More Answers Than Questions After Anfield Debacle

Well Liverpool were after some sort of revenge after 3 drubbings from Arsenal already this season with a 3-0 win at the Emirates, and the two cup wins in the FA and Carling Cups. Unfortunately we obliged and Liverpool beat us convincingly 4-1.

To be fair, Adebayor hit the post twice when it was 3-1 and on another day it could have been 3-3 at that stage. Totally undeserved of course but I wouldn’t have complained about it! But as the clock ticked down man of the moment Peter Crouch sealed the game and scored a hattrick.

How embarassing.

Arsenal were just not at the races and you can’t face a team like Liverpool and put in a performance like that. The only players who had a decent game were Gallas, Lehmann and Adebayor – the others were just not interested.

But without Henry, Van Persie, Gilberto (and Freddie & Rosicky starting on the bench) than your always looking at an uphill struggle.

During the game I questioned whether this Arsenal team has enough winners but I suppose it’s hard to motivate yourself when there’s nothing to play for. But then again there’s enough reasons to be motivated, including playing for the fans and the fat wage packet.

And after the match there were more answers than questions.

The fact is that Julio Baptista is not good enough. With Arsenal trailing 1-0 he had a fantastic chance to equalise but got his shot closer to the corner flag than the goal. When you see his form in the Carling Cup and in the Premiership it’s like seeing two completely different players – or maybe it’s because the Carling Cup is an easier competition.

We also know that Cesc is completely burnt out. He had the ball in good positions today but only succeeded in losing the ball and looking sloppy all afternoon. Give the boy a rest!

And with Arsene looking to start Diaby for the remaining fixtures this season it looks like he has a lack of faith in his low-scoring wide men. Arsenal have missed goalscoring midfielders such as Overmars, Pires and Freddie in his prime and playing Diaby there instead of Hleb, Rosicky and Freddie shows that Wenger’s not happy.

William Gallas is a warrior in defence and thank god we’ve got him next season. Toure can at times look lost and Gallas should hopefully help our inexperienced defence.

And finally, the drubbing at Anfield has shown us what we already knew – you can’t have injuries to several key men and still fight for honours.

Let’s hope we show more fight in our next match!

Everybody Should Lay Off Steve McClaren!

Okay, maybe the lack of Arsenal matches over the last couple of weeks has made me slightly insane but after beating Andorra there are a few things that are obvious.

We all know McClaren is more of a PR man than an actual manager. Don’t get me wrong, while he probably isn’t the best coach out their he is a capable number two which was most evident when he help Alex Ferguson and Manchester United win the treble in 1999. And while I don’t think McClaren is good enough to be England manager it’s not his fault the FA are completely useless and can’t find a decent manager.

It’s obvious he only cares about being liked by the public and the players – hence all the PR rubbish over the last few weeks and the insistence on playing players on reputation instead of form. Rooney and Lampard in particular should have been dropped several games ago.

But despite McClaren’s inept ability to manage England it’s obvious the problems lie with the players on the pitch representing our country.

English players are average.

And when you put them all together then all you have is an average team.

Technically the Italians, Brazilians, Germans and French are on another level. And the main reason is because these countries have talent playing all over the world in different leagues – we don’t.

With the exception of Owen Hargreaves (who is apparently ‘English’) and the exiled David Beckham, England have no talent overseas.

How can you have a completely rounded team (and squad) that all ply their trade in the same league?

It’s not the foreigners in the Premiership that is the problem, it’s the lack of ambition (or is it fear?) to play in another country.

For Brazil, you have Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Gilberto, Emerson – and most of the squad in fact – that play abroad. The French also have Henry, Makalele, Vieira, Zidane (now retired), Anelka, Thuram and others also play in overseas leagues.

The media over-hype these players beyond belief – whether it’s to promote the latest football boot or god forbid, a new book – and the problem is we all believe now that England are world beaters.

But the only time our country looked like winning anything was way back in 1996 under Terry Venables.

Now I’m not a fan of Sven, but he did win things with Roma, Benfica, Sampdoria and Lazio, as well as a European Cup final against AC Milan with Benfica.

So if a manager with that success can’t do things with England, then how is a man who has only won the Carling Cup going to do better?

Or maybe the bigger question is can any manager actually lead this England team to any success?

England Are Completely Pathetic!

So a toothless, lacklustre and boring England disappoint once again – this time drawing against Israel.

There are so many problems with the whole England setup at the moment it’s just pathetic.

Firstly the manager. The fact is Steve McClaren is completely average manager – and I cannot emphasise that enough. He is more of a PR man than a football manager and his only real achievement to date was being Alex Ferguson’s right hand man when Manchester United won the treble in 1999. And wasn’t he England’s 7th choice anyway?

Then onto the players who actually wear the shirt and represent us on the pitch. Because we now have one of the best leagues in the world, we have a situation in this country where we totally overhype our own players beyond belief. The problem is because the game is so big the players actually believe their own hype and think they are world class. But even on a technical level, were are a million miles away from the Brazilians, Italians, French and even the Germans of this world.

And this is made even more depressing when you compare our ‘progress’ – and I use that term lightly – against the neighbouring nations in the qualifiers.

Scotland currently still on top of Group B with 12 points, in a group that includes France, Ukraine and Italy.

In Group D, The Republic of Ireland are currently in 3rd position with 10 points – the same total as the Czech Republic. Only Germany are above them with 13 points.

And onto Northern Ireland. After trouncing Leichtenstein 4-1 last night they sit in 2nd place with 10 points, only 2 behind the leaders Sweden. And that’s in a group also contains Denmark and Spain!

It beggars belief how we are stuggling in such an easy group.

Now I’m sure there will be numerous excuses including fixture congestion in England, and injuries to key players like Michael Owen. But if we can’t find 11 decent players to field and beat Israel then something is wrong.

And surely other national teams have their own problems as well. We need to stop looking for excuses all the time!

God, why the hell do I waste time watching International football?

What Does The Future Hold For Arsene & Arsenal?

Wenger admitted like most Arsenal fans that he felt ‘lost’ after our exit from the Champions League and consequently left Arsenal out of all the cup competitions and all but out of the Premiership race.

And like most Arsenal fans you start to question the future of the club – we have become a top 2 team to a top 4 team in the matter of a couple of seasons.

Last season could have been so much different for Arsenal. Wenger has been long considered a great manager, and a person who changed the face of English football with improved eating habits and new training methods – as well as introducing some of the most attractive football ever seen in the league.

But unlike Mourinho, Benitez and Alex Ferguson – Arsene Wenger has never won the Champions League, the one competition he wants the most. And last season it looked like all his hard work had paid off when Arsenal reached the final of the Champions League – and a 1-0 lead got him even closer to his dream. But poor refereeing and even worse luck took away the trophy and all the accolades Arsene would have received and deservedly so, but it just wasn’t to be…

A Champions League success last season would have put all the ‘transistion season’ talk in the background and our poor league form with it. But along with this season, our last campaign will be regarded as a failure.

A lot of people have called for Wenger’s head which, well – I’m undecided about it all to be honest.

There is no doubt Wenger has pulled Arsenal from mediocrity into one of the biggest teams in England, but is he the man to push on and continue that success?

I guess the biggest question at the moment is whether this is the end of Arsenal pushing for honours? Will we look back at the last couple of seasons in the future and think that this was the moment we slipped back into mediocrity?

Dear god I hope not.

The problem is the face of football is changing, and not just in England. Wenger’s idyllic vision for beautiful football with success brought some of the greatest football I have ever seen but because football is all about business and the money more than ever these days it seems clubs will pay any price for success on the pitch.

And I hate to say it but with our style of football if Arsenal were playing in the Spanish League we would be competing for the title.

We all wonder where the club will be once Wenger has left Arsenal – can anyone else do what he has done for our football club?

And has Arsene had enough?

Next season will be his biggest test since he’s arrived at Arsenal. When he first arrived there was the dominant force of Manchester United who monopolised the Premiership but Arsene managed to win the double in his first full season. Since then, it was Arsenal and United at the Premiership summit but now Chelsea’s millions have raised the bar. After a couple of seasons United have finally mounted a challenge but can Arsenal do the same?

On the plus side, Arsenal should have a full strength squad for the start of next season with Thierry Henry, Robin Van Persie, William Gallas and many others having been out for most of this campaign.

There is no doubt Arsenal have done well in pushing with Liverpool this season without major first team players out for lengthy periods. Our injury problems have been comparable to that of Newcastle and you cannot dismiss the absence of Henry, Van Persie and Gallas in particular. Chelsea fall apart when Cech and Terry are missing and Manchester United have been fortunate this season with their key men being fit for most of the season.

But I am not turning to the injuries as an excuse or having a pop at United (although I would love to) – injuries (or lack of) are part of the game and you have to soldier on.

With Rosicky and Gallas settled into their second seasons Arsenal will be a big force along with fit again regulars such as Henry, Fabregas, Van Persie, Gilberto, Toure, Eboue, Clichy et al.

But questions need to be answered on certain areas of the pitch and certain players in the squad.

Should Arsenal keep Julio Baptista? There’s no doubt he is a decent player but at times his touch has been very poor and despite impressing earlier on in January the fact is that when Arsenal have needed to rely on him he hasn’t performed. He has had a decent run in the team but continues to miss opportunities you really should take at this level. Possibly he needs a year to settle into the pace of the Premiership but with a fully-fit Henry, Van Persie and Adebayor then he will be lucky to make the bench.

The same could be said for Jeremie Aliadiere. After showing signs of promise in the Carling Cup he has shown the jump up to Premiership level is just a bridge too far for him, and if you’re not going to make it after over 7 years with the club then maybe his time is up.

The other players that people have been wondering about are Hleb and Freddie.

I’m a big fan of Freddie and I might be in the minority here but I still believe that he has something of offer the club. There’s no denying that he might have lost a bit of pace but he is one of the few players who when presented with a goalscoring opporunity – he will take it. He is still one of the best finishers at the club and I for one would be sorry to see him leave.

And onto Hleb. People slate him because he doesn’t shoot and it could be said that he isn’t up to the physical nature of the league despite being in his second season at the club. I personally think that his ball rentention is excellent and he is one of the few people in the team who has the ability to play that killer final ball which has been lacking in the couple of months he has been out injured. And I think the criticism over conceding that foul against PSV is unjustified.

So where do Arsenal go from here?

Reyes Returns / Wenger Fights / Everton Preview

The curse of leaving Arsenal has struck again as Jose Antonio Reyes looks like he is no longer wanted at Real Madrid. Now he doesn’t want to return to Arsenal and is looking to move back to Sevilla in the summer – funny how that because Sevilla are top of the Spanish League he wants to go there! This guy is more of a mercenary than Lucas Neill!

But would Reyes be worth a place in the Arsenal squad next season?

I will admit that I thought we could have done with his energy at times this season and whatever you say about him he’ll put his foot in and run for the cause. Not many people will agree with me but I thought Reyes was a decent player for Arsenal.

Arsene looks to be having one of those seasons as he is facing a disrepute hearing from the FA for telling it how it is with the crap officials in Cardiff. And Wenger’s best mate Raymond Domenech has continued the war of words, say that he has a clear conscience and it must be know Henry has played for Arsenal 3 days after playing for France.

Er… isn’t that because he plays for and is under contract at Arsenal? Surely you’re not blaming Wenger for not resting Henry because he played for France days before an Arsenal game? Thierry Henry is an ARSENAL player and resting one of our best players isn’t the best way to win a football match!

But then again wasn’t Domenech the guy who was criticised for treating Makalele like a slave?

Anyway, we play Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday in what should be an interesting game. Kolo is back after his suspension and should partner Gallas in the centre, although Eboue and Clichy are out with injuries so Wenger will have to re-shuffle the back four.

Adebayor, Henry and Van Persie are out so it looks like the forward line of Baptista and Aliadiere will start and hopefully they will start to remember where the goal is.

In more positive news, Rosicky and Hleb look to be fit again so we should have more penetration in the final third – especially with the fact Rosicky actually shoots from distance!

Predictions?

Hopefully we’ve finally managed to get our shooting boots on so I can see Arsenal winning 2-1. Everton will probably score at home, and probably from a set-piece.