Second Thoughts

Great post by Neal, exploding some of the easy myths around Arsenal.  And great comments everyone.  I think you've hit on some interesting points.  Let me add my $0.02:

Mia Hamm
First of all, if you don't know... now you know.

He's unique amongst the Arsenal midfield that he's comfortable as a ball-winner.  No, he hasn't had a good season but when he's on song (sorry) he's indispensable to them.  The list of players that Wenger needed to buy has always "goalkeeper, center back, and holding middie."  You're probably right that they have 2/3 covered but they're still missing that final piece.  I've seen reporting that maybe Eboue should have started instead of Rosicky.  That's an interesting notion.  I would love to see if Eboue could play in the middle of the park rather than just on the wing.  However, I don't know if a Champions League knock-out second leg tie against Barcelona is the time to experiment with something like that.

As a thought experiment, what if it were Arsenal who could have brought Mascherano into their side the other night.  Would it have made a difference?  Maybe it wouldn't have changed the outcome, but I think Arsenal would have been a much tougher proposition.

And speaking of toughness...

Another point being brought up in the comments was Arsenal's lack of leadership.  Neal called it "killer instinct".  To paraphrase the comments, they're all silver and no steel.  Cesc is undoubtedly a great player, but is he a great leader?  I'm not sure he has that "it" factor that can lift the others around him.  Besides, he's had half a foot out of Arsenal, and into Barcelona, for years now.  Is that whom you want captaining your side?

But what are their options?  Their defence can't organize themselves, much less spur (sorry) on the rest of the side.  Arshavin is introverted and a bit weird.  Maybe it's Nasri?  He showed himself well against Barcelona doing defence work and working well with the ball when he had it.  Wilshere?  He's probably still too young, but the promise and potential is there.  Van Persie?  He's the heart of what Arsenal do well.  But he is still petulant (though thinking of Roy Keane, is anger such a bad quality?) and too prone to go missing for long stretches of the season.

I don't have a good answer here, but I think it's an interesting question.

Congratulations to Spurs for edging past AC Milan and into the Champions League Quarterfinals.  But now it gets difficult.  Their run-in sees them play Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea and their other six matches are against sides in the thick of a relegation fight.  Throw in two, or if they're lucky/good four, Champions League matches and they'll be playing a lot of difficult matches one after the other after the other.

It kicks off for them hosting West Ham, which should see goals from both sides, then at Wigan and home to Stoke.  I know a lot of fantasy managers have picked up Defoe on the back of his brace last week, and that was probably the right move.  However, if Van Der Vaart and Crouch are available, aren't they 'arry's first choice pair?  That's something that would make me nervous were I to have Defoe in my team.  With the amount of matches to play - and VDV's fragility - there will be rotation.

Around the League
Some other notes:
  • Nani's injury is being called a month out now, after initially three weeks.  ManU only have one league match left in March anyway, against Bolton.  But more and more one wonders if he's going to miss the April matches against West Ham and  Fulham.  With VDV and RVP back, and priced at 15 and 18 respectively, I don't think I'm going to hold on to Nani regardless.
  • Everton have now lost a third midfield starter with Arteta tearing his hamsrting.  With Cahill and Fellaini already sidelined, they'll have to rely on the likes of Osman (my best pick last gameweek!), Baines and Rodwell to keep them in mid-table safety.  It would sure help them if any of their strikers could step up and play a part in the remaining months.   On yesterday's evidence it would be Beckford as the most likely.  Saha was about as useful as the proverbial bag of wet mice.
  • Speaking of wet mice, ladies and gentlemen I give you Birmingham City's strikers.  Lucky for them that Beausejour got a goal in each of last week's matches because otherwise their attack was worse than pitiful... which is I guess par for the course with them.  Maybe Zigic's return will help them against Wigan, but I would be against it.


  1. I'll add my congratulations to Spurs as well - they did what they had to do to win and good on them for making it happen against a good-if-not-great opponent but certainly one that can get in your head as a "giant" based on their historical reputation.

    I can see the wisdom in a lot of the comments related to Arsenal both here in Jeremy's post and in the comments section. If Wenger ever bought Premier League players, you'd think a Scott Parker-like player would be a great addition to the mix.

  2. Anonymous1:45 PM

    I can't see any justification to Rosicky starting the CL match. He didn't play in the middle - Wilshere, Fabregas and Diaby did, while Rosicky and Nasri played the wide roles. Choosing the right-flank winger, there's no reason Rosicky should be preferred over Arshavin, Bendtner or even Chamakh, based on recent form. He was nothing short than awful - he kept each and every ball he got for less than a second, and in the few cases in which Arsenal took the ball to Barcelona's half, it was through Nasri on the left. Terrible decision by Wenger, almost as bad as his decision to use and ultra-defensive approach while not having good defence...


  3. Anonymous4:27 PM

    Apropos to the Arsenal problem - they have to grow up. They are not without some justification in complaining about the decisions of the officials in the Newcastle, Sunderland and Barcelona games but they have to turn their rage inward and use it positively. That's the manager's job. The way it stands they are letting it destroy them. Paranoid behaviour feeds on itself - it becomes exculpatory rather than motivational.

    One aspect of the Barcelona game I found particularly interesting was the ref's handling of the 'handbag' routines. In a sport where you can be red-carded for violent conduct for merely raising a hand, without contact, Abidal and Alves grab Van Persie and Nasri by their throats for free. (Yes, I know VP got away with a face plant.) But the same ref carded VP for time wasting when there was absolutely no prior indication that there was any such intent. The two decisions do compute.

    Then you had the spectacle of a 'world class' referee, with form for flipping the bird to the fans, choosing to stand toe to toe with a manager, both of whom, according to witnesses, resorted to the infamous 'f' word, but only the manager gets charged.

    Perhaps Mr. Wenger, and all fantasy managers, should spend a little more time studying the proclivities of the referees. They seem to be having a disproportionate influence on the outcome of matches. i.e. Mr. A. Taylor has handed out 10 red cards in 27 Premier League Games; Mr. M.R. Halsey 1 red card in 26 games.
    All things being equal, would you pick a player from a game that Mr. Taylor was going to officiate? Something else for Neal to consider in his weekly picks?

    Cheers, all.

  4. Kellz6:28 PM

    While I agree the sending off was dubious at best, RvP did show a flash of petulance by getting the first YC and the Ref was clearly in the right according to the letter of the law to show RvP the 2nd yellow for what IS a bookable offense. But in a game like that, in that immense of a stage, you have to say give the player the benefit of the doubt. Had Arsenal finished with 11 men it would have taken out all excuses for which team progressed and Arsenal would have had a better chance to accomplish that (albiet an only slightly better chance). But the bottom line is the better team advanced, Barca outplayed Arsenal for longer stretches over both matches.

  5. A massive earthquake, followed by a tsunami, has hit Japan!!! Let's spare a thought for those affected. The goings-on around the world make football-related worries pale into insignificance...