. Perhaps the players are happy to take home their huge salaries and to hell with the consequences of their faltering performances. Some of them simply don’t look like they care. Can we blame Arsene for that? Yes and no. Ultimately, he is responsible, but he can’t be held accountable for the actions of his players once they take to the field. There has to be a point  where they take some of that off his back and stand up and be counted.

All in all, we are in Febryary, and left with nothing more than the imaginary trophy that comes with 4th place to play for. These are trying times to be an Arsenal fan, and we’ve a few vital fixtures coming up between now and the return leg in Germany.

I’d like to think some of our squad will look at Arsene in the firing line and do something proactive. Jack Wilshere cares, he plays his heart out and is rarely found wanting. It’s high time one or two members of the squad did them same. We can attach as much blame to our manager as we see fit, but it would be wrong to pay no attention to those continuously letting down a man who has shown great faith in them.

That’s all for today, folks. It’s a quick post today as I’ve had a busy day at work and I’ve things to do. I hope you’ll use the comment section below to share some of your thoughts.

I shall return tomorrow at some point. Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.

Arsenal’s starting XI for the game against Bayern Munich (match preview and team news)

Tuesday February 19th: Champions League, Bayern Munich (h -1st leg)

Afternoon, intrepid readers.

Matches don’t come much bigger than today. Maelstroms of bitterness and discontent can be put aside, petty bickering and waring factions can temporarily relent; Bayern Munich are in town. Having blundered so spectacularly on Saturday, tonight is the perfect stage to show the world the real Arsenal.

Adversity can often become our greatest ally. The players and manager will know full well how daunting and formidable our opponents are. The chips are down at present, positivity is something of a forgotten mindset. Unification often comes from the darkest of hours, and I’ve got faith in us seeing a real response from the players, and a vociferous, inspiring one from the home support. Losing with such shame to Blackburn might just be the tonic for a win tonight.

On the team news front, Vermaelen and Jenkinson will return to the squad, but Laurent Koscielny again faces a late fitness test. With Gibbs injured, Monreal ineligible and Santos sunning his considerable frame in Brazil, the left-back position is the main area of concern. I expect Arsene to deploy Vermaelen there, and use Sagna in the centre with Mertesacker and Jenkinson at right back if Koscielny doesn’t come through his test.

My guess at how we will start – assuming Koscielny plays – would be:

Of course, that may not necessarily be the case. The Boss may chose to play either Ramsey or Diaby in one of the wide positions enabling them to drop in and support the midfield. Bayern have some monsters with the likes of Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, and we will need to compete physically as well as technically.

There’s a great deal of pressure on this game. After Arsene’s uncharacteristic outburst toward the media yesterday, it would appear that even the usually calm and gregarious Mr Wenger is feeling the walls close in on him. Few of us fans realistically expect triumph in this competition, but to exit with a whimper and not a fight will only and further fuel to the growing fire of discontent surrounding our manager.

Fixtures like this one can make or break a season. A stirring performance and a win could become the catalyst for better things to come. A resounding defeat might send an already disappointing season spiralling into greater realms of shit. Often we approach matches wondering which version of our beloved Arsenal will turn up – the team capable of great attacking fluency, or the version unable to muster a decent shot on goal against infinitely beatable opponents.

We can ill afford anything but the real Arsenal turning up tonight.

If you’re confident about the game, if you have a sneaky feeling for a victory, why not put some of your well-earned cash on the line? Bet Victor offers newly registered members the gift of a free £25 bet. You can register here.

Arsenal vs Bayern Munich odds.

That’s all for today, folks. I hope you’re all prepared for the game. Wether you’re attending or watching amidst the jostling jocundity of a local bar, let’s all stick together on this one. There’s a time for protests and a time for support. Tonight is certainly the latter.

Thanks for reading today, you beautiful bastards. I shall return tomorrow hopefully able to effusively ramble about a scintillating performance.