Sunday, 19 June 2011

Change from Blogger to Wordpress

After some thought, I decided to change from Blogger to Wordpress. I think Wordpress is a better host, with a lot more options 'under the bonnet' so I created the new site over the course of the day, and here it is:

So from now on, all my content will be posted there, as opposed to here. Do let me know what you think of the new site! The next 'My Perfect Player' will be up on the Wordpress site later tonight. 

Thanks all.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

My Perfect Player #2

The second 'My Perfect Player' is brought to you by the excellent Daniel Feliciano. He writes at DMF's Football World, a blog you should really be taking a look at.

Brain - Manuel Rui Costa 

A magnificent footballer, he was truly steps ahead of the game. Always had an image in his mind of what would happen in the game and had a superb eye for a pass and often chipped in with the odd spectacular goal - England in Euro 2004 pops up in my mind.

Head - Hernan Crespo

He could head the ball with power, precision and incredible accuracy. Always in the right place at the right time too, meant he was a clinical striker and one that in his prime was near unstoppable.

Eyes - Paul Scholes

Scholes' vision made him one of the best midfielders of his generation. The nickname 'Sat Nav' didn't come from anywhere, as he was see things others couldn't and then pick the perfect pass. No wonder he had so many players sing his praises in his final season.

Mouth - Roy Keane

He was a leader on and off the field, for club and country and was an excellent example to youngsters. Born for success, he knew when something had to be said, and what needed to be said. Could run a game by himself and took each game by the scruff of the neck.

Lungs - Cafu

Legendary Brazilian full back just didn't know how to stop running. Even at the age of 34 while at AC Milan, he could be seen charging up the touchline looking for the pass in stoppage time. A real engine and a model for fitness. Great player too.

Left foot - Lionel Messi

Closely run by Raul Gonzalez, Messi's left foot scrapes it due to the moments of magic he can produce. A truly magnificent player, the ball sticks to his foot when dribbling and it's almost impossible to stop him when he's in full flow. 

Right foot - Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane, for me, is the greatest player in the modern era of football. He had everything in his right foot. Control, accuracy, shooting power and more. The perfect right foot.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

My Perfect Player #1

As promised, here's Ben Leeder's Perfect Player. You can follow him on Twitter here, and check out his excellent blog 'You've Got Acres Of Time' here.

Brain - Dennis Bergkamp 

Always three steps ahead of everybody. A true genius who made football seem so easy. A true legend but more importantly a true gentleman. Everything a footballer should be.

Head - Alan Shearer

He could head the ball with so much power. He had amazing accuracy, he could put the ball across the keeper with so much ease and find the net.

Eyes - Zinedine Zidane 

Zizou had an aura, he seemed to glide around the pitch (my favourite player of all time). He could see things no one else could even dream of. He always had an end product; either a great finish or a perfect sliding pass. The perfect midfielder.

Mouth - Patrick Vieira

Everyone wanted to follow him, he could completely control a game on his own. Go on lung busting runs, slide tackles and scored some great goals. The complete midfielder who would take the game by the scruff of the neck and always give 100 per cent every week. A great leader.

Lungs - Wayne Rooney

Wayne chases, chases and chases again and he loves every minute of it. He plays with his heart on his sleeve, which is an amazing attribute to have. He gives everything for his team every week and will fight until the final whistle blows.

Left foot - Lionel Messi

The ball just seems to stick to his foot. He can do whatever he wants.. Once he gets going it is impossible to stop him. Seems pointless trying to sum him up, he is just so good! The best player of all time? Hell yes!

Right foot - Ronaldo (Brazilian)

Pace, power and precision - he had it all. In his day the best player in the world.. untouchable. He had tricks that would leave to defenders for dead. The greatest goalscorer in world cup history, what more can I say. The phenomenon is a fully deserved nickname.

My Perfect Player

Seeing as this summer seems to be yet another tedious one full of transfer nonsense, I thought I might brighten up your boredom with a new series.

I was scouring my Match! annuals for inspiration on another project I had in mind (keep your eyes peeled) and stumbled across a feature called "The Ultimate Player" and was inspired by it. It picked out different body parts of players to form the perfect "wonderkid", so I thought I'd incorporate something similar.

Starting off with Ben Leeder's contribution, I'll be looking for others to also get involved, so if you're interested, send me an email at and I'll let you know what's required.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Football is becoming a rich man's game

Here's my article on Freestyle Football World about money in football, hope you enjoy.

There are a few problems in football. The corruption surrounding the game’s governing body, FIFA, for example. But another that has come to the fore lately has been inflation.

And not just transfer fees like Jordan Henderson’s – as the world goes through inflation, football as a whole does. That means shirt prices, food prices and, most importantly, ticket prices.

A key example of this would be Arsenal. Despite a sixth successive season without a trophy, the club made the decision that, in keeping with the global and footballing price rises, they would increase season ticket prices by 6.5%.

Considering the club’s recent failure on the pitch, the fans didn’t take kindly to these increases. There was a walk engineered by supporters group “Black Scarf Movement”, who have asked the question: “Where has our Arsenal gone?”

We can, in the same way, ask: “Where has our football gone?” Without even getting started on the corruption in the game, if you take a look at the absurd transfer fees and wages being paid these days, it’s little wonder that some are feeling a little out of love with what was once known as the beautiful game.

Of course, on the field football is probably as enjoyable as ever. But those who used to be able to go to many games are now being priced out of it. “Club Levels” are being introduced to stadiums, where rich people can wine and dine, whilst occasionally glancing towards the game.

And the players that fans used to become attached to are jumping ship as soon as a better offer arises. Not just because it’s good for their careers – for the money too. Ashley Cole is a prime example. While Chelsea may have been on the up, when he left Arsenal, the Gunners had just reached the final of the Champions League.

He had claimed to be a lifelong Arsenal fan, having come up through the youth ranks, and the fans could themselves relate to that. One of the best things of being a football fan is those players who spend their entire career at their childhood club, and show the same passion as them.

But no. Cole went to rivals Chelsea, for a few extra thousand pounds. He said he “nearly crashed his car” in anger when he found out that Arsenal were offering him £5,000 less than he wanted. The fact that he was on his mobile in the car is an entirely different matter.

The point is that footballers and those involved are becoming increasingly greedy as the inflation hits football. When players see the insane amounts of money players like Yaya Toure are being paid, they feel that they deserve a similar amount.

A recent example would be Samir Nasri. After a fairly decent few years at Arsenal, without exactly setting the world on fire, he had a terrific half-season, before fading away for the remainder of the year. However, this seemed to give him reason to believe that he deserved to be on wage parity with the captain of the club, Cesc Fabregas.

Even worse was the way that he seemed to use the perceived interest from Manchester United to engineer him that wage parity. While it may have been agent influence (another source of money-grabbing) or paper talk, there’s never smoke without fire.

Gone is the day when a player would say something and actually mean it. Contracts mean nothing these days – Felipe Melo left just days after signing a new contract with Fiorentina. If anything, they’re just to ensure that the clubs get the maximum amount of money for their players.

In the end, it all comes back to that word which has polluted football. Money.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Michael Thomas broke my heart

I'm delighted to welcome Simon Furnivall as a guest poster on 15YOG. A Liverpool fan, here he talks about how Michael Thomas broke his five-year-old heart. Enjoy. 
“Thomas, it's up for grabs now!” 

Those words still hurt me. I was just shy of my sixth birthday, but I still remember it as if it were yesterday. The crushing disappointment, the broken heart of a sports fan, to my dying day I will never be able to forgive Arsenal for inflicting that pain. 

My first memory of anything to do with football is the 1988 FA Cup final. As the son of a man who grew up on the Kop, a man who had been at Heysel, the fact that I was born in Leeds was not going to have any say on the matter, I was destined to be Red through and through. I was told stories of the glory days of league titles and European Cups, I grew up safe in the knowledge that Liverpool were the greatest team in history. 

Lawrie f***ing Sanchez fairly quickly shattered that illusion. But it mattered not, we were still league champions, still the best. I don't remember much of the detail of the '88-'89 season - save for the fact that I fell deeply in love with John Barnes - but May 26th 1989 is burned on my memory, and you're crazy if you think I had to look up that date. 

Back in those days a live televised match still generated excitement. We had won the FA Cup just six days earlier - a cathartic moment after the horrors of Hillsborough - and I remember the thrill of anticipation growing throughout the day. 

My dad was working away for the day, down in Oxford or some such place, and wasn't going to be back in time for kick off. We had arranged that my mum would tape the game and when my dad got home he would get me up and we would watch it together, 'as live'. 

Being a cheeky little b*****d, however, I spent the entire evening after getting home from school bugging my mum to let me watch the game live, then again when my dad got home. Eventually she gave in, but first made me promise that I wouldn't let on that I knew the score. 

Despite my tender years, I fully grasped the fact that Arsenal had to beat us 2-0, and just how unlikely that was. I had grown up with 'This is Anfield' still putting the fear of God into opposing sides, and we simply didn't lose at home.
A goalless first half and things were looking rosy. Two seasons and two titles and an FA Cup, my football supporting career was getting off to a pretty good start. Even Alan Smith's 52nd minute header didn't overly perturb me. I was soon back to thinking everything was rosy and lifting my imaginary league trophy to the sky. 

At some point towards the end of the game I had started doing laps of honour around the living room. I was probably jogging past the imaginary Kemlyn Road stand in my front room when Brian Moore uttered his immortal line; I certainly wasn't looking at the TV. I turned round just in time to see the ball rolling back out of the net and Michael Thomas doing his weird backflip celebration as hundred of Liverpool fans streamed out of the exits behind him.

The immediate feeling was one of utter betrayal. Liverpool won league titles, they didn't lose them. Liverpool won at Anfield, they didn't lose by two goals in matches of monumental importance. I couldn't quite process what had happened, other than to explode in a flood of tears. 

My mum comforted me then shepherded me off to bed, but I couldn't settle. I got back up and wandered around, eventually sitting at the top of the stairs, tears still streaming down my cheeks. When my dad walked in the front door, the first thing he was was me, inconsolable, and he instantly knew what had happened. To this day he has never watched that game. 

It is said that it's the hard times which define us as sports fans. They bring us together, and it is certainly having tasted the lows that make the highs all the more enjoyable. Twenty-two years later, however, the pain is still as raw as it was then. No matter how much beautiful football Arsenal now play, no matter that Thomas went on to score in the 1992 FA Cup Final in a Liverpool shirt, I will never be able to forgive them for the day that Michael Thomas broke my heart.

Simon can be found at the excellent Lovely Left Foot, and occasionally guest posting on (the equally excellent) The Makélélé Role.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Transfer update - more on Willian, Benzema, Higuain, Odemwingie & Lukaku, plus Alvarez

No new rumours for you to get your teeth into - just updates on previous rumours.

Firstly, we've been linked again with Shakhtar Donetsk winger Willian. Denilson wanted us to sign him a while back, despite being on his way out of the club, and from what I've seen of him he's a decent player. Apparently he's only valued at £5 million, while other news outlets report a fee in the region of £15 million. Somewhere in between would probably be about right. 

Personally, I'm desperate for us to sign a winger. I think it's an area in which we could use more depth - Nasri and Arshavin are our only natural wingers in my opinion, as Walcott often struggles. He has good games, but sometimes gets forced out of a game by his full back. I think Willian would be a decent option on the flank, but it depends on a few things. Personally, I can't see Wenger going for him, but we'll see.

Jose Mourinho has commented on the Benzema & Higuain rumours. He says they're both "intransferable", so it looks like both of those rumours are dead in the water at the moment. I doubt we'll see that situation change, so right now they're just pipe dreams.

Further fuel has been added to the "Odemwingie to Arsenal" fire, this time with a few major news outlets reporting that we've bid £4 million for the West Brom striker. This all came from wearethenorthbank's exclusive about us being interested in Odemwingie, and I doubt there's much else to it. 

According to givemefootball, Arsenal & Chelsea target Romelu Lukaku will join one of the two soon. I can't see him coming to Arsenal, he has Chelsea written all over him. It's sad, because I think he's going to be an absolute beast. In fact, at 6ft5, he already is. He'll probably end up like Drogba, our nemesis, always scoring against us, which is a shame. 

That's about it for today, although if there's anything worth reporting later on it might be up. Until then, I have to learn my German script. Auf wiedersehen...

(update: apparently Manchester United were scouting our target Ricky Alvarez last night. Hands off!)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Transfer update - Higuain, Menez, McCarthy

Well I said I wouldn't do an update unless we signed anyone...

Well, we haven't. But I woke up early-ish again, and couldn't get back to sleep, so I trawled the internet for the latest Arsenal rumours, just for you guys.

The first rumour is the one that links us to Gonzalo Higuain of Real Madrid. We've been linked with him before, and it didn't happen. This time, the Daily Mirror claims that he's available for £15 million, alerting us, Liverpool and Sp*rs. What player that we're linked with isn't immediately linked with Sp*rs? They pretty much try and sign every player we do. 

Anyway, I can't see Higuain being available, and certainly not for that price. Although Real do have a history of offloading players for cut-price deals (van der Vaart to name one) they haven't got an awful lot of strikers. Higuain and Benzema are their two natural strikers, and they play Ronaldo up there a lot too. I think Higuain's availability will come down to what Real do this summer - they've been heavily linked with Aguero, and at one point the deal seemed all but done. There remains a little uncertainty over him joining, but I still think he's headed to the Bernabeu.

I think Mourinho would be happy with three top class strikers in Aguero, Benzema and Ronaldo, seeing as he only signed Adebayor as cover for injured/out of form players, so if Aguero did end up crossing the Madrid divide, then I think Higuain would be a possibility. He's a player that Arsene admires, like Benzema (who he called an "interesting" player) and for £15 million I could see him making a move for Higuain. Personally, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'm a big fan of Higuain, and at one point he was one of the top strikers in the world.

Another striker we're linked with is Jeremy Menez. RMC Radio have reported that Roma are going to offer the French international for our French international. Oh... the one who plays in defence... er, the full back... the one who can't cross... Gael Clichy. Apparently Menez will be just one player who Vincenzo Montello looks to offload this summer. 

To be honest, other than knowing how rubbish he is on FIFA (seriously, don't sign him in your careers) I don't know an awful lot about how good this lad is. I'll have to ask around for a little more information about him, but until then I can't comment on the rumour myself.

The final rumour is that of Wigan midfielder James McCarthy. Again, it's the Mirror that are linking him with us. They say that the chairman Dave Whelan has admitted they'll have to sell the player if he wants to leave, and that Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal are interested.

I'm fairly sure we were interested in him when he was at Hamilton Academical in Scotland, only for him to opt for first team football at Wigan. That's fair enough, as he wouldn't have played much at all at any of the big clubs he was linked with. He still probably wouldn't play much at Arsenal, but I think he's a tidy player who would be an excellent squad player. Whether or not he would be happy as such is anybody's guess.

That's about it on the transfer front for now - more later probably.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Transfer update - Odemwingie, Chamberlain, Gervinho

In today's transfer update, two likely transfers and a rumoured target.

You can probably guess which are which. 

Firstly, sorry for my lack of posts over the last couple of days. On Monday I went to the play-off final (in the Swansea end) and since then I've barely been back home. 

Now, the three latest rumours with the most to them have been involving Gervinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Peter Odemwingie. Lille striker Gervinho looks set to announce his next club within the coming week. Apparently Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle are the clubs jostling for the signature of the £9.5 million man. 

I also read somewhere that he's told close friends that he's coming to the Emirates. I'd be surprised if he went elsewhere - he's being offered Champions League football at Lille, and out of the three clubs mentioned we're the only ones also competing in Europe's premier competition. Being my usual optimistic self, I'd probably say the transfer will be wrapped up by the end of this week - unlike Arsenal, seeing as we like to drag things out.

The second transfer that looks likely to be completed soon is that of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. His father, Mark, has encouraged him to join Arsenal 'as soon as possible'. In life, usually you listen to your parents (unless you're Mario Balotelli) and I think a young guy (yeah I know, he's older than me) like Oxlade-Chamberlain will be no different. I'm looking forward to seeing him play more often, which I'll be doing next season whatever happens. He seems a good player with a lot of potential.

Finally, the in-the-know wearethenorthbank have some more inside info, this time pertaining to the possible transfer of West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie. Apparently the 29-year-old is a target of Arsenal, although having said that, we target a lot of players. I thought he was a little younger than 29, so I'm not sure if we'd go for him, seeing as he'd have no resale value. But Arsene's surprised us in the past.

That's all for today's update, seeing as it's half term and I've also got a lot of revision to be doing, I doubt there'll be another unless we sign anyone. Still, keep your eyes peeled...

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Transfer Update - Mathieu Valbuena, + Vela & Bartley

Not much transfer news going around at the moment...

Right now, Mathieu Valbuena is the biggest name being linked with Arsenal (that I've not already covered). TalkSPORT (yeah, I know), among a couple of even less credible sources, link us with the 25-year-old midfielder. I'm also told that the French media seem to agree with the rumour, also claiming that we're interested in the diminutive midfielder. He's had a decent couple of seasons for Marseille, and I remember him scoring a screamer against Liverpool one or two years ago in the Champions League. He also scored against England recently, so we know what he can do.

Apparently he'd be replacing Arshavin or Rosicky. Seeing as Arshavin is pretty much nailed on as staying (as I said here) I'd think he would be more likely to replace Rosicky. I've heard that they're similar players, obviously with Valbuena having the edge thanks to his age and a couple of other factors. I think he's definitely a player on Wenger's radar. Whether he makes a move for the France international, I don't know. But I think he'd be a useful addition to our squad. 

Rosicky has really gone off the boil this year. Just a couple of assists, one goal and a missed penalty to boot - after a seemingly promising start to the season, he's lost all form and has struggled to regain it. It looks almost certain that he's leaving.

According to MedioTiempo we have not let Carlos Vela go to this summer's Copa America. It seems that Arsene is willing to give Vela another chance to impress this year, after a fairly disappointing loan spell with West Brom. I'm pleased about this news; it'll give Vela a good pre-season with us, and I think he can push on for a starting place. Him getting the number eleven shirt last year was perhaps indicative of his inclusion in Arsene's long term plans, and I think he could play a more vital role for us this season.

Finally, the excellent 'Les Rosbifs' website is the latest to accomodate my ramblings. The editor, Gav, was kind enough to publish my review of Kyle Bartley's loan spell at Rangers. Les Rosbifs is a site dedicated to English players/managers plying their trade abroad, just like Bartley did from February to May. You can read my article here.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona - My Account

FEBRUARY 16th, 2011
3 hours to go
As I swung my left leg into my dad’s car and pulled the door shut, I had no idea what I would witness in the 90 minutes that I had been building up to for ages.

Dad, my brother and I were about to set off to London – the Emirates Stadium, to be precise – to watch the Arsenal against the best team in the world; FC Barcelona. Some had even called them the greatest side ever. Arguable, yes. But they’re definitely up there.

It was lucky that I was going in the first place. We have two season tickets (immensely lucky too) and normally I take turns with my older brother. However, he usually pulls rank over me when it comes to the big games. For example, last season’s Barcelona game was his as soon as the name was pulled out of the hat.

Dad had said I might be able to go this year, but I was fairly sure that Josh would insist he was the one at the Emirates. But as we approached the tie, the man who sits next to my dad told him he wouldn’t be able to make it, and was wondering if dad would be interested in his ticket. He said yes, and that meant that my brother and I could both go. Just like the old days at Highbury, when we both came to the Champions League games in that remarkable run in 05/06. The Juventus game still stands firmly in my memory as one of my favourite games.

Anyway, back to the events of “that night”. As we began the (almost) 2 hour journey to Arsenal, which consisted of getting the car to Richmond and getting various tube lines until we reached our destination, a million thoughts ran through my mind. Could we do it? Actually, that was pretty much my only thought. I put my earphones in to attempt to calm down and try to stop getting so excited. My mum always tells me to “prepare to be disappointed” whenever we’re about to play a big game, and it was no different this time. But I couldn’t help believing.

2 hours to go
Something like 45 minutes later, we arrived at Richmond. We had left a little early so we could grab some McDonalds. I went upstairs to grab a table, and dad and Josh queued up. I got upstairs to see that there was one table free, and it only had two chairs. It would have to do. As I settled down into my seat, I looked across the room to see a woman sitting on her own, with no food left, on a table for six people, reading a book. I shook my head in disbelief – how could anyone be that selfish? Anyway, one McChicken Sandwich and large fries later and we were back on our way. We headed to the tube station, took a newspaper each and got on.

As I read the preview for that night’s game, my heart began to pump with anticipation once more. How good would it be if we did it, I thought to myself. At the school where I go to, there are barely any Arsenal fans, and every time we lose, I’m absolutely ripped by my friends, so it would be brilliant if we could beat the best team in the world. But then again, given my optimism pre-match, they’d ridicule me for my glass-half-full prediction prior to the game if we lost. Especially if we got thrashed.

But I didn’t want to think about that. We were going to win.

1 hour and 15 minutes to go
After one quick tube journey and another very lengthy one, we pulled into Arsenal tube station. I can still picture the Arsenal fans in the streets, singing songs, buying merchandise, taking pictures. If that atmosphere was good, the one that would greet the players as they came out was unbelievable.

But that was an hour away. We strolled towards the stadium in high spirits, smiling and nodding at any Arsenal fans that glanced towards us. Up the two flights of stairs, and onto what is now known as the “Ken Friar bridge”. We crossed it with a swarm of Gooners, all equally optimistic about our chances of conquering the three-time European champions.

We saw some Barca fans chanting outside the stadium, in confident moods. We walked past them, shaking our heads, but secretly a little impressed with their passion. Of course, we could match it, and then some.

We entered the stadium through the turnstiles, having exchanged some quick greetings with the usual steward. Dad purchased a programme, as Josh and I rushed to the TV screens to check out the team news.

“BREAKING NEWS:” read the Sky Sports News scrolling banner along the bottom of the television, “SAMIR NASRI STARTS FOR ARSENAL”. We clenched our fists in joy, knowing that the side was pretty much full-strength, except for the absence of Thomas Vermaelen. Still, Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou had formed a superb duo at the heart of our defence, and we’d coped without Vermaelen the entire season – we could do it again.

We trotted down the steps to our seats, shaking hands with the usual match-goers who were already in theirs. “Seen the team?” said one. We confirmed that we had, and agreed how good it was that Nasri was starting. After a conversation about our French winger, and the players he’d be facing, someone pointed out the flags on our chairs. “Last time we had these, we got thumped by Man U.”

He was right, but I didn’t see it as a bad omen. I was excited to wave my flag, and couldn’t wait to contribute to the immense atmosphere, just like in the Champions League semi final of a few years ago against United. I hadn’t been at that game, so I was thrilled to be here and to be a part of it. Josh was a little less enthusiastic, but hey ho.

We continued to discuss a number of topics, from the referee to the Barcelona manager. As we spoke, Messi and co. were flooding out of the tunnel, to cheering from the Barca fans, and jeers from us. As our boys came out of the tunnel, they were greeted by huge applause from the home fans, which overcame any booing from the away fans – despite their numbers compared to ours. It was a little strange how they were already all in their seats an hour before, but they probably wanted to witness as much of Arsenal as they could.

The time had come. The rest of the regulars had found their seats, ready to cheer the players on to what would hopefully be an historic victory. The now-traditional pre-match song of The Wonder of You was boomed out of all the speakers, and as usual I joined in, holding my scarf proudly up in the air, just like thousands of others were. This was an atmosphere.

Then came the fairly-new video as the players lined up in the tunnel. As usual, I softly whispered each commentary as it came; “Brady… oh look at that! Look at that! What a goal by Brady!”, “And it’s Tony Adams, put through by Steve Bould, would you believe it?! That… sums it all up!” and of course “Thomas, charging through midfield, it’s up for grabs now! Thomas, right at the end!”

As the clock on the video ticked towards one, the players were about to enter the stage. The announcer told us to “Get our flags ready,” and then at last, to “Welcome Barcelona, aaaaand the Arsenal!”. And what a welcome we gave them.

Flags in the air, 60,000 all singing in harmony – it was enough to make every hair on your body stand up.

The players got into their positions, and the referee blew his whistle. This was greeted by another roar, then another rendition of “And it’s Arsenal, Arsenal FC, we’re by far the greatest team, the world had ever seen”. And we wanted to prove it.

We were straight out of the blocks, attacking Barcelona with a thrilling “no-fear” attitude. This could, of course, go spectacularly wrong if they caught us on the break, but we seemed willing to take that risk.

Barca nearly caught us out, when Lionel Messi found himself clean through on goal. He waited, and waited… and waited some more… before clipping a shot over the despairing Wojiech Szczesny (on his Champions League debut, mind you). It looked destined for goal… but it rolled inches wide.

Counter-attack seemed to be our best option, and we nearly made a breakthrough using that particular method. Fabregas was set free down the right handside, and clipped a cross towards Robin van Persie, waiting at the back post… and as he was about to nod it home, Abidal got a nick on it – cleared. Just.

It was our best chance so far, but instead of spurring us on, it motivated Barca. Messi weaved his magic in the hole, and played it in for Villa. Surely it was offside? Apparently not, as the linesman’s flag was not raised, and David Villa took advantage, slotting through the ‘keeper’s legs to make it 1-0.

We tried to respond, but Barca came back at us, with wave after wave of attack. Then suddenly, we broke away with Jack Wilshere. Into the other half… towards the goal… Walcott’s free on the right! No, he gave it to van Persie… we rose in expectation of our in-form striker… I clutched the shoulder of my brother’s coat… is it in?! Nope, side netting. It was a good chance, and it had gone begging. No fear – we’d score, we just knew we would. We had to…

But it looked like Barca were the ones who had scored, again, when Messi bundled in a header from a rebound. To our relief, the linesman called this one for offside. Only when the replay was dissected at super-slo-mo on ITV afterwards could they finally conclude that the assistant had indeed got it correct.

We went in at half-time behind by one goal to nil, but it could have been more, so we were in a way lucky. I nervously tucked into my half-time snack, surprised I could eat with the butterflies in my stomach.

Before we knew it, it was time for the second half. As the players struggled to impose themselves, Andrey Arshavin replaced Alex Song. We went close several times before that, but nothing particularly clear cut.

We still couldn’t get past Barcelona’s rearguard though. Wenger took a risk, throwing on Bendtner for Walcott.

Minutes later, we did it.

Gael Clichy dinked a ball perfectly into Robin van Persie, who had a tight angle for a cross inside the area. He went to pull back the trigger, and it looked like he was going for fire it across goal, hoping it got a touch and went in.

But instead, he went for the outrageous. Many players wouldn’t even think of doing what he did. But I’m glad van Persie did. He fired the ball at Valdes’ near post, and the goalkeeper had shifted away from his goal instinctively, thinking to block the cross. He was caught out, and the ball flew in at the far post from an immensely acute angle.

Goal! With twelve minutes left, we had grabbed a goal! We went crazy, absolutely over the moon. High fives were shared, hugs with random people, the usual stuff. Van Persie celebrated jubilantly, embracing Arsene on the touchline as the rest of the players celebrated amongst themselves. I rapidly texted all my friends who had texted me at half-time rubbing in the scoreline. Still, more than ten minutes left.

But if we thought van Persie’s goal was an amazing moment, we would have an even better one five minutes later. My head was already pounding from the immense noise, and Barca laid siege at our goal. “Clear it!” we yelled.

Laurent Koscielny, absolutely marvellous all night, picked Lionel Messi’s pocket once more. He looked for options, and concluded that Bendtner was his best bet. He slid the ball into the Dane, who came infield into a swarm of players. As Xavi ambled away from goal, a gap opened up, and Bendtner managed to find Wilshere. Encouraging applause and cheers. Wilshere found Fabregas first time. More encouragement. In one fluid movement, Fabregas pirouetted and spotted Nasri in space. He sent a ball spinning into the Frenchman’s path.

Nasri hared down the right, in the empty space left by Barcelona as they pressed for a winner. Only a few Barca players were back, but we didn’t have many players forward. Van Persie jogged into a good position, but Nasri seemed to be going for goal. He cut back, assessed his options for a millisecond. Van Persie was being marked too tightly, what could Nasri do?

Then he, and the 60,000 fans in the ground, saw him.


He sped into the box, screaming for the ball. We all screamed for Nasri to give it to him, and give it to him Nasri did.

Would he shank it miles over like he did recently vs Leeds? Would the goalkeeper save it? Would he miss it completely?

Within a second, we had our answer. And we had our hero.

As Arshavin curled the ball perfectly into the corner of the net, the Emirates Stadium exploded. It was a feeling of pure euphoria, and disbelief. Had we really just gone 2-1 up against Barcelona? The announcer confirmed that we had, as Arshavin, Bendtner and the rest of the team raced into the opposite corner to celebrate. I wasn’t paying much attention to what was happening on the pitch, instead celebrating with those around me. Somehow, I found myself and my brother switching places as we jumped around like crazy.

In my ecstatic state, I managed to notice that the guy next to me wasn’t celebrating. He wasn’t, but I was, and for 5 full seconds I went crazy in his face, not caring what his reaction was.

After a while we settled down, my heart still beating furiously, and my head pounding even more. I took a moment to rest, with my brain going crazy. The pain in my head was easily bearable thanks to the enormous supplies of adrenaline pumping through my veins. As I tried to relax, I checked my phone. Something like 4 new messages, saying things like “Fair play” and so on. I replied to all of them, telling them what a feeling it was, and how buzzing I was. To others, who weren’t aware, I bragged that I was there. They were jealous, and I felt so lucky.

The seven minutes remaining, plus the four of added time, seemed to take forever. As we urged the referee to blow up, regardless of how long should still be played, the players were equally nervous, but managed to clear every attack that came our way. Barcelona threw everything at us that they had, but they’d tired. A late scare in the form of Dani Alves was rejected by Szczesny, who had celebrated the second goal as vigorously as any of us. Clichy booted the ball into touch, and it seemed like the storm we were weathering wasn’t over. But apparently it had taken a nick off a Barcelona player, and we had the throw in. Taking as long as he could, Clichy launched it into the centre circle. It fell to a Barcelona player, and they tried piling forward again.

The referee had looked at his watch. The whistle was in his mouth. You could barely hear him blow, but I could tell from the reactions of the players and the fans alike that it was over – for now. There was the second leg to come, but for the time being I just wanted to bask in the incredible glory of the victory.

Overcome with joy, all of the Arsenal fans exited the stadium in good voice. Singing many songs about van Persie, Arshavin and of course the Arsenal, I joined in with each one. I got a frown from my dad when I joined in with the “We’ve got Arshavin” song, but at the time I wasn’t too concerned.

On the journey back, we saw many other Gooners, including on the tube. Already in our seats, some lads a little older than me settled into theirs, huge grins on their faces, just like us. My dad said “I guess your team won then?” and they nodded, still grinning like mad.

The events that had just gone on made the journey completely bearable – in fact, as I reminisced the night’s goings-on, I was nudged by my dad; we were already at our stop. Once we got on the next tube, which was outdoors for most of the journey, I checked my phone again. I replied to all my messages, and went about updating my Facebook status. I couldn’t respond to the comments, but I was aware of them, and showed my dad some.

We got into the car, and turned the radio on. For once, we decided to brave listening to TalkSport – even they were complimentary of our side’s efforts. We grinned as they gushed over that moment when Arshavin curled in the winner, picturing the moment in our minds’ eyes.

We got home at something like 12, but I wasn’t going to bed. Instead, I watched Sky Sports News with dad, to see what they said. After they exhausted the topic, we went onto the recording of the game to experience that amazing moment once again. We watched van Persie’s goal first, then waited until Arshavin’s goal came on. Having watched until the end of the game, we rewound, and watched the goals again. And again.

I must have got to bed at about 1am, and I decided to wear my Arsenal shirt as I slept – so immensely proud of my team. I soon drifted off to dreams of Arsenal, satisfied with the night’s events.

I know I’ll never forget that night. Since I wasn’t around when Micky Thomas slotted home the winner at Anfield, the Arshavin winner is currently the greatest moment of my Arsenal supporting life. It’s my Anfield ’89.

Transfer update - Samba, Hazard, Falcao, Alvarez + Benzema

A lot of transfer talk since my last post...

First up, Karim Benzema. He says he is "honoured at the interest from Arsenal", but has spoken to Mourinho and thinks he will stay. He feels he has something to prove at Madrid, so it doesn't look like Benzema will be coming to the Emirates. I did, however, read somewhere that Real will sell one of Kaka or Benzema, and with Aguero most likely coming in it could be Benzema. On the other hand, they've got a lot of midfielders, so I'd think it would be more likely to be Kaka on his way out of the Bernabeu.

The next story is Chris Samba. wearethenorthbank has the exclusive once more - we have tabled an £8 million bid for the Blackburn centre half. I'd absolutely love it if we signed Samba, although I'm a little unsure if he'd be good in our high line. I think we'll be able to prise him away from Ewood Park, as he said he will have to consider his future. 

After 73 goals in 85 league games, Radamel Falcao is a hot prospect. According to the Porto striker's agent, us and Tottenham are willing to meet his £26 million buyout clause. He's an absolute fox in the box, one of, if not the best headerers (is that a word?) of the ball in the world. He'd be a signing of real intent. However, for now, I'd just put this down as agent talk, only attempting to big up his client and get himself more money.

The ever-reliable Young Guns reports that Arsenal representative Richard Law has met up with representatives of Ricky Alvarez's club Velez to discuss a transfer. Early reports that Alvarez was out of contract seem to be false - and it looks like Velez want something in the region of £8 million for their player. I think it's a risk worth taking; he seems like a quality player. Right now I'd rate the deal as 50-50 to go ahead.

Eden Hazard says he doesn't think he'll leave - although he did say "we know that if a big club comes in with a big bid, I'll be off". I'm not sure if we're able to make that big bid, but he'd certainly want to come here if we did. It depends on how much Arsene wants Hazard. Personally, I'd go all out to get him, he really is a huge talent. His comments seem to rule Liverpool out though - he said he wants to play in the Champions League with Lille or a big club next season.

As for departures, Arshavin is staying, which I think is good news. If we can get Hazard and Alvarez in and keep Arshavin and Nasri, we can rotate and keep all four wingers sharp - a little like what United do with Park, Valencia, Nani and Giggs. Carlos Vela's agent says he's still wanted by club, and I think we could do worse than be patient with the Mexican. The ever-reliable Marco Silva says Inter Milan are preparing a £6 million bid for Gael Clichy, and that Almunia has offers in Spain.

Interestingly, he also says Nasri will only sign a new contract when new signings are guaranteed. He claims that this is the reason for Wenger telling us to expect signings in "late May or early June". It would be good to get all our business wrapped up early this year, so there's a lot of time for the new players to gel with the team before the new season starts. 

Finally, a little news on the youth front. Sky Sports say we've secured the deals for Barcelona youngsters Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin - apparently both had numerous offers from other top European clubs (and Aston Villa) but chose Arsenal to continue their development. More good academy news comes in the form of Oguzhan Ozyakup signing a new contract at the club. It had seemed like he was off, but it looks like he's decided Arsenal is the place to continue his development. 

Before I go, there's a campaign to get a Sunday league manager as the next Chelsea boss. Apparently Martin Grisley is the "Mourinho of Abington Park" and has taken Dynamo FC to new heights. While it's not a very real prospect, Coral have him at 100-1 to be the next Chelsea manager, and will give betting proceedings to Help for Heroes, which is a nice touch. Here's the Facebook page, and there's a bit about him on the Coral site here. All for a good cause.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Transfer update - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

I promised you all more transfer news when I got it, and I have some more!

According to wearethenorthbank (the same blog that broke the Downing story), we have reopened talks with Southampton over winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. For me, it's good news - the only two players we have that can play on the wing are Arshavin and Nasri. Walcott isn't a winger, and neither is Bendtner. 

The article above says that the sticking point of the deal the last time the clubs were negotiating was the sell-on clause; Southampton wanted more than we were willing to give them. Sell-on clauses have been used very cleverly by Arsenal in the past - David Bentley got us something like £5 million when he moved to Tottenham for £17 million. I'm sure we'll be able to strike out a deal, and I hope we do.

As usual, any more concrete news will be up as and when I hear it.

Transfer update - Arsenal sign Carl Jenkinson

A signing to inform you all of - how well is this transfer window going so far?!

The Finnish FA has confirmed speculation that Charlton defender Carl Jenkinson has signed with Arsenal. The rumours have been going on for quite some time now, and we were only waiting for the announcement to be made. A Finnish journalist (Edan Richardson) discovered the news on the Finnish FA website here. Apparently the compensation agreed between the two teams is £1 million.

More on transfers just as soon as I hear it.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Transfer update - Stewart Downing, Ricardo Alvarez & Nicklas Bendtner

I have a couple of transfer stories to inform you all of today.

Firstly, via Marco Silva, we have said the following about Ricardo Alvarez following speculation linking us with the Argentine midfielder: "I am afraid it is against Club Policy to comment on any transfer speculation surrounding individual players". However, I can confirm via Marco that it is the English Arsenal that the Argentine press is linking Alvarez with, not the Argentine Arsenal.

Marco also tweeted a quote from Nicklas Bendtner's father and agent, Thomas, who said: "Nicklas is 100 percent determined to change club immediately". His exclusion from the squad against Fulham pretty much confirmed that he's on his way out. I'll be disappointed to see him go, but that's football.

wearethenorthbank have exclusively revealed that we had scouts at Villa Park to watch Stewart Downing play against Liverpool, who he has also been linked with. Apparently we look like we're going to join the race to sign him. While I think he's a decent player, and that we lack wingers, one big concern of mine over Downing is that he seems unable to use his right foot at times. And by "at times", I mean "always". However, I've been proven wrong in the past by similar players like Adam Johnson. If we signed Downing I'd love for him to prove me wrong.

The final story I'm going to cover is the exclusion of Jack Wilshere from the England under-21 squad for the tournament this summer. It's a big victory for the club, as we'll be able to have a fresh Jack ready and raring to go when next season starts. I don't think he'll play as big a part as he did this season - he's notably very tired now, and Ramsey is back in the frame. As well as that, there will certainly be some reshuffling of the squad.

I'm avoiding talk of on-pitch matters, as our season clunked to an uninspiring halt on Sunday. There was reason to celebrate though - often our scourge, Birmingham City have been relegated to the Championship. Sadly, Blackpool have gone down too, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices.

I'll try and publish more news just as soon as I hear of it.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Arsenal season review

It's been a crazy season.

There's been all sorts of drama on and off the pitch, and you can read my view on the former here, on the excellent and new "themakélélérole".

Saturday, 21 May 2011

More on Ricky Alvarez

A little more 'news' has emerged on the potential signing of Ricky Alvarez.

Argentine journalist Manuel Olivari tweeted this yesterday: "Ricky Alvarez no firmó ningún precontrato con el Arsenal, es información falaz". Loosely translated, this means: "Ricky Alvarez did not sign pre-contract with Arsenal, is false information".

Where this leaves the deal, I'm not sure. Whether Olivari means that the entire deal is made up, or that the deal just isn't as far ahead as people think, I don't know. However, any news that I get I'll get it up here as soon as I can.

In the mean-time, however, if you want to watch Alvarez play, check out this YouTube video.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Ricky Alvarez & Denilson

Two major stories for me to cover today, both involving transfers. Huzzah, I hear you say!

And most people have been happy about both of them. The first story to break today involved Denilson, who has revealed he wishes to leave Arsenal. He claims to have decided roughly eight months ago that he wants to quit - I'm not going to reel off all the quotes, as you can find them in the link above.

Really, I think that if he was a winner, he'd stay and fight for his place in the team, instead of quitting when the going got tough, which is what he's doing. And on the basis of that, I deem him a quitter, not a winner as he claims. Furthermore, if you're a winner, you chase players back when we have few players back when being hit on the counter, especially against Manchester United!

To be fair to him he's put in some decent performances and I feel he's had some over-the-top criticism, as well as being made a scapegoat for the club's failings. He does give us a good long range shot but he has had some poor games for the club recently. I wrote an article about how he's become the forgotten man at Arsenal a month or so ago (wasn't published) and it becomes clear why - he's just not wanted to be here, and if that's his attitude, then good riddance to him.

That seems to have shown in his performances; this has been a much worse season for him than in previous years. Perhaps, instead of his footballing incompetence, it was because he didn't want to be here. He says he hasn't caused any disruption off the pitch by asking to leave (until now) but his below-par performances have caused some disruption.

It looks like he'll be off to Spain - I can't claim to have any sources but my instinct tells me he'll be at Sevilla next year. Based on that, put your entire life savings on him signing an 8-year contract with us tomorrow. Seriously though, he's had some good games and scored some great goals. He had a lot of potential so I'm a little sad it's not worked out, and I wish him all the best.

After that story had come out, the "news" filtered through that we had reportedly signed Ricky Alvarez from Velez Arfield in Argentina. After further investigation, it seems that Alvarez is a 22 year old attacking midfielder/winger who has really had a break through season this year. Those that I know who are into Argentinean football have spoken glowingly of him, which can only be good - the supposed transfer of Alvarez was described as a "coup" for us by one person.

It appears that we've signed him on a "pre-contract", so it would be free. Having watched a little of him on YouTube, he seems a decent player, but obviously so would Susan Boyle with some fairly clever editing of clips, so it's difficult to judge just from YouTube. Still, the clips looked fairly promising, and hopefully he'll bring something to the club if he does sign.

The news had no internet source - apparently Fox News reported it on their television channel. However, those that reported it on Twitter are very reliable, so I believe them. If Alvarez does join, I look forward to seeing him in an Arsenal shirt. Remember; Javier Hernandez was barely known when he joined Manchester United!

That's all for today, more later in the weekend. Hope you all have a terrific one.

Monday, 16 May 2011


That's what Sunday's performance was - woeful.

The players put in a poor, lacklustre performance and it was shown in the result. Despite the refereeing decisions that may have gone against us (I don't know what we should have had as I haven't watched the game again since getting back from the Emirates) we didn't deserve to win the game. We didn't even look like scoring when we got inside the box, we didn't even look like scoring.  

We were sloppy in defence, too - the goals we conceded were just shocking from our point of view. Simple balls split our defence in half, and Bent had the easiest job in the world.

It's weird, because that was a very similar team to the one that beat Man United at the Emirates just two weeks ago. And it wasn't like there was nothing to play for - Chelsea had just slipped up and we had a chance for second, with City breathing down our necks for third.

It was the final home game of the season, it was the last chance for the players to apologise for their previous failures. Interviews and tweets are all very good, but the real way to show that you're sorry is by going out on the pitch and playing your heart out. Only two or three players did that for me.

It's worrying that the players couldn't get motivated for a game like they did on Sunday. They should have absolutely no trouble doing so, but if they can't then it's the manager's job to do it for them, and he didn't seem to do so.

Having said all that, the fans getting on the team's back wouldn't have helped one bit. I completely disagree with booing, granted you want to make your feelings heard, but it's only going to make the players play worse. We should be getting behind the team no matter what in my opinion.

I would be surprised if a marquee player, like Arshavin, wasn't signed to appease the fans during summer. Perhaps Benzema or somebody like that. I can see Wenger breaking the bank, and our record fee, this summer. There are definitely changes coming. 

I don't think I saw Almunia in the lap of honour, so he's gone. Rosicky wasn't even in the squad and I'm sure he's available so he's gone. Denilson was in the squad for the first time since West Brom so he's gone. I'm sure a few others will make way too, then we'll need some additions to the first team and more back-up players.

It's going to be an interesting summer.