Category Archives: Man City

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?

“Gervinho. Santos. Um, Lukas? Is this maybe a little bit awkward?”

Having spent that £60m on four players more or less precludes us from signing a top-shelf striker unless we’re willing to spend more than we have. One year of deficit spending would rarely jeopardize our good name with UEFA, at least as far as FFP is concerned, but it would beg certain larger philosophical questions about who we are. Are we willing to go down a path that only the Manchesters and Chelsea have previously trod? That’s what it might take to land a striker of the sort we’ve coveted. The position seems to command transfer-fees starting at £40m. Diego Costa might be an exception; his transfer-fee was a “modest” £32.5m. Realistically, though, who could we still pursue, much less sign, at this point? Benzema and Cavani might entice, but is either actually available at any price? Hard to say.

Arsène’s current focus seems to be at the other end of the pitch, both by virtue of necessity (we have only two experienced centre-backs at the moment) and of finances (defenders tend to be a it more affordable). Our transfer-balance to this point is a modest -£13.34 to this point. We could then add another player to buttress the defense without breaking the bank—or finance such a move by selling off someone else (Podolski, perhaps?).

Aside from a striker, our most-pressing need is a toss-up between centre-back and defensive midfield. The signing of Chambers suggests that Arsène might be looking for the kind of player who could slot in at either position (those who point out the irony in selling Vermaelen, whom some have suggested could cover both positions, are as daft as a brush). It seems then that Sami Khedira has been shelved, at least for now, as we seek someone more defensively minded, someone who can play in the holding midfield but who might also be comfortable, if not competent, as a centre-back. We’ve heard a few of these names before—Luis Gustavo, for one; William Carvalho, for another. What though of Benedikt Höwedes?

We’ve discussed Gustavo previously. He spurned us last summer, choosing to stay in the Bundesliga while demoting himself a bit to play for Wolfsburg. Fair play. I can understand a player wanting to play more and watch less (among other considerations). Carvalho’s transfer gets complicated, as Porto don’t own him outright and want his entire £35m buy-out clause up-front, rather than in installments as Arsène might prefer.

Höwedes, however, might entice. The 26-year old Schalke captain has ample experience across the back-four, playing at left-back for the German national team in the World Cup and as centre-back and right-back for Schalke. He offers experience and versatility and could be had for a transfer-fee below £15m. He’s a bit below the radar, technical, inexpensive (compared to other options), and versatile. The only element missing from his Arsène-approved resumé is Frenchiness. We’re none of us perfect, after all. The only other knock against him I can find is that he lacks pace. The last time we signed a slower-than-molasses-in-January German defender, it worked out pretty well.  Cover for left-back, centre-back, and right-back…hmmm. Whaddaya say, Arsène?

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.

One of the more-intriguing sideshows to the main event would be the former Gunners on display—Clichy and Nasri, of course, but perhaps also Sagna. Only two would feature, but there was enough spectacle to keep us all satisfied. Nasri floundered throughout his first-half performance, getting subbed off for Silva (a move that seemed to give City a bit more urgency and cohesion). He was booed loudly during the introductions, and I must say, I don’t dislike the guy for leaving Arsenal so much as I dislike him for who he seems to be: petulant. Self-centered in extremis. Thin-skinned. And so on. So he fizzled a bit despite having a solid chance at denying Arsenal a bit of silverware and proving his critics (namely me) wrong. Karma.

More recently, of course, Bacary Sagna found his way to City and promptly fell into his role of watching someone else play right-back (in this case of irony, it was Clichy). One of the pics of the night has to be the one you see here, in which Sagna appears to feel like he’s made a huge mistake. Maybe yes, maybe no. In either case, it’s fun to contemplate. Sagna may have left, but he got his trophy and leaves gracefully enough to keep the gloating to a minimum.

However, the real story comes from how our squad performed. We did pretty well in going up against an XI that as many as 15 other Prem clubs would love to have, one worth some £172m in transfer-fees alone, by my reckoning. Against this assortment of players, we fielded our own hodge-podge, including three new signings and Sanogo playing in an odd 4-1-4-1 formation. Chambers and Debuchy sparkled, earning “special congratulations” from Arsène in his post-match comments. In fact, were it not for Ramsey’s man-of-the-match performance, we might be toasting one or both defenders for their play. Suffering a bit by contrast was Alexis, who offered glimpses of potential but didn’t quite deliver.  He did deliver an incisive pass forward to Sanogo, which eventually led to Ramsey’s goal. Minutes later, Sanogo returned the favor, sending him in behind the defense only for Caballero to beat Alexis to the ball. As Arsène would later put it, Alexis looked “very lively but not completely ready yet”. Pellegrini chimed in as well, saying that “he’s a top player…he will be a great player for Arsenal.”

Even with so many new players in the starting line-up (Chambers, Debuchy, Alexis, Sanogo), there was enough chemistry and understanding to dominate one of the best and most-expensive squads in the world. That does mean something, even if that expensive squad decided not to dedicate itself to the task at hand. It’s a funny thing, winning that much, so suddenly. It placates. It satiates. It leaves a person complacent. Again, it was “just” the Community Shield, but one does have to wonder just how much fire is in that squad’s belly. They have the talent to win the Prem. Do they have the hunger?

Even without Agüero or Kompany (whom City went without for long stretches while winning the Prem anyway) and without Fernandinho or Zabaleta, this was still a formidable City side. This result may not mean much, but it does lay down a marker. If that doesn’t mean much yet, we’ll get a bit more of a glimpse just over a month from now when City pay us a visit: 13 September. Mark your calendars.

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!

Open letter to Man City in which this Gooner admits defeat.

First off, I admit that I’ll probably be preaching to the choir for the most part. This is an Arsenal site, and as such, I assume that most of the visitors will be Gooners. So it goes. However, I do compose this in earnest, hoping to wave a white flag, maybe even extend an olive branch, to our opponents in the upcoming Community Shield. It is clear that we are no match for you, on the pitch or off, and we are lucky to simply appear on the same pitch with you. Yes, we may be another Prem club, but on Sunday, we shall be as awe-struck and starry-eyed as if we were a mere Championship club, overawed at the idea of appearing at Wembley, more interested in getting a few autographs from opposing players than in nicking a trophy from them. Honest.

After all, who are we to stand up to the engorged, turgid behemoth that is Manchester City? Sure, for you Moonies or Cityzens or whatever else it is you call yourselves , Sunday’s match is but a walk in the park, a chance to blithely scoop up a bit of silverware with the carefree ease of an Arab prince buying up clubs. The process becomes a bit banal, though, doesn’t it? Just another trophy to throw on the pile, I suppose, much like Monty Burns after stocking his power plant’s softball team with ringers.

Who are we to stand in your way, what with our penurious approach to the transfer-window? Sure, sure, we’ve splurged a bit, throwing £35m at Alexis this summer and £42m at Özil last summer, but—oh, I’m sorry. I’ll wait for you to stop chortling and guffawing. It seems that these are transfer-fees you might pay with the shrapnel you’d find between sofa-cushions. A thousand pardons (“thousand” is a one followed by three zeros. It is three percent of your owner’s net worth). For us, spending more than £15m on a player is a bit steep, a bit profligate, but for you, it’s a walk in the park, something you might do a few times each summer, as the mood strikes and without a care in the world for what other business you might attend to.

You are like Midas, for whom everything turns to gold at a single touch. Who wouldn’t want that life?

And yet.

Take a fingernail to that gilt surface, scratch just a bit. It’s fool’s good, isn’t it? It’s a cheap, £600m lacquer that barely conceals a hollow interior that no amount of rented mercenaries can ever fill no matter how many trophies they “earn”. Sure, the Community Shield might pale in comparison to winning the Prem or the FA Cup, and you might be right in sneering at such baubles. Still, for all of the silverware your squad might earn, there has to be a lingering, nagging feeling of doubt, some unpleasant sense that all of this sudden glory is a bit fly-by-night, a bit dodgy. After all, how many players could honestly claim that they were Citizens as children? How many of them can rightly claim that they came of age, that they realized their potential, as a Citizen? For that matter, how many supporters could claim the same?

Look, I know that you’ve had to skulk in the shadows of another club. I sympathize. It must be hard to be an after-thought in one’s one city. How do I know this? Some of my best mates are Spuds. By the same token, I don’t put much stock in the idea of pedigrees. Too much of the “old money”/nouveau riche” there for me. However, even with that in mind, you have to admit that there’s a suddenness to your success that should give pause. What does it mean to so-suddenly sweep away Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal? At some level, you might be suspicious. We at Arsenal talk a bit about playing for the name on the front of the shirt so they’ll remember the name on the back. In your club’s orgy of acquisition, will any of your players live up to that?

I don’t know, to be honest.

Success, to me, comes from more than actual success. If you achieve a goal too easily, the goal wasn’t worth achieving. I look at Man City, and, yeah, I’ll admit to a bit of envy. However, the facile nature of the success leaves me wondering, wasn’t that a bit too easy to enjoy, to savor? To be honest, I don’t rightly know what it’s like to win and win and win and win, never seriously doubting one’s chances at glory (as an American, I missed out almost entirely on Arsenal’s glory days of the late 1990s and early 2000s). Maybe it’s spectacular. Maybe each one feels better than the one before.

Maybe that feeling makes Sunday’s Community Shield feel a bit like a tug after a shag. That’s up to you to decide.