Top 5 targets for 2009/10 #4, January 23rd to February 16th

From January 23rd to February 16th, Arsenal face Aston Villa (a), Man U, Chelsea (a), and Liverpool in the league which is bookended by two FA Cup matches and the first leg of the first  Champions League knock out round. There is no more crucial part of the season for me: January 23rd to February 16th could easily decide whether Arsenal are going to win some silverware or go home empty handed again.

There is some speculation that the reason Arsene has gotten rid of Adebayor and Toure (and possibly Eboue) is because they will be out seriving their countries at the African Cup of Nations during this crucial period.

That theory only really makes sense if the club buys someone who will be around during that crucial period. Because, what sense does it make to let someone go for the whole season, just because they won’t be there for a crucial month?

If the ACN plays into it at all it’s more likely as something that will make it easier to swallow these transfers than as the impetus behind them, sort of the “spoon full of sugar.” It’s more likely that Wenger has looked at the schedule and then evaluated each of these player’s desire to play for the club and then took a look at the offers and was all “HOLY CRAP! Arsenal will make how much???” and sold the players. So, I’m reluctant to say that the ACN plays into it too much.

Back to that crucial period, I think it will be entirely possible for Arsenal to get 8-10 points in the league over teams who are our rivals for top honors. The Villa away game was a tricky fixture last year but they have lost Barry and Laursen this year. I’m not saying we’ll roll over them, their manager knows how to score goals on Arsenal (park the bus and punt over the top), but just that they are weakened and this is in our favor.

Similarly, Man U have lost crucial players and not replaced them. Sure, Rooney can be the all action guy that Tevez was and Bobblekopfh is a languidly dangerous threat at all times but they have certainly lost their free kick threat in Ronaldo, and a player with pace and skill to break teams down on his own.

Chelsea? Well… They signed another Jerkoff to their stable and they have added a decent coach and they looked pretty good playing against American teams on psuedo-grass (the grass was layed over a pad and then over the turf).  So, again I’m not ruling them out, they are a tough team, however, for that fixture they will be missing Dogbag, Essien, and Mikel to the ACN. I don’t know too many teams that could cope with the loss of three of their best players and hope to win a ton of games.

Still, away at fortress Stamford? Who could dream of ever winning there?

And Liverpool, oh my, I don’t want to give away too much of the season preview that I have been brewing but Liverpool are in serious trouble. This morning’s reports are that Alonso handed in a transfer request which is basically a player’s last move in getting out of their contract — it usually costs them millions of dollars in loyalty payments. At the same time, Mascherano is basically saying that he hates it in England and wants to go to Barcelona. Those two players were absolutely crucial to the modicum of success that Liverpool achieved last year. I don’t see them both being replaced in the transfer market, one guy, sure, but both? So, again it’s not a cake walk, but at this moment, it’s not looking like the battle roayle that it could be.

Unfortunately, the FA Cup and Champions League matches I can’t really make a comment on because we don’t know who we are playing or even where we are playing them. They are “must win” matches though, I can say that!

So, there you have it, that’s why I think the late January to early February period is a crucial period for the club. The way things are shaping up, we have a pretty good opportunity to take points off rivals and place ourselves deeper into other tournaments. I’m sure Wenger’s already on it.

Transfers

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the official transfer of Kolo Toure yesterday. Kolo was one of my favorite players at Arsenal and the last of the guys who played with the invincibles. He was a crucial part of Arsenal’s run of clean sheets in the Champions League which saw us through to the final and for that magical run I will always be grateful.

He was a classy player who always did what was asked of him and who I think all Arsenal supporters loved. I will be terribly surprised if he has a negative word to say about Arsenal as he winds his career down at City. Good luck to him, except when we play each other, and here’s to him doling out many lumps to everyone but Arsenal.

Good luck King Kolo.

There’s a funny story circulating about Patrick Vieira returning to the club. Funny because it comes from Ian Wright (who heard from a source who heard from a source), because it involves breaking of one of Arsene’s supposed cardinal rules (never look back), and because, not to put too fine a point on it, he’s past it.

I had the distinct pleasure of getting to watch a ton of Serie A games last year because Fox Soccer Channel plays them before and after EPL games and what the hell else are you going to do at 5am while you’re writing your Arsenal blog? And I can say that definitively, Patrick Vieira is past his prime. Hell, he was past his prime when he went to Serie A in the first place, and now he’s kind of a disaster and hard to watch. I know that’s not the most popular thing to say, and I’m not saying I won’t welcome him back, but maybe what I’m saying is if he signs don’t expect too much.

What I think would be brilliant is to sign him as a sort of player-coach. Who better to turn Song into a world class DM than Patrick Vieira? Who better to bring Diaby along than the guy he’s supposed to be emulating? It’s brilliant in that regard. But on the pitch he could only be used in very limited quantities.

In some ways I’d rather he went to Spurs. I mean come on, he could be our mole! Who better to ruin them from the inside than Patrick Vieira?

Of course, I’m joking about that last bit. In all seriousness, I think all of us would love to have him back and no one will be disappointed to see him, as long as we keep our expectations in line with reality.

And finally, flush with all this cash, the boss is cautioning Arsenal supporters against the notion that “buying means sucess.” Yeah yeah yeah… what else is he going to say?  “Now that I have £40m to spend, we are targeting players left and right, anyone want to make an offer???”  No, he’s being cautious.

There are reports that Rosicky picked up a knock against Barnet, which would explain his absence since, and the speculation is that he’ll miss the Emirates Cup this weekend. The boss said Rosicky will play this weekend. Add in the absence of Nasri due to injury and it’s starting to look like an already thin midfield is even thinner — at a time when Wenger has said we need to get off to a good start.

I’m not suggesting a panic buy, but a guy like Alonso would only add to the team. Wenger’s aware of that and has stated that they will add if they see the right deal come up. Personally, I’d rather we spent now than waited until January to re-enforce this team, there’s quality out there, go and get it. According to the link abover Wenger is looking at “several possibilities” so it seems he’s well aware of the issue.

Anyway, that’s it for today. I suppose we’ll do this again tomorrow…

40 Comments on Top 5 targets for 2009/10 #4, January 23rd to February 16th

  1. Ade- “fuck the fans, they made me leave”

    Kolo- “Thank you Mr. Wenger and the Arsenal fans”

    Yeah, that sums it up. Kolo will definitely be missed.

    As to Rosicky’s knock, depending on the seriousness of it, or if he recovers quickly, Wenger will know whether or not to expect another season of problems with Tomas’ fitness. That could be one crucial factor in deciding if we sign a midfielder in the coming weeks.

  2. Since Song is heading off to ACN and Eboue may also leave for Florentina I do hope Wenger brings in one DM and a RB.

    Rosicky/Nasri injuries are bad, but may force Wenger’s hand…

    God I hope Xabi leaves for Real. Imagine the outrage from Benitez!

  3. The Viera back rumour sound a bit suspect to me. Very contrary to policy; but then surprises have happened in the past.

    In some way, I pity the liverpool fans. They deserve better than they are getting.

    Rosicky? Another knock? I hope that it is not serious. God! This guy and knocks.

    • @LRV, There’s a first time for everything and Wenger has already broken his policy of not signing players in the January window so why not break another while you’re at it?

      • @WC,

        Wenger pissed me off when he also broke another of his golden rules by signing “Geriatric” to a 2 year deal but refused to do so with Pires.

        If he can do that for Silvestre, why not bring back Paddy for a couple years to teach the youngsters, provide leadership and even play a little bit when he is not injured.

        BTW, Yes, he is past his prime, but has being playing decently this off season for Inter, even chopped down a few miscreants on the pitch 🙂

  4. 2 Africans down, 2 more to go?

    Vieiria would be coming back on a pay-as-you-play, according to Wrighty of course, so there’s no real pressure to play him and feel we’re paying his wages. He’d be on the same deal as Owen at United and it would be a win/win because though he’s past his prime, let’s face it his character never goes and him just being on the pitch could be enough to inspire the team. He’d be good cover “in case”, so what else can you really ask for?

    I don’t think our spending is done and Wenger knows it, he just doesn’t want to show his hand (like always). I wouldn’t be surprised if another signing comes in and then we’re done. I’d much prefer at least 2 but I’ll take what I can get.

  5. Rosicky came out on his Site and said he is not injured and will be playing in the Emirate’s Cup along with Clichy. He went on to say his legs have been a little tired with the grueling training regiments and that’s why Wenger did not play him the past 2 games.

    • @CaribKid69, He was not injured. He was just very fatigued (with slight aches and pains) from not playing for so long. So Arsene took a little more precaution with both him and Clichy.

  6. No way Benitez let’s Mascherano go. He is the defensive hub and backbone at DM. Alonzo only played DM when he was injured.

    Right now, Liverpool has to keep Mascherano, add a striker to support Torres and replace Alonzo if he leaves. Otherwise, they will be SOL.

  7. Great post. Really explains Wengers thoughts.
    I’m not worried by Ade and Toure departures because i know Wenger will bring in. I really think Hangeland will be a huge success at Arsenal. Bag him for 10 mil. The tricky decision is which DM to buy. Veloso, M. Diarra, Cattermole, Matuidi, Mascherano or Vieira? Otherwise use the rest of the 48 mil to buy Van Persie’s partner… Huntelaar, Vucinic or Gignac. Huntelaar seems the most realistic. Imagine Van Persie, Huntelaar and Eduardo up front!

    • @Simply Gooner7, Um. Vermaelen is the replacement for Toure.

      We don’t need a striker we already have so many attacking options: Dudu/RvP/Bendy/Walcott/Vela/Arsha + Nasri/Rosicky/Barazite. Plus Huntelaar is a mercenary, only looking for money with no loyalty and a bad attitude.

      I agree that we need a DM. But Veloso is rubbish, if you’ve ever watched Sporting you’d know he’s average. Cattermole is also rubbish, no better than our current options. Matuidi is almost exactly like Song, so redundant option. Mascherano is a cunt. Vieira, yes Paddy is a legend, but he can’t be relied upon. M. Diarra is the only person you mentioned who makes any sense, however he will be away for 6-8 weeks with ACN so not really the best option. If we want a DM either Brighi (Roma) would bring experience or Vidal(Leverkusen) a Wenger type player, young and versatile.

      *End Rant*

  8. Interesting stuff! I hear that Rosicky’s problem is minor, just a bit of muscle pain, a minor reaction after such a long period of relative inactivity. Phew!

    Collective thanks to Kolo, and good luck, a loyal and respected Arsenal man. Feel he is very much at the same stage of his career as Vierra when he left. Le boss has done terrific business on these deals, cashing in on ManCiteh’s eagerness to splash the cash. Unloading a trouble-maker; and a popular guy who is probably past the peak of his performance.

    As you rightly say, both would be away at a critical time, as would Eboue. However if things pan out, there would only be Song to worry about and one of our alleged rivals will be short two players. If past experience is any indication, there is nothing to say that they won’t come back injured or ill. Smart move, and we have the money.

    Vierra back, maybe. Certainly not the player he was, but on a play and pay basis could be good for the club. Limited play and coaching could be good for all parties. Just to have him sit on the bench may be a bonus, one to encourage our own, and two to discourage the opposition. Bit like having a guard dog that everyone knows will bite and maul an intruder.

    Overall I have to believe Le Boss knows what he is doing, he has the full pack, and can see his cards. The rest of us don’t even get a look over his shoulder. Even if we did, he would tell you it’s a pack he’s trying out, not the one’s he’s playing with. Only he and the board know how those cards will be played. We can only guess, educated it may, but it’s only a guess.

    As for the likes of Liverpiddle, MancsUntied, and Chelski, all have weaknesses in different ways, and I don’t see any one of them having a natural advantage this season. In fact, the playing field is most probably flatter now than it has been for some time. As I have stated previously it is not only about the strength of our team, but about the relative strengths, and weaknesses of the opposition. I think they are all weaker, and we are stronger. Think how many internationals we have, be it at senior level, or a junior level, then ask if this team can compete.

    Viva!

      • @CaribKid69, He’s just saying that to make us all feel good. I watched Chelsea here in the US and they looked sharp despite the level of competition. They don’t have the quickest back line either but they get the job done. IMO they are the team to beat this season. If Man U are going to use smoke and mirrors (Owen) to make for Ronaldo I don’t see that happening. You start out hoping he’ll get 15 goals and I ll show you the devil w/ a case of frostbite.

        If Wenger thinks he has a ‘strong’ squad then so be it. It will then come down to luck, injuries and National team duties. Chelsea will have 3 players away for the ACN and we have just reduced our ACN player quota by 2.

  9. Tommy’s injury is leg cramp, pretty harmless and common considering how long of a layoff he has had. i will not lie though, a shiver went down my spine when i first read the report. i am still wondering why people are so big on Hangeland. He is big and powerful but plays deep at Fulham and lacks speed. in our system he would get chewed up. There has been a bunch of De Rossi talk recently but i think it is pure fantasy. but it would be cool. Tim, i now start my day off with this blog because it keeps it real and positive. Great work. This weekend i will be getting torn up and watching the Goon thrash some Spaniards. Holla if ya hear me!!!!

  10. Good stuff today…Agree about that crucial part of the schedule and wonder if one of the top three targets will be getting off to a good start here in just 2.5 weeks (what’s the emoticon for getting very excited….)

    Also agree about comments re: Mascherano above…1)that he’s the key to ‘Pools entire defense and 2) that he’s a c**t, which is part of the reason that #1 is true.

    I’ll believe it when it happens but I like the notion of breaking tradition and rewarding an Arsenal legend (Viera) with a 2nd stint at the club.

    Yesterday’s game was a little more revealing (Hanover reminded me of a decent Championship side) and we looked a bit like poop in the 2nd half. Any news on TV5’s knock at the end of the game–I’m hoping it was just a chance for us to try playing with 10 men. And I sort of liked the young keeper with the vowel-less name. Song looked good switching between DM & CB, while Djourou & Denilson still look unconvincing. Do we get to see Diaby on the weekend? Those games will be on the big screen (TV), right?

  11. I would be happy with Viera coming in as a player/coach (as long as he understands it would be more coach than player). He is a legend and doesn’t deserve the treatment he has received at Inter. I would still want to buy another DM. Maybe you bring in Viera and a lower cost option that will develop in the future (like Matuidi) for Viera to bring along. I dunno – just making up crap basically.

    Nice post as usual.

  12. Kolo’s departure marks an end of an era for us gooners but also, hopefully, the beginning of a new one. He never did find his form since his bout of malaria and while I am sad to see him go, I think it makes some sense to sell him and buy another classy defender. Ofcourse we all know the biggest worry is that Wenger is not going to replace Toure. This 7 CB story he gave is quite misleading because included in that 7 is Toure (gone), Senderos (disaster), Silvestre (bigger disaster) and Song (who Wenger will use as DM). So a replacement is definitely needed but will Arsene do it. I doubt he will buy any more players before the Jan transfer window.

    • @nycgunner, I disagree that Senderos is a disaster. He was only 22 when he had a bad spell for the Arsenal. I love Senderos and he was a crucial part of that Champions League run. He has a ton of talent and if us Gooners could just support him I think he could be world class.

      He’s better than Hangeland.

      • @Tim,

        Agreed, Senderos is not a bad defender and is a good squad player. At worst, he is better than “Geriatric” Silvestre and provides good backup against the mid and lower level EPL teams.

        As long as we don’t play him against Liverpool and Chelsea he will be fine.

        • @CaribKid69, There were times last season when our CBs were dropping like flies that a Senderos on the bench would have calm everyone down. On the plus side, Senderos tries hard, he never bad mouthed us while in Italy, and you hope he’s learned to position himself better to make up for no speed. If he stays, you can bet my last dollar that Wenger will play him against Drogba. That’s our Wenger, always the kidder.

        • @CaribKid69, agreed that he’s young and can improve but im yet to see a performance from him that makes me think that he can be a reliable classy player someday. way too many shaky performances for my book. the problem with having a player like him in the squad is that when defenders are out you are forced to play him and as murphy’s law would have it, its always during one of our crucial games. it’s great that some of you have so much faith in him, but i for one, would not be sorry to see him go

        • @NYCGunner,

          I guess you never saw Senderos partner Toure in the run to the CL final some 4 years back when they provided clean sheets over something like a 7 game stretch.

          Ironically, Campbell replaced him in the final which we lost.

        • @CaribKid69, I’m convinced that Wenger lost that final by putting Campbell and Cole in for Senderos and Flamini.

          That move also undermined Senderos’ confidence and did nothing to keep C&C.

          That’s one of the biggest coaching failures of his career.

  13. Arsenal-Atletico Madrid 8:30 A.M. (Pacific time) Sat 8/1 (PSG-Rangers directly before.)

    Arsenal-Rangers 8:10 A.M. (Pacific time) Sun 8/2 (PSG-Atletico directly afterwards.)

    All games on GolTV with replays throughout the day

  14. Have any of you Vieira advocates actually watched him play for Inter (when not injured). I call Serie A the ‘Italian burial ground’ and Vieira fit right in. It’s why a Beckham can still flourish on the ‘European’ stage. It’s why Cannavaro can go home again. The Italian league is about slow. If you thought Poulsen was slow and he got kicked out at Juventus, imagine a 33yo Vieira trying to ‘comeback’ from the ‘dead’. It just is not happening. Wenger of all people should know this. It’s is why he let Gilberto go to Greece. There is just no more spring in Vieira’s chicken legs folks.

    Liverpool are in big doo-doo now that Alonso has ‘come out’ with his transfer request. Serves Benitez right. He dissed his homey Alonso for Barry last season. We should have made a move but held back because of the price tag for Alonso. Barry now traipse off to the end of the rainbow. Benitez gets pissed because he’s now made to look like a fool. Ditto, Mr. Gareth (I want CL football) Barry. Alonso’s passing will elevate Real Madrid’s attack. Now Benitez will have to hope that Lucas is really ready to step up.

    Anybody out there want to be a striker for an up and coming EPL team w/ a dynamic and always well tanned coach. Call P. Brown c/o Hull City Tigers anytime day or night. Please include a youtube highlight link.

    The MLS All-Stars 2 best players, Ljungberg and Donovan, could not overcome Everton’s best player, Howard.

    Tranmere found out the hard way that if you want sell your club you’re better off using a British broker. Tranmere used an American outfit who put the club on Ebay w/ the bidding to start at 10m (Paypal only, S&H are extra) 😉

    You’re Robbie Keane. You get traded to your boyhood dream team where you stink. You go back home where you still stink. Now you have to compete w/ Portsmouth’s old strike partnership and your manager keeps dreaming about Huntelaar. Darren (I cost more than Henry) Bent is hanging on the ledge by his finger tips and you have to think I could be next.

    • @ctpa, I’m dying laughing, especially at the Phil Brown jab.

      Robbie Keane is decent, I’ll give him that. But Bent and Jenas are garbage, and I cant believe the prices that are thrown around when it comes to those hacks. I bet they couldn’t hold a starting place on our fucking reserve team.

    • @ctpa, No one is saying Vieira will be the same player we had a decade ago but simply put he’d be a free transfer getting paid only when he plays – there’s no real downside. Speed isn’t everything though it does help your cause but Fulham and in particular Danny Murphy showed us last season that though the legs get old, the brain keeps on ticking. Danny Murphy pretty much made us look like amateurs in that 0-0 game against Fulham and he’s slow as hell. Patrick would be a free, experienced midfielder and would add depth to the squad. Giggs and Scholes are essentially on football pension now but Fergie has them going strong and I’d wager he loves having them on his roster despite being in their mid 30s.

    • Everyone keeps knocking Bent without looking on his goal scoring record in the EPL even when knocking around from club to club and always being made 3rd choice.

      He was Spuds leading GS before being benched for the Russian last year and still managed to do at season’s end.

      • @CaribKid69, However, Bent isn’t a big game player and alot of his goals are against lesser opposition. I think Arry is looking for a striker who can change the game whenever Spuds take on any of the top four.

        • @WC,

          Maybe so, but wouldn’t it be great to have a striker who scores a ton of goals against lesser teams on a consistent basis. Not many teams have a prolific striker, period.

  15. Alonso would indeed add to the club, but isn’t he now going for somewhere in the region of 30 mil?

    Also, Mikel Arteta anyone? Defensive mid is where he used to play.

  16. Here’s the real, official scoop from Bordeaux’s President:
    http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&u=http://www.lequipe.fr/&ei=CcxySqjaA46GMYfkqbEM&sa=X&oi=translate&resnum=1&ct=result&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dl%2527equipe%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26hs%3DzOV

    Wenger, the sly dog may not be ‘buying’ to ‘replace’ Adebayor in his mind but he is looking for a striker. Always the negotiator, Chamakh is on the ‘list’.

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