Arsene Wenger gave his first pre-match interview of the new season and between what’s been reported in the press and the exclusive on the dot com, Wenger’s being more forthright that I’ve ever seen him. And frankly, it’s refreshing, but before we get to that I have a couple of pieces of business to get through.
First off, if you’re an American, then you were probably all excited by the supposed news that ESPN would be carrying the early games (the 4am PST kickoff matches) here in the states. Well, there’s still no confirmation on that front, and the latest news from EPL Talk is that they are in last minute negotiations. Tomorrow’s season opener is Hull and Chelsea and could be on ESPN2 at 4:15 PST, I get up that early (to write the blog!) so I’ll be checking in with them. This only really effects us Arsenal supporters when Arsenal host Tottenham in the North London Derby in October, so, there’s time for them to work it all out and let’s hope that they do.
Second, 7amkickoff’s very own Travis the Septopus has gone and set up a 7amkickoff fantasy football league over at ESPNSoccernet. The league name is, shockingly, “7amkickoff!” and I guess there’s no password but you MUST select Arsenal as your team. Other than that the rules are pretty open. Travis has suggested the following self imposed rule “no players from the other 3 of the top four or Tottenham,” which I think is a fun twist but you all who join will need to agree. The site itself offers prizes (I won a fantasy league once and proudly displayed my banner at work) and I am going to throw in the following: next year’s tee-shirt design for the person who’s ahead on January 1, AND a shirt for the person who places second at the end of the season, AND a red level membership for the overall winner. Sound like fun? Well, you better bone up on the how to then get your ass over there and sign up.
Third, those of you who have paid for your shirts will have your stuff shipped today, that includes my Paraguayan reader. I was waiting for some shipping containers but, well, they haven’t come and it’s not fair to you all to wait any longer. The next round of tee-shirts will be a different design, a better all around shipping deal, and they will be cheaper. I have a cunning plan! Still, thanks to everyone who supported the site with your purchase, it was a great learning experience for me. And even though I just barely broke even on the whole deal, it’s awesome that you all have my shirts and will show them off to fellow Gooners.
Ok, now, about Arsenal… By the time this is published you’ll already know about the 6, that’s right SIX, injuries that Arsenal are suffering to start the season; Nasri (8-10 weeks), Fabianski (4 weeks), Djourou (4 weeks), Rosicky (2 weeks), Diaby (Tuesday), and Walcott (Tuesday). Like I said yesterday, the only real concerns here are center back and keeper.
Neither problem is resolved with the canceling of Fran Merida’s loan to Levante (like a new signing!).
I’ll just go ahead and say it, but if we sell Senderos and don’t buy a center half to replace him, we’re going to be looking very shaky at the back. So, I’d be surprised if Wenger sells Senderos at this point with all the injuries, unless he thinks the lad can’t do the job any more.
The speculation around Senderos was that he was part of a center half transfer merry go round that was going to happen when City bought Lescott. We would then sell Senderos and buy one of the two tall Americans; Hangeland or Subotic. But, David Moyes, in his typically Scottish way, basically told City to f*ck themselves, f*ck themselves right in the mouth, they are not getting Lescott. I love this quote:
Lescott has had his head twisted in all of this. I hear that City think they are talking to people who make the decisions here, well that’s me. I make the decisions, they have not talked to me and the player has been consistently told he is not for sale. He (Lescott) should get his head around that and get on with his career.
Contrast that with Wenger’s more tongue-in-cheek response about the rumors that Arsenal are going to sell Cesc Fabregas
Do you really think we sell now our players one day before the championship starts, players who are basic players of the team? There is no chance. You cannot stop people from having a lot of creative imagination during their sleepless nights, but that does not mean we will do it.
Anyway, back to the injury room. A lot of folks are looking at 6 injuries as proof positive that we need to buy, and while I agree to an extent, I choose to see that glass as half full. Certainly, I would love to see one of the two Americans come in and shore up the defense, you know give us some more options, but even with 6 injuries Arsenal’s creative end of the field is super solid (see, glass half-full!).
As it stands, with the type of players we have in defense, the player’s are dictating the style of play and the team formation. Wenger admitted as much in his ATVO exclusive. It’s a bit strange to hear Arsene Wenger admit that the 4-3-3 isn’t being played because he likes it or because he wanted to give us a new look, but because the size and type of players in this squad dictate a 4-3-3. He says that formation gives us “options” and I say “if a squad dictates a formation, doesn’t that limit options?” I mean, I think I understand what he’s saying, because a 4-3-3 can shift very quickly to a 4-5-1 and with some subs can revert to a 4-4-2. But the problem, from my (and many others) perspective, is that with Djourou out injured, and if we sell Senderos, then Arsenal don’t have the option to play a flat back four and must always play the “offense-as-defense” scheme that got them into trouble last year.
So, yes, with injuries to Djourou and Senderos seeming to be out of favor I am slightly concerned. The wide eyed optimist, is slightly concerned.
Not for tomorrow’s match, mind you. That match I think is going to be f*cking brilliant and Everton won’t know what hit them. Why? Oh, because I think it’s early in the season, Lescott has had his head done in, Jagielka is missing, the pitch will be in perfect shape, it’ll be raining, and the atmosphere in the Arsenal locker room (according to Arsene) is absolutely buzzing. Moreover, with three strikers in Arshavin, van Persie, and Bendtner, Arsenal’s attack is going to be devastating. Arsenal will play the 4-3-3, pass the ball around pretty much everyone on Everton’s team and tomorrow’s late edition will hail them as the team to beat this season.
I’m not worried about this game at all, I’m full of confidence.
It’s the whole season that I’m slightly concerned with. SLIGHTLY.
Wenger, on the other hand, is completely unfazed and has issued this team the sternest challenge I have ever seen from him;
The team we have now gets there, and by that I mean it wins the championship (OR IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN). At 22 or 23 I think a team is mature enough to deliver and it is a massively important year for our club. I am conscious of that. I know people have no patience any more but I agreed on a structure at the club that I believed could work, and we are at the period now when we will see whether I was right. To talk of winning the league is an audacious statement but I built this team and I want to deliver.
I completely agree with Arsene, it’s time to put the excuses away. After last year’s performances, Song and Denilson are no longer “kids” and need to step up. Cesc Fabregas is 22 years old and has been a regular starter for 4 years at a top four club in the toughest league in the world. Cesc is as experienced as it gets and as the team captain, it’s time to step up and show that he wants to win. And the rest of the squad too should have something to prove, it’s time to take all the doubters and haters and all their negative press and stuff it down their throats.
No pressure, my ass. It’s time for the pressure. Wenger didn’t say this month is make-or-break as I did, but he stressed the importance of winning things this month to get us off to the start that we didn’t get last year (5 losses in 14 games). Away to a very English Everton squad, then travel to Scotland for more lumps in a crucial Champions League match 3 days later, then off to a huge clash with Man U in the league?
Get out there and kick their butts.
This all kicks off tomorrow morning at 9:15am PST, meet me at Doyle’s, wear your colors, and remember, UP THE ARSE!