Alas, poor Hleb! I knew him, Horatio.

to sleep; perchance to dream.

After their pathetic near loss to, erm, Microeurpoenea I’ve decided that I can no longer support the French national team and have instead decided to follow…. Belgium, the “rode duivels.” Yes, that’s right, I’m a rode duivel now, bitches. I can’t wait to get all kitted out in his magesty’s national team shirt and celebrate my Wallonian heritage. Of course the Czech’s beat the piss out of Belgium 3-1 but so what? Who doesn’t beat the Belgians? Besides it’s a match of such insignificance that ESPN didn’t even bother putting the lineups in their “match report.” For all I know, Belgium and the Czechs just said “screw it, let’s just say you won 3-1 and go argue which country makes better beer!”

Anyway, that stuff is all ancient history, Dick Advocaat is now our coach and with Thomas Vermaelen and Marouane Fellaini in the side we’re sure to win the World Cup, three times in a row.  Get on the bandwagon now, people.

Anyway, that’s your international report from me… Well, ok, I’ll mention that other international match that really mattered to a lot of folks yesterday; the USA lost to Mexico 2-1. Meh, the USA never wins in the mountains of Mexico and Sven Goran-Erickson had Mexico so sufficiently farked up in their World Cup qualifiers that they are STILL in 4th place in CONCACAF. Maybe someone who watched the match would like to describe how awesome Carlos Vela was? Oh and for you USA Gooners, there’s some talk about getting the World Cup here in America and really I don’t care, but maybe you do and want to join in all the festivities?  I dunno, but here’s a link to a long blog about it.

Anyway enough of that stuff, this is an Arsenal blog!

And from an Arsenal perspective the internationals went pretty much OK. I haven’t heard of any serious injuries — Djourou’s knee injury hasn’t been confirmed by the site — and Eduardo proved his fitness for Croatia by scoring a ho hum goal. It’s some pretty pathetic defending from Belarus and the goalkeeping is beyond pathetic, he might as well have not even been there, but it’s the kind of goal that Arsenal need to score a few of this year and if Eddy’s on the end of passes like that you can be sure he will put them away. After all he’s scored 12 goals in his last 14 matches for Croatia.

Croatia were playing Belarus, so there was a double-whammy of an Arsenal connection there what with Alex Hleb suiting for Belarus and, of course, speaking to the press about Arsenal before the match. It’s really not a bad story, Hleb praised Wenger for making him a stronger, better player, talked about how while it was his dream to play for Barcelona, the dream was kind of shattered having to sit on the bench for a whole year and watch as others really made the team tick. It’s actually kind of a sad story in a way, because I suppose if it was my boyhood dream to play for a club and they came in form me I’d be tempted to leave, despite the rational part of my brain looking at their midfield and wondering where I’d get a game? I guess we all make mistakes.

Now, if he would only say he’s sorry for saying that Cesc should play in Barcelona with him, all would be forgiven.

Anyway, there’s not much news today as everyone is flying back to their club for the big opener on Saturday. Well, not everyone was flying back to their clubs, some folks, like David Bentley were drunkenly crashing their Porche 911 into telephone poles, but pretty nearly everyone was flying back to their clubs. The opening match is just two days away and I am pretty excited. I’m thinking about heading down to Doyle’s for the game (kickoff at 9:30am PST) this weekend and if others would like to join me we could make it a party!

According to John Terry, Chelsea and Man U are going to fight to the death over the title this year and the prospect of one or both of those teams suffering massive casualties is cause to celebrate, isn’t it? Let’s chat about it in the comments!

48 Comments on Alas, poor Hleb! I knew him, Horatio.

  1. A football writer with a brain and taste for the fine things in life; quoting Shakespeare! Fantastic to see!

  2. In order for Cesc to be playing with him at Barca, Hleb had to actually be playing and not watching the game from the bench like he’s been doing for some time now.

    At least he’s man enough to admit he bollocksed his career with some weak excuse about noisy London suburbs and loving the “quiet” Catalunya life.

  3. Vela came on with 30 mins left and did very little… he was 5 yards from the guy that scored the winner though.

    • @Daniel, Yeah, it was not a particularly impressive run-out for our boy and hard to justify him missing our entire pre-season for that half hour. But to be fair, I think the US defense was particularly wary of him and were marking him closely and double-teaming him as soon as he got the ball. You could even argue that they were overly concerned with Carlos on the goal and left Miguel Sabah (another second half sub) open to bury the winner.

  4. Arsenal will finish 6th this season no one seems to take into consideration our continual injury list, 20/30 years ago this was not a problem but the game is so much faster now and the need is for very strong back up players with good experience and thats what Arsenal have not got.

  5. We’re clearly not in the greatest shape from an injury standpoint going into Saturday. See below from arsenal.com. The big thing here is Djourou being out for a month. Does this mean the Senderos move is still on? If Djourou’s knee is hurt and Vermaelen is still feeling any effects of his early injury and we sell Senderos and fail to buy anyone else, what in the hell are we going to do at centre back??? Oh and god help us if Almunia gets roughed up. Vito Mannone?

    The downside is that Wenger could be without as many as six players for Saturday evening’s match. Tomas Rosicky (hamstring) and Samir Nasri (broken leg) were already sidelined before the manager spoke to Arsenal TV Online on Thursday afternoon. However, in that interview, the Frenchman ruled out Theo Walcott (back), Johan Djourou (knee) and Lukasz Fabianski (knee) from the trip to Goodison Park, while Abou Diaby (groin) is classed as a doubt.

    “We have some problems,” admitted Wenger. “We have Theo Walcott (back), who is not available. Diaby has a little groin problem but he could be available.

    “[Also] we have lost Johan Djourou and Lukasz Fabianksi because they had injuries. Lukasz had a cartilage surgery. He will be out for two months. Johan has a knee problem that will take some time to cure – one month.

    “Thomas Vermaelen played 45 minutes for Belgium last night and came through OK so he will be available.”

    Rosicky and Nasri collected their problems in pre-season. Both midfielders are working their way back but, even when they have recovered. they will still require rehabilitation.

    “Tomas Rosicky is two weeks away,” said Wenger. “Samir Nasri [is out] three-and-a-half weeks now. But it will be six or seven weeks until he is available for training.”

    • @ArseChicago, I don’t see a problem.

      Arsenal still have our full first team ready for Saturday

      Arshavin van Persie Bendtner
      Denilson Cesc Song
      Clichy Gallas Vermaelen Sagna
      Almunia

      On the bench: Eduardo, Eboue, Wilshere, Ramsey, Silvestre, Gibbs, Traore, and Senderos.

      The least experienced players in all that are Wilshere, Gibbs, and Ramsey. All the rest have at least one, or many more, seasons at the top level.

      This is a good team with great depth. The proof of that is in the fact that we can have 6 guys missing and still have too many players to take with the first team.

      • @Tim, The problem no doubt will rear it’s ugly head when halfway through the first half the goalpost collapses on Mooney, leaving only Vito “the Man” Mannone the only thing standing between us and and a hairy hiding at the hands of Cahil and Co! 😛

    • @ArseChicago, Gee-zus….that’s a couple of injuries….

      Still, I’m hopeful for a good result on Saturday. Tim Howard’s got to fly back from Mexico City and with Jagielka out and Lescott having his head turned by ManCity their central defense is far from rock solid. Hopefully we’ve still got enough in attack to win any sort of shoot-out that might develop (didn’t one of our guys score 4 the last time he was in Liverpool…)

      Overall, I think the injuries might force AW to make a move or two (or keep Sendy in London) before the window closes. Am I correct in thinking that if somebody plays a CL or Europa league qualifier they are only cup tied through the group stages and would be able to play for a new team in the elimination rounds?

  6. For Saturday, I think we’ll start 4 3 1 2:

    Almunia
    Sagna Gallas Vermaelen Clichy
    Eboue Fabregas Song
    Arshavin
    Bendtner RvP

    Bench: Mannone, Eduardo, Gibbs, Wilshere, Denilson, Silvestre, Ramsey

  7. I, too, think we’ll be okay, but you have to admit it’s scary that our backup GK is now Mannone (at least Fabianski got some great experience last year) and our backup centre back for the next month is likely Gerry. That is, assuming Song stays in MF. Also, as for attacking, it’d be great to have Theo and Eduardo both coming in around minute 60 to really tire them out.

    • or our backup cb is Sendy. He still has not left and is still an asset. I can not help but think that Arsene has been sitting on Everton’s transfer offer for Sendy as a tactical move. It would funny if he just wanted to wait till after the game to give the move the go ahead. And then we pick up one of the two million people we have been heavily linked to.

  8. I am an op(tim)ist I actually think compared to the other defenses in the EPL we look pretty solid. WHo has a better back 4 or even back 6. With our depth in the attack even eboue could drop back and Gibbs and djourou are getting stronger every day. If we keep Senderos we are pretty deep. Who has a stronger defence than us.

    • TTS, I’d have to rate Chelsky ahead of us in terms of Back 4. I love our boys and I loathe Cashley C*nthole, but objectively speaking, they’re pretty stacked. Our backs are better than United’s, while they’re tough in the center. For now, we’re still better on the back than Pool, AV, Everton, etc.

    • @Travis The Septopus, I really hope we do keep Senderos. I thought he wanted out of arsenal because after being in the serie a that he didn’t want the premiership. but of course that’s not the case. i just wonder why he wants out. he wasn;t starting every game at ac milan and it’s not a done deal he would start everygame at everton unless lescott left.

      • I think it’s more the club wanting him gone, not the other way around. Regardless, I hope he stays now given our injury situation. Travis, I think people aren’t critical of our backline as a whole. Just questioning our stability at the centre.

  9. Hey Tim, great blog as normal. i posted this in the GUNS part of gunner blog but thought id copy it over here to get some feedback from the viewers of this blog. i read about how people call arsenal a feeder club and it just kinda pissed me off. here is my response to that statement:

    The idea of a feeder club is someone who produces stars and sells them. Anytime you have great players, teams with more money are always going to look to poach. Unless you have more money than god (Real Madrid and Man City) then you were be looked as a feeder team. Teams with money don’t need to have a great scouting network, they just need a good banker. Simple as that. Any team that has a good scouting network will in turn have a good academy. And any team that has a good/great academy is going to be looked at as a feeder team.

    It’s a mentality you have to be a feeder club. The mentality is, I get schoolboys or young European players, teach them, make them good and then sell them to get a good profit. Feeder teams know that the end result is the player is not going to stay with them past 23 or so. Maybe even younger than that. Arsenal does not have that mentality. The project and the self-sustaining model in which Arsene is looking to mold can be achieved. That project could never happen at a feeder club. It can’t happen to a club where they want to sell off their players for profit. Wenger’s main point more than anything else is that he wants the team to stay together. We can complain all we want about why he should be bringing in more experience but that is for another discussion. This is about being a feeder club.

    The major flaw that we have run into the last 5 years is that all the media sees is that Arsenal are selling their stars, and some of these players who were unknown came to arsenal and now they are gone.
    The thing about working with kids and inexperienced amateurs and turning them into stars is that their heads will be turned with fame, prestige, and money. Almost every player that we have sold in the last 5 years have left because THEY wanted to. Arsenal has never said, oh let’s sell Viera now because we can get the most money for him. Because if that was the case, he would have went to Real Madrid a year before and we would have got a lot more money. Same thing with Henry. Players want to leave, it’s not because we can get the most money for them.

    Here is a list of players that have left in the last 5 years:
    Thierry Henry – Left because he needed to get out of London
    Hleb – Came as a amateur and got his head turned by Barca
    Flamini – You can argue we should have offered him a contract prior but AC Milan came along and his head was turned
    Diarra – Left because of his young ego
    Adebayor – Left for money
    Toure – Left for money or in-fighting but regardless left on his own
    Gilberto – Left because he wanted more than a 1 year contract
    Pires – Left because he wanted more than a year contract
    Reyes – Wanted out of London because he couldn’t cut it in the premiership

    Now I am not saying that its absolutely always like this. But I hope this shows that in the modern game, Arsenal are not a feeder club. They are a team who is trying to do it differently at the highest level.

    • @TxGun, I think at least part of this issue is when you buy a young player for the price of a stick of gum they get the idea that they need to prove they are worth more than that even if they have been offered wage increases by the club they want to see what they are worth via the transfer fee.

      • @Travis The Septopus, And they have ridiculous agents wanting them to swap clubs so they get there 105 of the transfer fee. It’s just awful. But i am not shocked by it, because alot of these players grow up dirt poor and they dont have parents to show them right from wrong. They see the money and they get all twisted around.

    • I agree, TxGun. Feeder clubs don’t have 70,000 seat stadiums. Feeder clubs aren’t worth $1 billion as Arsenal is worth. Feeder clubs don’t buy Andrei Arshavin or Samir Nasri. What Arsenal could be classified as is self-sustaining, but I think what contributes to Arsenal’s perception as a feeder club is the heavy international flavor of its squad. Just happens that a ton of non-English players always seemed to have had the boyhood dream for playing at Barca or Real Madrid. The vast vast majority of clubs lose players; it’s just our club’s choice to develop replacements, rather than paying through the nose for other clubs’ rubbish.

    • @TxGun, You are correct and I agree that Arsenal are not a selling team, although selling (at a profit, of course) has its upside.

      Arsenal IS trying to do it differently but it is very difficult to swim against the tide. In addition to the criticism that we’re a selling club we have to live with our strategy of offering (relatively) fat and long-term contracts to (relatively) young, unproven talent. This makes it harder for the “big” clubs to swoop for our players but can also make us look like fools if we’re paying 60 or 80,000 pounds/week for players who are injury prone or seem mentally unable to handle the pressure of playing at the highest level. It also assumes a certain loyalty factor that players like Hleb and Flamini didn’t have. I actually think that this is a bigger factor than Platini’s 6 + 5 proposal in the fact that we’re seeing a few more English/British boys coming through the team (Theo, Gibbs, Wilshere, Ramsey). What we don’t need are more Continental players playing well for us and then leaving for the enhanced prestige of the top Italian or Spanish clubs. A final factor to contend with are the increasing taxes on English players which make it harder to compete with the big money Continental teams.

    • @TxGun, I asked this question once before: Are you a “selling” club when you sell players who ‘want’ to leave. No. Are you a selling club when you sell players you want to stay: yes. Simple as that. We don’t meet that criteria by any stretch of the imagination. Other than Flamini and Hleb, we’ve not sold anyone in my time of following the club that we wanted to keep. I totally agree w/ Wenger that if a player wants to go , I’m the first one to hold open the door. I won’t beg anyone to stay. The club is bigger than the player and if you go it is done to the club’s benefit in price and timing.

      We are called a “selling” club by the haters of Arsenal who use the word like it’s an epithet. The facts behind our sales puts that label in the recycle bin.

  10. I saw the headline 6, six, seis, seche, sei Arsenal players injured and I was about to say oh sh*t, now WTF is up w/ this. The reality is those new 4 additions to the list have yet to establish themselves as essential pieces to our season. Vermaelen needs to play in order to keep Sylvester and Senderos at bay. I’d prefer Senderos if the truth be known.

    Walcott is not a starter yet and we haven’t seen him all preseason so his return will fall into “like a new player” category. The same can be said for Vela. Rosicky is on permanent “new player” duty.

    Nasri is a miss but his position has a ‘surplus’ of talent chomping at the leash.

    Djourou is a miss from a depth perspective and this was his season to really establish his bonafides. It should be duly noted that whenever you look for Djourou he is out injured. You just can’t have such a fragile player at the heart of our defense.

    I have a concern though about the physical strength of our central defense. I watched Carew absolutely destroy Scotland’s CBs and we all (not just you Senderos) have nightmares about Drogba.

    • Carew is a beast; thankfully we don’t have to face him too many times. It’d be like Thunderlips vs. Rocky in Rocky III.

  11. No mention of Netherlands v England! RvP played the first half, looked like he was saving himself for the weekend. One decent strike from long range, and a couple of clever passes was his total input. The good news is that Ferdinand, Lampart, Terry and all looked and played like lead soldiers. Rooney looked no better either. If this is the best that Chelski, MancsUntied, etc can put together, we should have the EPL won by Christmas.

    Great blog and great comments, as per usual.

    I have some problems with the definition of great clubs, which ones do we consider to be the great clubs, of say, the last 10 years, or the last 20 years? There really isn’t many.

    Real Madrid, Barcelona (maybe), Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal. Certainly Chelsea, are not contenders, nor to my mind any of the Italian sides.

    I guess we can use many criteria, tradition, club value, overall performance, stadium size, depth of support, it goes on. But when people stand up and say that players have left Arsenal for better teams, or better prospects, I must argue that is not really the case, they have moved around in the highest echelon, or they have stepped down.

    The Arsenal policy of grooming young players, and bringing them up to the highest level, can only be to the greater glory and benefit of the club. Not all will make the final step up, but those that do are of the highest calibre in the world. Those that don’t, still manage to make careeers for themselves, not only because they do have employable talent, but because they have been schooled in the Arsenal way which promotes and encourages excellence.

    As for Shakespeare, who couldn’t spell his name the same way twice -“Out, out damned spot!” Bad Dog!

    Viva!

    • @viva los gooners, if you include Liverpool as a great club of the last 10 years, you have to include AC Milan. Pool have the one CL trophy, Milan has two and whatever domestic success they’ve had. Take 20 years and the gap gets even bigger.
      Chelsea defended the English title, something Arsenal haven’t done since the 30s, and Inter just 3-peated the Serie A (4 if you count the one that was taken away from Juve). I’d say those two warrant a mention if Arsenal gets in.
      I’d limit the list to Barca, Real Madrid, Man U, and AC Milan.

      But i do agree with your point that with the exception of Thierry, who finally got his CL medal, nobody who’s left Arsenal recently has furthered their career by moving. But then again, in some cases, with Reyes for instance, I don’t think it was about the career. I’m sure he’s far happier in Madrid than he’d have been with Arsenal, regardless of success on the pitch.

  12. ATTENTION!!!! EVERYONE PAY ATTENTION TO THE GUY WITH THE CAPS LOCK BUTTON ON!!!!!

    ok enough of that if you are into fatasy football join the league called 7amkickoff! (no password needed but you must pick Arsenal as your favorite team)on the soccernet dot com website.
    Also i dont know if you need this to sign in but the league motto is Up The Arse

    dont miss out on the first week sign up now

    possible prizes for winning:
    1 a phone call from me calling you a bastard for winning my league.

    2. insert other clever free idea here (open to suggestions)

    • Trav you Chav, you went and did it now. Send me the URL and I’ll promote it on the blog tomorrow. I’ll offer two prizes, one for mid season (Jan.1) and one for overall winner.

  13. WENGER MISSED A 7TH INJURED PLAYER: Adebayor has a groin injury and wont start against Everton on Sat. What’s that you say? Adebayor was sold to Man City. What! When did that happen? Wow imagine that. Where was I when that news broke. How much did we get for him, 30m. How many goals did Adebayor score in preseason for Man City 0, Robinho 0, Tevez 0. Uh oh.

  14. Belgium or the Czechs, who makes the better beer? Hmm. Is that even an argument? I would say Belgium wins hand down but then again, I have not come across any stouts from Czech republic.

  15. Great logical reasoning all round. The only point that I like to make is in response to ArseChicago. I would not count a midfield occupied by Fletcher & Carrick as strong in the centre. If those 2 were Arsenal players, would you rate them? Scholes & Gigsy cannot even play 90 minutes. They seem to have passed their sell by date. Only the young Brazillian & Nani (who is more of an offensive player) may be counted. That for me is not the definition of a strong centre, hence Barcelona ran rings round them in the CL. 2 of the 3 who helped them change potential losses to win or draw last season are gone.

    • LRV, thinking back to yesterday, I was only talking about back 4s around the league. I said that Man U’s centre backs are better than ours. Was referring to Vidic and Ferdinand. Not sure what else you may be referring to. Thanks.

Comments are closed.