14 August 2014

Time to inflict a dirty Sanchez on a Pulis-less Palace...

I'm sorry, Crystal Palace. I genuinely am. I love that you not only earned promotion to the Prem last season, I love even more that you fought your way to 11th place. Normally, Gooners are supposed to heap scorn on Tony Pulis, what with his Neanderthalian tactics and all. However, I can't help but hang my head just a little now that he's gone. He seized your squad by the scruff and dragged it onward and upward, and I don't know if his replacement will be able to inject the same intensity or aggro that he brought. What's worse, we're set to unleash a weapon against whom you may not have had much of a defense even with Pulis calling the shots. This new weapon, he's cheeky. He's pacey. He's used to working in tight, clenched-up spaces. Of whom do I speak? Alexis, of course. I have a feeling that he's going to deliver a bit of dirty business.

Why not pluck this pugnacious player from under Pulis's nose?

We have unfinished business. Scores to settle. Teams to beat. Trophies to win. As I write, a Prem season full of promise is set to open little more than two days away. As we size up our opponents—and assess our needs—why not go after someone like Mile Jedinak? It may sound ludicrous, but would such a transfer make any more or less sense than, say, Kim Källström? His arrival and departure were largely unnoted and unheralded, but Jedinak, spine intact, might actually make a few vital contributions where we sorely need them. At a risk of looking past Palace and towards the rest of the Prem, we could use a physical presence in the midfield, and Jedinak, available at a pittance, could provide that.

13 August 2014

Crystal Palace: a trip-wire akin to Aston Villa?

At long last, the season is upon us. Even after a summer filled with World Cup action, a trip to New York, the Emirates Cup, and the Community Shield, nothing quite scratches the itch like a proper Prem match. Come Saturday, finally, we'll have a clash on our hands. It comes through a visit from a down-on-its-luck squad hoping to bravely stave off relegation and stay up in the Prem. Following closely on the heels of this match is the two-leg Champions League qualifier with a Turkish club whose supporters defy social norms. It sounds a bit like the screenplay for last year's season opener, one that saw us lose rather infamously to Aston Villa at home on opening day. Replace Aston Villa with Crystal Palace and Fenerbahçe with Beşiktaş, and it sounds like a recipe for repeating last season's debacle.

11 August 2014

Just one more player could push Arsenal to the top of the Prem...but who?

After in which we've seen Arsène eclipse almost all previous expectations for his behavior in the transfer-window (four new players in and almost £60m spent with three weeks still left before the window closes?), it seems a bit silly to both wonder and demand yet another signing. Elsewhere, Man City have been pretty quiet, Liverpool have to cope with the departure of nearly 33% of their goals-scored, and Chelsea will go into the season with Fernando Torres as their only forward after Lukaku joined Everton, Ba joined Beşiktaş, and Drogba succumbed to injury. Still, there's a nagging feeling that we haven't quite anted up to the point that would see us overtake any of these rivals while also staving off Everton, Spurs, or Man U, each of whom could shoulder their way into the top four. Who, then, can we look to?

Just what, if anything, did Arsenal's defeat of Man City mean? Anything at all?

On its face, winning the Community Shield may not mean much. Even for a match that pits the Prem champion against the FA Cup winners, there's little to be taken away from it, even less in a World Cup year. However, for as many players as City were missing, there's still something to be said for how well we played—even a depleted City side is superior to all but a handful of other Prem sides, and to defeat them 3-0 signifies something. Just how much it signifies, of course, remains to be seen.

10 August 2014

Only one conclusion to be drawn: Arsenal are the favorites to win the Prem.

Well, that was a nice way to gear up for the Prem season, thumping Man City 3-0 to win the Community Shield. I must say, I'm personally relieved after the kerfuffle my post the other day, which rankled more than a few readers. The stick I might have taken had we lost...I don't want to think about it.

Of course, neither side was at full strength, and City looked a bit diffident for stretches, so we shouldn't read too far into the result on either side. Still, goals from Ramsey, Cazorla, and Giroud highlighted a strong showing that, had it happened six days hence, might have made us the odds-on favorites to win the Prem. That would exaggerate things a bit, though. Yes, we were without our Germans, but they were without quite a few of their best and brightest. I'll tell you what it does mean, though—we've won the last two matches with silverware at stake, and today's result guarantees we can't finish the season empty-handed. Yes, it's "just" the Community Shield, but we won it, not Man City. May it mark the beginning of a brilliant season! Highlights in the video below...

An apology to Man City (and Gooners as well?)

Every once in a while, I go for something a bit satirical, tongue-in-cheek, risque, and so on.Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. My previous post seems to be more the latter than the former. I meant to tweak noses, more playfully than pointedly, but I was too clumsy. Sure, I expected a few Citizens to get irritated, but I figured that Gooners would leap to my defense. That second part didn't happen, leaving me to accept that I failed in what I set out to do. Citizens, I'm sorry. Gooners, I'm sorry.  I hope you will both read on...

I admit to a certain envy. After all, City have skyrocketed to the pinnacle of the Prem, leaving Arsenal in the dust. I'll stand by my disapproval of City's spending, but I admit this: aside from Nasri, whom I dislike for his attitude more than for his departure, I like Man City's squad. I don't think there is a player in it whom I dislike. By contrast, Chelsea is chock-a-block with players (and a manager) whom I loathe. I should take greater care in remembering the distinction going forward.

It is true that Arsenal snaps up players from other clubs.It is a business,  and I don't imagine for a moment that we are pure and innocent, playing only those who come up through our youth system, but I do maintain that we differ from other big clubs in having a bit more balance in our squad. I am proud that we continue to find and develop our own players and have mixed feelings about our new aggressiveness in the transfer-window. Chances are that another trophy or two will sort that ambivalence in a hurry, though...

Speaking of trophies, I overlooked how long-suffering Citizens, those who have followed the club since well before its dizzying ascension, might dislike the recent arrival of a few glory-hunting fans, who have likely exacerbated the sense among others that Man City are nothing but some oligarch's toy. There is meaning and pride in supporting a club through thick and thin, and those who have experienced more of the thin than the thick deserve better than what I offered the other day. Even some of the band-wagoners do, too. You have to choose a club (or have a club choose you) at some point, after all. Those new fans who are loyal to the club even after the bloom is off the rose will know what it means and the others will have skulked away anyway, probably to whoever finishes above City this season (ahem) or next.

Without trying to aound sly, I wish I could claim to have supported Arsenal through the leanest of times, but I imagine that most clubs would trade most of their best years for our worst. In the thirty-odd years that I have supported Arsenal, we have had a few mid-table finishes, but it has been almost twenty years since we fell out of the top four. In other words, I haven't had to suffer, nor has my faith been tested. Who am I then to heap scorn on some other fan's dream? By "fan", of course, I refer to those who have the club in their hearts, not those who decide whom to support based on who's atop the table that week.

Long story short, I apologize again for coming across as bitter and as ill-informed as I did, even moreso on the eve of a friendly match and ahead of an exciting season for us both.  All the best, City, and may you finish above Man U, Chelsea, and Liverpool...but below Arsenal!