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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Close but no cigar for fighting Gunners

Last night Arsenal took on the Spanish champions and widely renowned best club team in Europe in the European Champions League Cup final and after a titanic effort fell to a late defeat. Disappointment is a part of football - and yesterday it was the Gunners turn to suffer as the rain poured down in the Stade de France.

My congratulations go to Barcelona for victory. But my congratulations also go to my team for a fantastic effort in Paris last night. There is a lot of pride to take out of this defeat. To go down to ten men after twenty minutes and still yet take the lead and hold onto it against a rampaging team until 14 minutes left on the clock is a feat that shows what fantastic spirit and effort our team has. I can go across each player in the Arsenal side and know they gave it their absolute best to fight for the cause. And when I can do this, I am proud irrespective of the result.

Alex Hleb, Freddie (who played his best game of the season), Gilberto and young Francesc showed their fantastic character yesterday with tremendous performances on and off the ball. Henry took on Barca's defence in great style and if not for more deadly finishing should have had two goals (the one he failed to hit cleanly in the 70th min surely would have closed the match in our favour) - and he would have earned them. Eboue showed once again he is a Cafu in the making for Arsenal - his thrilling attacking surges really intimidated Barcelona and led to a freekick for Arsenal's goal through a towering Sol Campell header. Toure and Campbell did a good job trying to withstand the amazing number of probing Barca players converging into their area. And Ashley Cole put in some excellent last-ditch challenges to save the team. Finally, Manuel Almunia did very well to come on into the most prestigious match in Europe and make a few good saves - plus an exceptional one from Eto'o in first half injury time. I definitely don’t hold him at fault for either of the goals.

It's a big shame that Arsenal played the vast majority of this huge match with a man less after Jens Lehmann's sending off - but Jens only has himself to blame for rashly bringing down Eto'o. Yes, the ref could have played advantage, and therefore allow Arsenal to play on with eleven. But it is not mandatory that he should have done this. I feel especially sorry for Robert Pires - he looked really up for the match in the opening minutes and to see his dejected face as he walked off so early in the game was bad to see. Not being picked for the French world cup squad followed by an early departure from the biggest match of his life means that it has been an undeserved bad week for this massively underrated player.

Amid the natural massive disappointment of cup final defeat I think its only right to end with some context. In mid-February, Arsenal were severely rocking from their worst period of football perhaps ever seen in the Wenger era. We had just been sucker-punched out of the League and FA Cup, had an enormous number of defensive injuries, seemed unable to recover from the shock of losing Vieira, and in a very lame and low-in-confidence performance at Anfield had just accumulated our ninth Premiership defeat of the season. Many people thought we were down and out for this season - and certainly did not give us a chance of progressing in Europe.

Since then, Arsenal have fought back with tremendous spirit, character and playability. The next 18 matches (before last night) in both the Premiership and Champs League saw only two defeats and many fantastic victories: including great wins against Real Madrid, Juventus and Liverpool, and three in seven days scoring ten goals to clinch fourth spot and send-off Highbury in great fashion. All this with a team featuring many players just starting their careers, including a young defence that stayed strong against the best in Europe, and a player in Fabregas who underlined his massive potential combining fantastic playmaker ability with an outstanding big-match temperament.

In the last few months, this next-generation Arsenal has shown they can comeback against the odds to produce big results and superb team performances. Now, if Thierry stays or goes (and of course like every Gunner I really hope he stays to lead our young team), I would like to see Wenger bolster the squad this summer with two or three high quality players to ensure that this side continues to progress and not fall behind our Premiership rivals. We have just built one of the best stadiums in the world to play our football - now it is crucial that we build upon the immensely promising squad that took us to our first European Cup final.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah it was a decent performance but I felt the now standard post-match whinging and complaining left a really bad taste and undermined a valiant performance. Is it just me whos sick of watching Arsenal players and staff led by Wenger bitching and moaning ALL THE TIME. I have to say that the unprofessional poor sportsmanship on show after the final whistle is symptomatic of a team that have pioneered the lack of dignity and fairplay that have been getting so much press this year. Mourinho may be the most high profile culprit but Wenger has paved the way by promoting a consistently childish approach towards handling defeat/conceding goals/getting players booked. The fact is Lehmann was a just red card, Eboue should've been sent off for a second (justified) yellow card for diving and Barca could be equally upset with some of the decisions made. Take a page out of managers such as Stuart Pearce, Martin Jol or even Rafa Benitez and just be proffessional, show dignity and get on with the job! Its become so boring and pathetic to watch and listen to. It drags on through the tabloids for days creating unnecessary debate, news and encourages poor standards fo youngsters. Listening to 606 I got the impression a lot of Arsenal fans feel the same way (just like a lot of Chelsea fans do with regards to Mourinho and Drogba) and I think its time fans stood up for a return to fair play and dignity in the beautiful game. Arsenal were always up against it at 10 men but they only have themselves to blame. Rant over!!! Much respect to Toure tho, an absolute legend this season.

5/18/2006 2:44 pm

Anonymous lc said...

Just brillant! I can't add anymore.
You just hill heart. I am not hungry anymore.

5/18/2006 3:20 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says....A very accurate article 'T', and well deserved praise for the team. I remember saying in March that I thought something great was on the horizon (whilst most others had written us off), but I never expected to be so close to a justifyable big win. Sadly I think we are about to see an exodos from AFC, inc Bergkamp,Pires,Lauren,Freddy & possibly Cole / Henry & unlike many others who forcast doom if this happens,I dont. In my way of thinking, we have a fantastic group of young players who have already proved themselves against the so called best. I refer to, Eboue, Toure, Senderos, Flamini, Clichy, Cole ? Van Percie, Fabrigas, and possibly Walcott. Add to these we have, Djurou, Bentner (my favourite) Lupoli,& Gilbert. This is a wonderful group and as good at this stage as the Man U babes were, and I speak with the knowledge of seeing them both.

If you take this group and add 3 world class quality players, I would bet anyone that AFC will win back the title and get to the Champions final again.

All that was missing last night was an Henry finish two great chances. It didnt happen, and an offside goal + a terrible deflection of our goalies legs ( to a shot going well wide) gave them the cup.

Who then would improve our squad to the quality we deserve? Well, first, as I see it, Walcott will become another Pires ( a goalscoring wide midfielder, but with speed to burn any fullback). So we need a replacement for Bergkamp...yes almost impossible, but not quite...I would blow a lump sum on 'Tevez' Argentina. His balance is an exception, and he frightens defenders to death already. Next, the main difference between us and Barca last night, was Eto....we need another jet propelled goalscorer. Thats why we did not buy Berbatov...he is good but average speed. Funny enough, I will shock a few, but I think SWP could be converted to this type of player. Just remember henry when he arrived, he looked like an overlarge old winger until Arsene did his stuff. Lets assume this happens, we then need steel, in midfield, in the mould of Makelele.
Well, Senna would fit the bill for me, with the surprise signing of Joey Barton. It would also make sense to bring in someone like Yaya Toure, as alround cover.

Finally, about last nights ref, Yes he was very poor, but until we get a Brit on the UEFA board, officils will always show a bias towards the Germans & Spanish. I cannot think of one game against those two counties where UK teams had the rub of the green. A premeirship ref was on 'Talksport' radio (not a program I would normally listen to) but I heard him say " this referee got all the major decisions wrong, & unfortunately, yet again, it worked against Arsenal !! enough said.

5/18/2006 3:28 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Commiserations to the Gooners, T especially, for as the article states, it was close. Within 15mins+, Arsenal would repeat for the second year running an English club winning the top European domestic football trophy. English football has been quiet up to Man Utd in 1999, and since then in European football up until last year and to have two sides to win the European cup consecutively would have been fantastic for us and put good spirits hopefully to the gang in Portugal at the moment.

My opinion on the match. I agree Arsenal were the better with 11 men, especially in midfield where majority of the play was being controlled by Arsenal, no hurry, no sloppiness, simple pass to others in space. Cole and Ljungberg were working in great tandem and that gave Oleguer problems. Hleb and Eboue likewise, which led to Henry almost scoring in the opening minutes. But to say that would be an indication for the remainder of the match would be inaccurate. Barca may well have come better into the game later on, though it would have to be something very extra as Arsenal's five in the middle looked comfortable.

I consider Rijkaard had Ronaldinho in the centre to play the balls through for Giuly and Eto'o, but the Brazilian wasn't finding possession in abundance enough. But when he did, he punished Arsenal for backing off with the through ball that led to Lehmann's dismissal. Terje Hauge has said in hindsight he felt he should have waited longer, award the goal and book Lehmann. It's not clear whether he recognised Giuly at the time. Our own retired ref Jeff Winter came on Sky Sports News to say since the goal scoring opportunity was not denied, that is what should have happened. I understood it that if the player himself is denied the opportunity, then the dismissal occurs but Mr Winter is better acquainted than I, and I agree it should have happened with the booking. Who knows what would have happened after, Arsenal are quite renowned for hunting for their equaliser in such circumstances, Bercelona are renowned for conceding or increasing such a lead. Who knows. I too felt it for Pires in possibly his last Arsenal match, T summed up this point well.

Having been booked thereafter for a foot on Van Bronckhurst, and being immediately spoken to by Henry, Eboue dived to earn the freekick from which Campbell scored. Had that being noticed, it could have been nine Arsenal men. Indeed, who is to say Hauge didn't notice it but made nothing of it, deliberately? Good delivery, good goal, poor defending, 0-1 Arsenal with 10-men against Barca. Marquez came in on henry from behind and should have been booked, if spotted. Eto'o moved to his customary centre spot and Ronaldinho now wide, the Cameroon man almost equalised with a sweet turn on Campbnell, but for Almunia's right hand. And that was a sign of danger, I sensed it was not the end after last year's final. Arsenal made it to half time with the advantage.

And yet in the second half, Edmilson is strong but not agile enough to keep up with the Arsenal quintet and Rijkaard saw the defect, replacing during the break the Brazilian with Iniesta, more astute, quiet yet a worker and he made a difference. Arsenal had their moments through Ljungberg, Hleb, and especially Henry, and could have increased their lead. Henry was booked for a tackle on Van Bommel which seemd to show intent as well as contact on the ball, so I wondered if he was becoming worked up before then and that added to his frustration. Ronaldinho broke through twice but to no avail. Van Bommel came off for Larsson, who has the type of play that can inject life into one's game and he, along with Iniesta, made a difference, and I have to say they would have been my first choice instead of those they replaced.

But havign held for half an hour, Eto'o sensed Iniesta on the ball and saw the pass to Larsson, and Eboue was guilty of losing concentration, forgetting about Eto'o behind him, Larsson touched on and Eto'o was barely onside, yet still managed to squeeze his touch at the near post through a small gap. Then it seemed Arsenal were broken, as if having not converted chances and with the numerical disadvantage they hoped to last the last quarter on the single goal. And as such gaps appeared which Larsson then Belletti exploited.

But I agree with Anon (2.44PM) that Henry's words afterwards made a nonetheless determined defensive and spiritual performance secondary and left a bout of sour grapes. Decisions have gome for and against every team, and while he has a right to voice his opinion on what he felt were indecisions, he should have expressed them in the graceful way he is known for. Mr Hauge dismissed Asier Del Horno against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge and Mourinho's words almost made him a hate figure like Anders Frisk, and the same referee was being nationally blamed for perverting the outcome again, which could develop into negative repercussions. Arsene Wenger likewise. It wasn't so much the comments but the way they were expressed that made an unsavoury end to Arsenal's European aim.

I felt Arsenal gave a great performance in the second half particularly because it counted more then than in the first, as Barcelona had the respite to rethink and make changes that could have developed into making the extra man count more and major pressure on Arsenal's goal. The fact that Arsenal not only held off Barcelona for 30mins with 10-men, they almost doubled their lead in the progress but for missed chances. We have seen Henry finished such through balls in the league without a sweat, and it just seems it wasn't to be. I don't blame Mr Hauge, I think his overall game was OK, I think Arsenal couldn't punish when they could have, concentration went down on 75mins and it unfortunately came heavily against Arsenal. Ashley Cole said the defence switched off and paid for it, it sucks but it is done now.


5/18/2006 5:33 pm

Blogger Skippy said...

I thought Arsenal were really unlucky last night.

I think T's article is spot on about the game.

To add further, in a big match you need a bit of luck, and Arsenal had no luck last night. TH, usually so lethal, missed excellent opportunities.

Barcelona, to their credit kept on fighting until the end and eventually broke down the Arsenal resistance.

Congratulations Barcelona, unlucky Arsenal.

5/18/2006 6:21 pm

Blogger EL said...

As a Spurs fan who took a lot of ribbing (to put it politely) after the West Ham debacle I was about to give you my invaluable opinion on the game except that the first poster on here seems to have beat me to it. The only thing I'd add is that I feel the ref should have played on and allowed Barca's disallowed goal to stand, and then gone back to give Lehmann the red card.

Tough luck fellas, I have some idea of how you must've felt. Here's to a decent England run in the world cup and a great 2006/2007 season.

5/18/2006 11:08 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks for your comments everyone.

Anon, I both agree and disagree with your comments. It was out of character for Thierry to be so public about his low regard for a refereeing performance- and although I agree that he did not get necessary protection by the ref I don't believe it was right to taint the ref so blatantly. Mitigating factors are that this is quite uncharacteristic and was said as the adrenaline and disappointment was at its peak- so I'm prepared to excuse him on this one off occasion.

Also it would be fair to point out that Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, and Jens Lehmann all said that the ref is not to blame and that we must take the defeat on the chin.

As for Wenger disputing the first Barca goal… I admit it is quite typical for our great manager to say such a thing where he thinks his team has been wronged. But if he thinks or was told a goal was offside than he should be allowed to say it and express his disappointment. In the next sentence he congratulated Barca for their win so it would be wrong to imply that Wenger totally lacks sportsmanship. Further, aside from the amazing Pearce, I can't think of another current top manager who has not at one time pointed the finger at the ref after a match. This is not to excuse such behaviour- just to point out that Wenger is by no means on his own in this regard.

All Gunners will agree with your assessment of Kolo Toure!

GunnerPete, great to have your comments. Teves, SWP, Joey Barton, and Senna are the calibre of player I'd like to see join AFC. However, SWP will never come to Arsenal from Chelsea because they will not sell one of their assets to a big rival. Senna impressed me for Villarreal and would fit well into our style of game; Barton likewise could develop into a fine player under Wenger's coaching- although I have big doubts over his temperament and personality. I must reserve judgment on Teves because I have only seen glimpses of him… but given how you were the first to tell EFT about Eboue's potential, if you back him as a quality player than he is definitely one to watch. I'll make sure to follow his progress at the World Cup.

LC, not quite sure what point you were attempting to make- but I hope you feel hungry again soon!

Redsman (with characteristic great detailed match commentary) and Skippy- excellent and sporting comments as ever.

Good stuff EL. I guess its only fair that we share some of the misery that you suffered last week! ;) Definitely ditto your wishes for a good England world cup run and a great 2006/07 season.

5/19/2006 12:12 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Well...firstly congrats Barca...they did the job...albeit with a defender who had never scored in his Champions League appearences...and with some great goalkeeping by Valdes.

Had Henry and Freddie put the ball into the net and we had gone 2-0 up...I think we could have nicked it.

We are not that sour anons, but there must be some justification in saying that the ref himself admitted it was a tough call to send Lehmann off instead of giving Barca a goal. The defenders have come out and said they didnt protect Jens enough as previously mentioned, thus it's not all lambasting of Barca "women" diving...or the ref not protecting Henry...or the first offside goal (marginal in my opinion).

Eboue was definitely poor in some areas...and was out of sorts for much of the game where frustration had gotten the better of him I think. Henry did a great job to calm him down after his silly "tackle" on van Bronkhorst.
Maybe at the end of the day...we were luck to get the first goal due to his dive too...and had we won...that probably would have been the talking point!

At the end of the day...we played well, and it was not meant to be.

Updated news - Henry might come out and sign today, so it's been a tough season...tough to take a defeat in the final...but there might be a silver lining.

5/19/2006 7:59 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Yes, Henry had spoken within the aftermath of the final whistle and that is when emotions are or can possibly be high. No doubt. But the captain still could have taken a moment to be cool and not past comment, albeit it is extremely, extremely powerful for one to hold such feelings in or be conservative when expressing them at such a time. Others have done so.

Wenger's opinion is that the first goal was offside and he's entitled to it. It's either yes, no or not sure. I say it was on as it is too tight to say it gave an advantage, the advantage came from Eboue not sticking with Eto'o in the same manner that Cole excellently stuck with Giuly in the first half.


5/19/2006 8:27 am

Blogger T said...

To follow on from Nturtle there has just been a 2pm news conference called by Arsenal.

Hopefully it will deliver the news all Gunners have been hoping to hear for some time now...

5/19/2006 11:30 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

T, nturtle, does the signing of a contract until 2010 by a certain Frenchman feel like a European Cup win in itself??


5/19/2006 4:52 pm

Blogger T said...

It's great news indeed Redsman!

I agree with what Wenger has said today- for the present we wanted the European Cup, but for the future the most important thing was to keep Thierry Henry. It seems perverse, but I believe that to have won the cup but then lost Thierry would have been a worst option than what has actually happened this week.

How could you replace your record scorer, best player (who can still get better), focal point and captain who is developing into a very fine leader for our young team?

Losing Pat was hard for the team... but was something I could accept because I knew that Fabregas would be a great option and that Pat was maybe falling from his peak. On the other hand, I could find no positive whatsoever in the prospect of losing Thierry- IMO the shock of losing him would have been off the scale compared to losing Pat.

So now that's put to bed, its finally time as a Gunner to relax and simply look forward to the World Cup and the prospect of one or two excellent new players joining AFC during the summer break.

P.S. Do you remember me telling you that when Jamie Redknapp said he was going to go to Barca I became even more certain that Thierry would stay! He really does not have a clue when it comes to talking about the Gunners!!

5/19/2006 6:45 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Jamie Rednapp said that?....Ouch!


5/19/2006 7:30 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Does Redknapp have a clue about any team? I get the feeling, not because of the above, that he merely says things to be worthy of his appearance. Sometimes its as if he is just about making it up to get something out in time! If that was the case, anyone of us could appear on Sky Sports and discuss!


5/19/2006 7:43 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

well Barca won it, they are champions arsenal have henry now so thats good news for them but he was bad in what he said after the match I know it was in the heat but he should have waited. I thought he was going to cry then but no, He is Wenger's son, Soz peeps but I'm glad arsenal didnt win, I'm a spurs fan and have been taken the mickey out of since West ham from Gooner mates so at least henry is something for you.

5/19/2006 7:59 pm

Blogger T said...

LOL! Redsman, your impression of Redknapp could have been spoken by me... he is definitely a case of quantity (of speech) over quality!

And I must say that I think Merson is a terrible pundit... so to have him and Redknapp together on Sky's coverage for the final was a huge turn-off (and onto ITV where I could watch the excellent Venables). For me neither has shown credibility as quality analysts on football... and Sky should know better!

5/20/2006 12:22 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Thanks's a good feeling that Henry stays...I DO then allows Wenger to be relaxed and put Bendtner, Lupoli..VP, Walcott, Aliadiere on more (the last might be leaving though).

Anon...we've been over that comment before we're all moving on. Being ingracious in defeat probably just means that we have good belief now...and it is not often we come out with a bee in our bonnet...especially Henry. Wenger does have a kind of blindness...but he's entitled to say what he feels within reason. Remember...his first words were "congratulations to Barcelona"...

Well...did we lose the battle and win the war T?

5/21/2006 2:20 am

Blogger T said...

I would definitely say so Nturtle. To win the Euro Cup but then lose Henry would have been a case of taking a great step forward followed by a terrible three steps back.

IMO it would have been a hollow victory... because after such a great moment in the club's history the immediate prospect is that we would have been looking at going in a backwards direction that may have been a long time coming in reversing.

The youngsters you mention - especially Walcott - need Henry at the club because of his experience and leadership... just like Vieira needed Adams and Henry needed Bergkamp to develop into the players they have become. With Henry the prospect is further team development, demonstrates our ambition to other players that Wenger is interested in that should help in attracting them to the club, and means that we won't lose a crucial intimidation factor that other P'ship teams may have when they see that Henry is at the club.

I remember Curbishley saying on Sky last October that he and his players were delighted that they would no longer see Vieira in the AFC side- and that this would mean they would approach playing us with greater confidence. You could magnify this feeling across P'ship teams if Henry left- which would not have been good for us.

So yes, the battle was lost in brave style on Wednesday... but the fact that we were there plus had previously qualified for fourth place were big victories in themseleves... and both of which helped clinch the other significant prize up for grabs which was to keep Henry.

Overall - and especially when you look at where we were in mid-Feb - I definitely thinks this counts as the war being won.

5/21/2006 11:54 am

Blogger T said...

Y'day I read these comments on the final - and on Stevie G who has been supporting the Gunners progress in the CL this season - made by none other than Pele...

Pele on

the Champions League final

I was supporting Barça - we have five Brazilians there - but honestly, I think Arsenal should have had more luck. If you watch the game clearly Arsenal should have won

Thierry Henry

Henry was right in front of the goalkeeper when it was 1-0. If they scored a second then maybe that was the end. Henry had the chance to score and he didn't

Steven Gerrard

Two years ago I saw Gerrard play against Sao Paulo. I said then he is a great player. To me he is one of the best midfielders in the world. No one talked about him two or three years ago - but I did. I liked him very much

5/21/2006 12:00 pm

Anonymous Castanet said...

For some weeks now, I have deliberately chosen not to write any comments on this website. This had nothing to do with the quality of what I read or the contributors themselves. My reason was fraying nerves as we worked our way towards the Final of the Champions League. Wrecked by indecision, nervousness and just sheer trepidation, my thoughts of the Final during that run-up period were shockingly unstable. Even as I had vested confidence in a team I have supported for more than thirty years of my life, I was still trembling at the thought of facing Barcelona and the resulting score. Whether we'd won or lost the match, the thing I worried about most was losing Thierry Henry. And so now that we have greeted the good news with joy for Arsenal's future, here is my open letter to Thierry posted here:

Dear Thierry

Words cannot describe the man that you are. It wasn't so much your decision to stay at Arsenal to see out your career although that in itself is important for all of us to finally confirm. It's the values you place on who you are that are most impressive.
It is of course an understatement to say that your presence at Arsenal is important to the club's future and the youngsters who are now emerging so brilliantly. Consider this, Thierry - they all came together to show you that they can match you for passion, commitment and togetherness. Fans of Arsenal revere you; some for your devastating skills and style of play but I'd like to think that many are like me - we are always so taken aback by the size of your heart.
You say you owe so much to the fans and how they made it easy for you to decide to stay. I'd like to return that compliment by saying to you that you have brought a sense of humility amidst the wealth you have earned as a professional footballer and this is something that is becoming increasingly lacking amongst other professional footballers. You inspire so many of us about how unimportant money is when placed side by side other values as a person.
You show gratitude to our manager Arsene Wenger and how you remember so vividly that he turned you into the player you are. You never forgot the role that your father played in your life. You put your family first and listened to them because you love them so much. You thought about how the fans so love you and how you love them back. You remember that fans of opposition clubs give you standing ovations. You think about how football is played in England and how they're probably not outside the country. You think about how free you are to express yourself on the field and how you might lose that if you were to leave England.
Of the greatest players to grace the football arena in recent years, your heart is big and to me, that is even more important than the skills you doubtlessly show as a player. You may kick a thousand goals but they pale into insignificance when I think about the assists you created for your peers and how your presence is so talismanic for all of them. The fact that you care about Arsenal's youngsters and our development programs show the humble side of you that appeals so much to me and I'm sure many share my thoughts, feelings and opinion on this issue.
Thierry, thank you for being the person you are. You are an asset that we jealously guard in our hearts. You are truly the kind of person to wear an Arsenal shirt and I'd like to believe that you will inspire others in our team to be like you - a gifted footballer and a person with a big heart. Like Arsene, your commitment of your career at Arsenal will long live in the hearts and minds of those who see you not just for your dazzling skills but for who you stand for.
I salute you. Thank you for believing in Arsenal.

5/21/2006 5:18 pm

Blogger T said...

Hear hear, Castanet!

5/21/2006 6:09 pm

Anonymous Castanet said...

Thank you 'T' for agreeing with my letter. I hope to see more of you guys focus on four thing sthat are diminishing amongst professional footballers - HEART, LOYALTY, COMMITMENT and HUMAN VALUES. I know we should talk about football but for what it is, it's losing its shine because the less tangible values are being pushed aside in the name of money. Maybe I shouldn't say this but my heart urges me to say that Chelsea is significantly responsible for this awful emphasis on anything but the heart of a true professional footballer. I often read about what famous footballers of the past say about 'their times and era' compared to today and you know what...I agree emphatically so.
Like everything that is so tainted with commercialism around us, the true and powerfully evocative emotions that charge a game to great heights is not found in money but that seems precisely what others might want to force on us. Thierry Henry's decision to keep chugging on with Arsenal is perhaps the only glimmer of hope like a candle in the wind. Just look around you and tell me if the last ten substantial signings made by huge teams are not financially motivated. If you can, I'll sell my house and live in an igloo.
To me what Thierry had done by his pronouncement is not a matter of more and more goals to come - although that is certainly very likely - but to me, it's about a man who stands taller than his reputation allows him to and that is because he is a giant amongst all his professional peers by virtue of the values he upholds. Little wonder that he is also the leading statement and burning beacon in the fight against Racism in Football.
How about it guys...let me see your warming hearts to an issue about true professional footballers. Let's place more emphasis on people with values to bring back the lost humility. Our voice ought to be heard more and if we can do even the tiniest of parts in contributing to a change of attitude in our professional footballers, I'd like to think we've done our part.
I cannot say enough how much Thierry's decision really means to me. I'm a fighter probably for a lost cause but I hope to find amongst you, one or more who agree with me and who is willing to make our statements reverberate through the footballing industry.

5/21/2006 8:54 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Thanks for that bit of inspiration Castanet! Well said!

I think Thierry can also grow a bit more into the Captain's role...his going over and talking to Eboue was a good start...and certainly it is in line with other aspects of the Wenger publicly lambasting Eboue over his "simulation" (a.k.a DIVE) was not on and had we won...we'd have heard no end of it from neutrals and Barca fans alike.

Teach the padawan-youngsters well Yoda-Henry!

5/22/2006 10:16 am

Anonymous Castanet said...

Wow nturtle, that bit on star wars is really powerful stuff. why not thierry "obiwan" henry. oh!....forgot.....arsene IS obiwan....
....and i guess walcott might be young luke....gotta learn about the 'force' from yoda-henry...


5/22/2006 4:02 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

LOL Castanet! Well...I though Wenger might just be are correct! just seems like ROSICKY is going to be a Gunner! Fantastic! Try these links...he's got a bit of class...and if he and Henry can strike up a similar partnership a la Bergkamp...well...who knows!?! New No.10 anyone? icky icky

5/23/2006 3:04 am

Blogger sid said...

Erm i think Rocisky is more of a central midfielder....he is good in dead ball situations...i dont think he would be a replacement for bergkamp..but would definetly bring more creative enery...Van Persie is more of a replacement for Bergkamp because he plays in the "hole" role just behind the striker...I dont think Arsenal will change the Gilberto-Fabregas partnership in the center of midfield so it will be intresting to see what formation they use...erm probably Henry will play as a loan striker....

5/23/2006 5:48 pm

Anonymous Castanet said...

Nturtle, I have to confess I know very little of him. If anyone - including yourself - knows about him in greater detail, do share.
You know I have that strange tingly feeling sneaking up on me, tell me that next season will be BIG for Arsenal. I'm not sure about the how's, what's, who's etc but something could be brewing up in celebration of the fact that Thierry Henry has resigned. It's like he's breathed a gust of fresh air into the whole team and management.
Let's see now...Rosicky is in but who else could be coming? Say nturtel, if you were given a warchest of 25 million pounds and you've already used up 8 on Rosicky, (a) how and who would you spend the rest on, (b) who would then replace from the present team, (c) who would you allow to be sold or to leave, and (d) why did you choose to 'buy' the players you decide to?

5/23/2006 6:12 pm

Blogger T said...

I am immensely pleased that Rosicky has joined Arsenal! Thanks Nturtle for the video links- you should watch them Castanet to get an idea of just what a skilful playmaker this guy is. You will also notice that he scores two goals plus an assist against Arsenal in these clips!

There are two reasons why I'm so happy with this signing. First, he is in the 'total football' mould that is perfect for the Gunners. When the ball is at his feet he is a bit like Riquelme or Bergkamp in that he is in such total control that he makes the game look easy. Add sublime use of the ball, excellent dribbling ability, emphasis on being a team player, and someone - at 25 years old - coming into his prime and we really have a great player joining the team.

The second is my younger brother (also a Gunner!) has been raving about Rosicky for years to the extext that he bought him in his Euro 2004 fantasy football team... so its great for him that Arsenal have bought a favourite player of his. Me and my brother watched him playing for the Czech Republic (who were the best team in Portugal, plus play a very similar type of quick attacking and passing game as Arsenal) very closely in this tournament- and he really is a pure footballer and exellent playmaker.

Great analysis Sid on where Rosicky may play. For the Czech's he played in central midfield- but such is his attacking creativity he consistently found himself around the penalty box. I also think he has played a Bergkamp role for Dortmund supporting Jan Koller- so it may be that he will play in this role for Arsenal if Wenger goes for Henry as a 'lone striker' option. Another option is that such is his dribbling skills - which are on a par with Pires and Hleb - he may be used by Wenger on the wings. That being said, he has always played centrally when I have seen him play.

Personally, I hope he has been earmarked to take over the Bergkamp role, because one of my concerns this season is that we had no straight alternative to the Dutch legend (Sid, I see RVP differently to you... when we first bought him I was told to expect the new Bergkamp but on watching him closely he is not a creative deep-lying forward but actually a raw penalty box fnisher).

All in all, it's a great 'high quality' signing and simply reaffirms that Wenger has a great eye for a pure footballer!

P.S. Coming home today the back of the Evening Standard had as its headline 'Owen to Arsenal'...

5/23/2006 9:23 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know Rosicky has played on the left in the past, though I haven't seen him play there personally. I think he'll end up being Bobby's replacement more than as a striker in the Premiership.

5/24/2006 12:10 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

LOL T!!! Owen to Arsenal..well...who know?!?! I thin VP is a bit like Owen...but perhaps doesn't get into the box that much...having said that...we have our own "Owen" in the form of Lupoli! Bendtner seems to have also done well in International Under-21s...scoring 2 goals on the day we went down in the Champions League. We shall see!

Sid - Mmm...I agree Rosicky might not naturally be Bergkampesque...and perhaps nobody ever will be. I just think it's in interesting option. The other line of thought is to replace Pires with Rosicky...and that's been bandied around a it might be another Hleb...on the left! What I think is that we have bought experience for a bargain...and that includes a penalty EXPERT! LOL! Confidence will be boosted for sure!

RE: Castanet's question...uh...I think you give me too much credit...I'm not really that much of an expert! My BROTHER is a real Arsenal fan incidentally...I'm just tagging along for the ride...and kind of cuaght the passion! Having said that...25M...I've seen people talk about Ribery (the French mid-fielder who has been included in the senior World Cup squad for the first time I think) who's a good mid-fielder...but I'd prefer some able backup for Gilberto. Not sure who we can get...the Diarra's and Zakora's and Yaya Toure are either pricey or don't want to join. Maybe an alternative is to have a more well rounded mid-fielder...and I feel Diaby did ok, defense less so, but attacking as good as the Vieira of old. Fabregas defends ok...but has a lack of pace really. Maybe Rosicky is already the the clips previously posted really show he gets stuck in! My other option to a proper left backup or replace Reyes...the kid needs to work harder for his place...and when he has been put in as striker...he's done better. A good crosser of the ball on the wings is what we are still lacking...but then again...we've got Walcott! HAH! But...we ARE talking about thoughts? I can't think of anybody off the top of my head.

Now the last part of any remaining dough...well...maybe somebody to prep up the central defense to replace Campbell or backup Senderos. If that can't be done...I'm all for splashing out on Torres as a striker! Attack is the best form of defense!!!

Ah well...Obiwan-Wenger obviously has something up his sleeve...

5/24/2006 3:21 am

Anonymous Nturtle said... the way...Oubina...from Celta Vigo might fit the bill as a defensive Mid-fielder...this little tibit...from Clubcall!

"Arsenal and Liverpool have been invited to follow up their interest in Celta Vigo midfielder Borja Oubina by the Spanish club's new president. The 24-year-old has developed a fine reputation as a versatile midfielder, capable of screening the defence or supporting the attack. New Celta president Carlos Mourino has admitted that if one of Europe's big clubs makes an offer for the player, he will not stand in his way:

"There's been a lot of talk about Oubina. The player has all the confidence of Celta, is a great player, has all our respect and is a phenomenal youngster. We will never cut the career of a player and more so if he is from the juniors. It is not a money question, but to reach an agreement. He will have a position at Celta if he does not want to go to another team, but if there is interest, then it is the most logical thing that Oubina can leave Celta.""

Very interesting...don't know much about him at all.

5/24/2006 3:31 am

Anonymous Castanet said...

The sad thing is that regardless of whether I go to icky or icky, I just can't seem to get hold of the video clip although 'pac man - the movie' was amusing :)
Do you think Rosicky might be Wenger's way of preparing for Pires' departure?


5/24/2006 8:59 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Castanet....try this...


That should get you the videos.

As for Pires...well..I think he's off...with no disrespect...but I think we have better players now to fill his spot.


5/24/2006 2:13 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says....I have just returned from Budapest, and I was starving for sports news. Then during a visit to a local bar/cafe, I heard Rosicky's name & AFC. A local who spoke English told me that he is regarded a the best player in his country. He also said that the natural position for him is where Pires played, and that there was a good chance he would help replace Freddy too. This, together with the purchase of Walcott, suddenly made a lot of Wenger sence to me ie; replacimg old class with the new, to enable our pace to continue. I still yearn for a natural pacy goal scorer in the Eto mould, but who knows? As for a Bergy replacement, I can only promote Teves, but he may be too costly for us. I would also give Bentner a trial in Bergy's role because he has 'the' touch. We will see.

5/29/2006 10:51 am

Blogger T said...

GunnerPete, thanks for the insight about Rosicky. With Pires' departure last week it does seem like he is the natural replacement to play on the left-side... and what a great replacement he has the potential to be! Just like in Euro 2004 I will be keeping a close eye on his game during the World Cup..

I agree with hoping to see a bit more of Bentdner next season- I have only seem him play once (against Doncaster in the League cup) and was really impressed with his attributes... plus his size means that he has a physical presence that can match Bergkamp's.

Also, I was watching Eurosport at the weekend and saw Van Persie look really sharp against Cameroon. He played on the right hand side of a front three (similar to the way Barca line-up)and created two great chances for RVN with his weaker right foot.

I read that Van Basten was raving about him saying he can't believe how much he has improved under the coaching of Wenger and by learning from Bergkamp and Henry... and I expect to see him make the first eleven for the Dutch come the World Cup.

Van Persie seemed to fade from Arsene Wenger's thinking in the last few months of the season... but watching this performance reminded me of his awesome potential... so I hope Wenger works out a way to get him more match time for Arsenal next season. If Wenger can maximise the talent of RVP we can save the money needed for a Torres or a Teves.

5/29/2006 12:31 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Thanks Gunnerpete and T.

I still think VP is a winner...and can see him making a big impact at the world cup. A lot of assists for Van Nisterooy...but couldn't cash in.

Bendtner has also supposedly done really well for the Danes in the under-21 championship. Too bad they were knocked out....but...he's only he's got some time to come!

I suspect Wenger will also look for a real winger..with Marseille's Ribery in the well as a defensive mid-fielder...of course that being bandied around as Senna of Villareal.

Let's see what happens! I suspect things will move AFTER the world cup!

5/30/2006 3:01 pm


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