23 August 2014

Open letter to Everton fans

Greetings, Toffees. It looks like we have begun a beautiful. tumultuous relationship, having exchanged pleasantries via a win, a loss, and a draw each. I've always admired you from afar, hoping you might someday overtake our own noisome neighbors. However, I  never imagined you'd do so in such fine fashion—nor did I think you'd overstep so far, with designs on elbowing us out of the way as well. Thank god order was restored before too long. Know your place, Toffees, and stick to it. Don't get too big for yer britches, are you'll get spanked, and we'll be the ones holding the paddle.Speaking of spankings, we've offered a few over the years. 7-0. 1-6. 4-1. That last one of course paved the way for us to win the FA Cup. Sorry if we never thanked you properly.

22 August 2014

Help! A Toffee has hijacked the blog!

A quick note: today's post comes courtesy of Planet Goodison, an Everton blog whose editor has been bold enough to venture into our midst with his musings ahead of our Saturday clash. For what it's worth, I've returned the favor with my own post at Planet Goodison. Give Goodison's piece below a read, and give him what-for in the comments below!

When you’re an Everton supporter, you must have a short memory. Actually better yet, you must have a selective memory. Did Liverpool beat us 4-0 at Anfield? I have no idea. Did we lose to Southampton 2-0 by conceding two own goals? Hmmm I don’t recall. Was that Arsenal that beat us 4-1 in the FA cup quarterfinals? Your guess is as good as mine, probably better.

Now if you want to hear something I do remember, it’s a 3-0 drubbing we handed out last time Arsenal stepped into the friendly confines of Goodison Park. What made the blue boys of Merseyside so dominant on that day was a fit Romelu Lukaku. Roberto Martinez switched his usual starting formation of a 4-2-3-1, where Lukaku would play as the lone striker up top, to a formation of 4-3-3, moving the Belgian striker out right. What happened next was a thing of all my boyhood dreams and all of Nacho Monreal’s nightmares.

Unfortunately for us, a repeat performance by Lukaku is a very rare possibility. He is still recovering from a deep World Cup run and a summer spent in transfer limbo. Even though he played the full match last Saturday in the opener vs. Leicester City, he was at full speed for about 30 seconds of those 90 minutes.

However I’ll gladly blame the World Cup for Lukaku if it also costs Arsenal the chance to start a fit Mesut Özil. The German’s vision and passing prowess is tailor made to gash our aging backline of Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka. The collective feeling amongst Evertonians last week, after watching the Leicester City attack have their way with our back four, was one of impending doom at the hands of Ozil and Arsenal. 

Apparently, former Toffeeman Mikel Arteta will not face his former club this weekend due to a knock picked up during Champions League play (did Arsenal qualify for the Champions League? I have a selective memory).I’m not sure how widely it’s known outside of Everton but Mikel Arteta might be our most hated former player. The most recent run-in resulted from Arteta’s kissing, or from our perspective, full-on making-out with the Arsenal badge after converting the penalty in the FA cup quarterfinal against us. That seemed to rub some Everton supporters the wrong way. In the fixture at Goodison last season, with the game in the waning moments, he let a loose elbow fly at Ross Barkley before exchanging some heated fighting words with Leighton Baines. It looked, for all intents and purposes, like the birth of a heated rivalry between 4th place competitors for years to come. And finally, when Arteta came to Goodison and scored a (own) goal in the 3-0 defeat, it was class of him to leave the badge alone.

 Of course, last campaign, your team was ravaged by injuries and, with a healthy squad this year, are much closer to winning the title than Everton are to just finishing 4th. However, I do hope that Everton and Arsenal start to develop a modern 4th place rivalry. At least for the fact that if one of us finish 4th and the other finish 5th for a few years, it will mean a lot less European competition for the most boring team on planet Earth, Tottenham Hotspur. I’ll be live tweeting the game this Saturday from the account @PlanetGoodison, give it a follow and harass me every time Arsenal score and I’ll reply by telling you how stupid I think Giroud’s haircut is. 

 Final prediction? Everton 1-1 Arsenal. 

Well-played, Goodison. Toffees, give him a follow at @planetGoodison and remember to check out Planet Goodison itself. 

21 August 2014

After all of that spending, just where does Arsenal stand?

After a thrilling July saw us sign four players, it was starting to feel like we were finally serious about flexing some financial muscle. The first of the announced signings, Alexis Sánchez, seemed to be a dramatic statement of intent, the beginning of bigger things to come. Those bigger things may yet come, but the close of the transfer-window is less than ten days away. It's starting to feel like we could go out that window with a whimper rather than a bang. Early-summer optimism is fading to early-autumn cynicism, much like flowers spring forth only to something something something. Finish the simile as you see fit. It's getting harder and harder to allow Arsène the benefit of the doubt, even given his deadline-day proclivities.To this point, can we even claim that we've strengthened the squad?

Podolski, we hardly knew ye. Campbell, you're up.

We have a few days between the Beşiktaş-boredom and the Everton-excitement, and so my thoughts turn a bit towards those whom we haven't seen much of lately. Ostensibly, Lukas Podolski—along with Per and Mesut—is still recuperating from his World Cup exertions. However, unlike those compatriots, Podolski rarely got a chance to exert himself, playing a grand total of 54 minutes in Brazil, 46 of them in a meaningless match against the U.S. after Germany had already advanced beyond the group-stage. He's now two appearance-less matches into the 2014-15 campaign, and it seems as if he might be on his way out of Arsenal. I'm sorry to sound harsh, but Poldi, for all of his hijinks, has never quite cut the mustard.

20 August 2014

Can we beat Beşiktaş? Will this draw goad Arsène into action?

Phew. We escaped with a draw from a match we arguably deserved to lose, and we'll be licking wounds as we limp back home with a tough trip to Goodison Park looming on Saturday, while now having to look past that to a second leg even more fraught with uncertainty than it should have been. The away-goals rule now tilts in Beşiktaş's favor, and we should be counting our blessings that we've come away in such blessed shape. The run of play went largely Beşiktaş's way, and they had the lion's share of best-chances. Whereas many clubs would be thrilled to emerge with a draw against Arsenal, Beşiktaş strikes me as being made of sterner stuff.

19 August 2014

Beşiktaş 0-0 Arse: watch the, um, "highlights" video

Fair warning. What you're about to see contains a cacophony of near-misses, spurned chances, silly non-calls, and ludicrous red cards. Some content may be unsuitable for minors.  If you have a history of heart-disease, you may be at greater risk for heart attack. Watch at your own risk.

Apologies for the pre-show adverts.

18 August 2014

Well, that settles it. Fàbregas has won the Prem for Chelsea.

I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but what else can I do after a day like Monday's? We learn that Gibbs will be out a few weeks, Mertesacker did not travel to Turkey to face Beşiktaş, Sanogo has suffered a hamstring-injury, and Wilshere has a runny nose (brought on, perhaps, by smoking a few cigarettes or by having thighs whose circumference exceed that of his torso). On top of all that, we have to endure the indignity of seeing Cesc Fàbregas, prodigal son turned pariah, deliver not one but two assists in Chelsea's 3-1 thrashing of Burnley. What conclusion are we to draw other than we were miserable, miserly miscreants in turning up our noses at bringing him home?

£8m for Kostas Manolas? That would work...

Now, it's just twitter, and it's a Greek tweet to boot, which means we should take it with a hefty grain of salt, but news from +SPORT24 suggests that we have "found an agreement" with Olympiacos's centre-back Kostas Manolas. I can't tell you much about Sport24 other than that they have 36,000 followers and are a sports/entertainment website. We've already seen the reports suggesting that Manolas has undergone a medical with Arsenal, and the current rumour has us agreeing to an 8m/11m transfer-feebut as the old saw says, I'll believe it when I see it at Arsenal.com. With Kos nursing a sore Achilles (but training ahead of the Turkey trip) and Per still resting after the World Cup (and "on standby", available in an emergency), our need for an experienced centre-back feels all the more acute

Bashing Beşiktaş: what? Selection woes already? No, not the good kind, either...

One match in, and I've come to two startling realizations: one, we don't have anyone whose name is appropriately alliterative for facing Beşiktaş. We have Chambers, Campbell, Debuchy, Gibbs, and Diaby, among others, but none of them offer the strong "B" needed. This worries me when it comes to Burnley. Two, more importantly, we don't seem to have enough defenders going into Tuesday's clash to worry about such frivolities. Our trip to Turkey on Tuesday feels a bit fraught with uncertainty, unless one or both members of the Per-Kos partnership can be made available. Per is, of course, recuperating from his World Cup exertions. Kos, on the other hand, seems to be nursing an actual injury. We'll learn more about what this all means when Arsène meets the press on Monday...

17 August 2014

Arse 2-1 Palace: exactly the Solomonic result we needed.

Well, that was tetchier than it had to be. Once Crystal Palace went ahead on the 35th minute, I was starting to regret how much I had celebrated Man U's own loss at home. Karma, it seemed, was going to ensure that I keep the schadenfreude to a minimum, courtesy of a nifty header from Brede Hangeland, at least until all results were in. Thankfully, it was through an even-niftier header from Koscielny and some opportunistic poaching from Ramsey—each of them in stoppage-time—that we come away with a near-perfect blend of result and reminder.