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Friday, 27 January 2012

A love for football that extends far beyond just Arsenal

In fact, my first ever game was at Craven Cottage to see a then third division (now the equivalent of League 2) Fulham side. I'd be lying if I said I remember their opponents, no matter how glamorous a tie it was. By all accounts, I was more interested by the police horses I passed during the walk to the ground- however my love for the game would soon ignite. After my father explaining to me that the linesmen were not players, that is.

Fulham - being my local team - was where most of my match - day experience lay in my early years. Incidentally, I even had a stint at their youth academy, from the age of 8 till 11! I was (and still am) a decent player- The David Bentley Bobby Pires-esq. playmaker, one might say. It was not until I was around 6 or 7 years old when my dad introduced me to Highbury-a ground which exuded a similar kind of charm to that of Craven Cottage, albeit superior in every single way. Again, I can't remember the opposition, but being slightly older, my new - found experience had led me to higher levels of footballing knowledge. So much so that I'd boo Edu whenever he'd come on/off the field, as that was what everyone else was doing. Turns out I got that one wrong. It was actually 'EDUUUUUU' that the crowd were chanting. To be fair, as a 9 year old, that could easily be perceived as a a long jeering sound. Assonance and that.

Peculiarly, one of my earliest memories of Highbury is our 4-2 loss to Charlton, in 2001. Jason Euell put them 4-1 up! Subsequently, I realised it's not always going to be a happy journey home. However my mind was well and truly swayed 3 years later after winning the double and simultaneously going 49 games unbeaten! 'I'm in for an easy ride if it stays like this!' I thought. How naive.

Kolo Toure after netting the winner vs Villarreal
I had the privilege to attend some of the most significant matches at Highbury, including the Champions League semi-final vs Villarreal-the ground's ultimate Champions League match-where Kolo Toure scored the only goal. Moreover, the last ever game graced by Highbury, against Wigan, really was a special day - albeit highly emotional for many. Only over the past few years have I realised just how lucky I was.

In recent years - where my love for football has become somewhat unhealthy - attending at least one game a week has become the norm, whether it's Fulham, Arsenal or both. On the rare occasion I can't do either, Brentford offer some form of salvation. My last visit there was in the away end with the Exeter fans, with my mate who got a pair of free tickets. Coincidentally, Szczesny was in goal for the home team! There were about 300 travelling fans from the West Country-who brought with them some great banter. There is certainly a unique romance associated with lower league football, especially with the away fans.

Whether it's The Arsenal, Fulham or even Brentford, my appetite for football will always be satisfied. As much as I adore Arsenal, sometimes going to games where you don't necessarily care about the result, such as at Fulham or Brentford, can supply a greater amount of pleasure and enjoyment, simply because there is less stress involved. There is never a shortage of football to either watch, play or attend-much to the bemusement of my mother-which keeps me, and many others, so immersed in the beautiful game.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

January Transfer Window Arrives Just in Time

This month could be vital in determining The Arsenal's successes this year. Having turned our initially disastrous season around, consistency is now key if we want to participate in next year's Champions League. Additions to the squad are fundamental in order to build from where we are currently. Presently, our strength in depth is one that has been rightfully scrutinised- there is a too big-a-gap in terms of quality and experience between our starting XI and the rest. Many would also argue that there simply aren't enough of 'the rest', which is evident from our shortage at full back. To seriously compete with the highflying Spurs, and Chelsea-who will no doubt open their chequebooks this month-these issues must be addressed-and preferably not on January 31st at 11.55 pm.

Set backs such as our 1-1 draw at home to Wolves (who beforehand had only taken four points from their previous eight away fixtures this season) and the extremely disappointing loss away to Fulham, epitomise our inability to maintain real consistency. 

On the other side of North London however, consistency against the so called 'lesser' teams is what keeps Spurs comfortably in 3rd place, six points ahead of us with a game in hand. They have dropped only 7 points against teams below 6th place (drew to Swansea and Newcastle, and lost to Stoke-all away). Tottenham's fine form this season is undoubtably helped by their lack of distractions: they're out of the Europa League and were knocked out by Stoke in the Mickey Mouse  Carling Cup. Not taking anything away from them though-they've done very well to win the games they 'should' be winning, albeit their record against the so called 'elite' is questionable (lost 3-0 to Utd and 1-5 at home to City).

In contrast, we have dropped 12 points from these such 'lesser' games (this was however our worst start to a season in 50+ years). Taking one point off Fulham this season is not good enough, and could come back to haunt us come May. 

As you can see from the table below, Tottenham have won 68% of their games, which is 13% higher than that of ourselves, and Chelsea for that matter. This clearly emphasises the contrasting levels of consistency between ourselves (plus Chelsea) and Spurs. 


League position


Games played

Games won (%)

Games lost (%)

Games drawn (%)





























In my view, any of the three London clubs could finish 3rd or 4th. I don't see why we can't finish in third place ahead of Spurs-there will be plenty more twists and turns this season. The fact that 85% of Arsenal's games are won or lost, it's fair to say it is fairly black and white for us-there's not much in between. As for Liverpool-well the stats show that they have the lowest win % out of those four clubs, and the highest % of draws. The 8-match ban of their only goalscorer Luis Suarez will seriously dent their chances of 4th place, so they too will need to invest this January-which I'm sure they will. 

Lyon's left back, Aly Cissokho
 It doesn't take a genius to see that we have major injury issues in defence-Wenger has publicly stated that he will be looking for a left back on a short term loan deal. Whilst slightly relieved that he isn't going to 'maintain faith in youth' in this situation and call up one of our 16 year old academy players, I do feel that signing a left back-who is an improvement to what we have currently-on a permanent basis is a much better option. I mean, this is hardly going to be the last time where Gibbs/Santos/both are injured, so why not prepare for the long-term? I certainly don't want us to be left in the same position as we were at Fulham where Squillaci is playing is our last option at full back. Not only that, but with no natural full backs playing, our attacking threat is significantly reduced. 

Aly Cissokho, a powerful, attacking left back, has been linked with us and Arsene is a known admirer. He has Champions League experience too, which has its flipside, as he'd be cup-tied this season. 

Furthermore, it's pretty blatant we need to sign a striker to ease the pressure and reliance on RVP to produce week in week out, due to the failings of Park and Chamakh (who's off to the African Cup of Nations with Gervinho). The return of Henry will have a really positive impact on the team; simply having him around in the changing rooms will be a massive boost on its own, and hopefully he can flourish in his new 'impact sub' role, in a similar way to that of Henrik Larsson when he joined Man Utd a few years back. Having said that, he cannot be our sole addition upfront. 

Bobby Zamora, doing what he does best
Personally, I feel we could do a lot worse than Bobby Zamora, a player who, without scoring 20 goals a season, would improve our frontline. He holds the ball up superbly and brings others into the game, whilst possessing a goal threat, as we witnessed to our own peril. He is one of the best in the Premiership at what he does and would certainly compliment Robin Van Persie's game. So why not?

The media have reported the likes of Lukas Podolski to be in the frame, however the boss has said he isn't interested. That doesn't mean much though-as we have seen over the years, most recently with Arteta. 

Wenger does make you wonder.

*stats taken from EPL Index