Searching for Arsenal in New York City...

I’m British (English to be precise) and last summer I left my homeland to move to New York, New York, home of baseball and jazz (or so I was told). Being an avid Arsenal fan I was hugely concerned with the prospect of being unable to see my beloved Arsenal a) in a pub and b) amongst other Gooners. Americans don’t watch football – they don’t even call it football; ‘soccer’ for God’s sake! How and where was I supposed to watch The Arsenal? I had visions of myself wincing at a pixilated screen on my laptop early on weekend mornings, or watching a game in bar that was draped in baseball and NFL paraphernalia… I was, needless to say, hugely pessimistic about the prospect of watching The Arsenal live in NYC.

I had a little research under my belt when the plane landed at JFK and I‘d discovered there was a bar called Nevada Smiths that was, apparently, a football Mecca. Hmm… not only that but my apartment was no more than 3 blocks away… Hmm… the website had flashy pictures, football decorated panels and photos showing, what appeared to be, a crowd, drinking, and watching football… Was this true? Or was this some clever ploy by the ‘owner’ of the website to bring us ‘Europeans’ in. I even saw online that Nevada Smiths was home of the NYC Arsenal’s Supporters! I was more than intrigued.

It was the Emirates Cup last summer that I went to Nevada Smiths for my first taste of Arsenal in America. On the way to Nevada Smiths I noticed other people wearing Arsenal shirts, ‘only me and these people then will be in this ‘football’ bar’ I said to myself. I then turned a corner and saw a small crowd outside Nevada Smiths, all wearing Arsenal shirts. Promising. I walked past this group and into the bar and, lo and behold, there were quite a few people wearing Arsenal shirts waiting eagerly for the game to start, to watch a FRIENDLY Arsenal game at 11AM on a Saturday morning. And most of them were American. I was suitably impressed. The bar itself had signed football shirts all over the walls with other football related items strung around the walls and ceiling – there was even a huge NYC Arsenal sign with an apple behind it! I had a chat with some of the local Gooners and they said come full season Nevada Smiths would be full and I would have to arrive early as a line would form outside the bar with a ‘one in one out’ stipulation. All very promising I said to myself, things were looking up! Meanwhile, Arsenal, of course, went on to win the Emirates Cup…

A couple of weeks later I again turned up at Nevada Smiths and was absolutely astonished; the place was nuts!!! The place was FULL - I could barely move! Hundreds of (mainly American) football fans, wearing shirts representing a variety of Premiership teams, were packed liked tinned sardines into this, now, seemingly, small bar – unbelievable! The Arsenal fans even knew the Arsenal songs! Wonderful stuff - and Arsenal battered Everton 6-1. Perfect!

I was absolutely stunned; never had I thought football would be as popular as it is here in the United States. OK, so some of this article is a little tongue in cheek but I confess I was a little ignorant and perhaps a little naive in thinking that Americans don’t follow ‘soccer’. They do, and they follow it as passionately as those who live in their respective football team’s homeland. The Arsenal fans I have met thus far are hugely knowledgeable, know the football lingo, understand the team’s history and fully understand what is to be a supporter of Arsenal football club. It really has been a pleasant surprise and I have been made most welcome by them all and, with the new season virtually upon us, I look forward to seeing those familiar faces and new ones alike. Oh, and rumor has it that NYC Arsenal has a new watering hole for this season…
Right then, off to find someone who can catch a ball and someone who is big, tall, scary looking and can play in defence… Until next time.

P.S. I would like to hear from (American) readers on how and why they started following the English Premier League, and Arsenal in particular – I’m very curious! Much appreciated

Walcott, Rosicky, Squilacci, Ciani, Keepers and Champions League

So there's been a lot of talk about Theo these past few days after his performance against Blackpool. I can't say that I have refrained from slagging off Theo from time to time, but I'll be the first to admit when he performs in great form. We saw that this weekend. For me it was a glimpse of the Young Theo that we were all mesmerized by in 2004 and 2005 when he was with Swindon and Southampton and obviously his first season at Arsenal in 2006. Theo showed his confidence and that spark of intelligence and creativity that we haven't seen in him in a while. I hope that he continues to work hard and that he doesn't let little things set him back. Arséne has said that he thinks we're going to see some great things out him this season, and that a lot of players his age go through a little slump in those years. Maybe some time off from the World Cup really made his analyze his game and think about how to improve. Theo recently said "But if the boss wants me to play up front I'm buzzing from that. I'm working in training up front so I'll go from there." He came to Arsenal as a striker, but that just like the his number 14 predecessor, he knows that Arséne will get the best out of him. I think he played with complete brilliance and it can only help his confidence. Regardless of the level of defense from the Blackpool squad, games like this can remind a player psychologically of what they capabale of. I truly hope we get to see more of that. It couldn't happen at a better time. I'm sure he won't ever forget his first Arsenal hat-trick.

First Goal 1-0

Second Goal 3-0

Third Goal 5-0

Another player we're seeing bring shine back to his form, and reminding us of his creativity from when we got him from Borussia is Tomáš Rosický. He has been wonderful in preseason to watch, worked well with Samir Nasri, and his performance against Liverpool was unquestionable. He's said that this is the first season in a while that he's been able to get the full pre-season training and that he's stronger for it. Provided that the Czech can stay fit this season, I think he will have a great season and offer us a great added bonus in the midfield, while offering some much needed depth.

So we're all still sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to hear the next addition to our squad. With
the amount of injuries that we face every season, as anxious as I am, I'm glad to see that the medical
is becoming a rigorous process with Sebastien Squillaci. Though its understandable how desperate
we are in this twilight period of the transfer window, it is important to make sure we're not going to
bringing on more massive injury problems. There has also been a lot of chatter about our interest in
Ciani these past few days as well.

Though I don't know how true these rumours are, I look at having those all as options in the back four, and one can't hope but feel optimistic about our chances this season. The level of depth that we would have would certainly put us in a good place. Obviously having TV5 as first choice, but the added experience that Squilacci would bring, and the just the size and strength that Ciani would bring would be perfect. I think if I had to vote, I'd still rather bring on any of the 3 goalkeepers we've been linked with over another defender, but I think if we were able to secure both, it would really show everyone that the club are serious about trying to win things again, and wanting to put this silverware drought to an end. As for keepers, will it be Schwartzer, Stekelenburg, Given or someone we've not heard of until now? The Metro have reported that we've made a bid for Stekelenburg.

Thursday at Noon (EST) the Champions League Group Stage Draw will be take place. The 22 teams that instantly qualified include Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Bursaspor (Turkey), CFR Cluj (Romania), Chelsea, Inter Milan, Lyon, Manchester United, Marseille, AC Milan, Panathinaikos, Rangers, Real Madrid, Roma, Rubin Kazan (Russia), Schalke (Germany), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Spartak Moscow, FA Twente and Valencia. We will find out on Wednesday the remaining 10 teams to be added to the 32 as Zenit faces Auxerre, Rosenborg faced Copenhagen, Sparta Prague faces Zilina, Young Boys go to Shite Hart Lane, Dynamo Kyiv face Ajax, Salzburg face Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Basel face Sheriff, Partizan face Anderlecht, Braga face Sevilla and Werder Bremen face Sampordia. Should be an exciting draw, and one can only hope that Young Boys embarrass the Scum on their own turf and we can all laugh at 50+ years down the drain.

In other news, William Gallas think that Sp*rs can win the league, and he plans on giving it his all. Sure thing William. Break a leg!

That about does it for me. As most of you know, I don't usually write so this is a leap for me. Please leave some comments and let me know what you think. I reckon I'll get more organized with practice.
More to come before the weekend!

C'mon You Reds!

Former Arsenal Captain William Gallas Is Officially Scum (Photos)

So it's official. Our former Captain, William Gallas has joined the Scum. The pictures below just seem almost comical. He couldn't look any more ridiculous. We knew he was a mercenary when we got him, but this sinks him to a new level of low. Congratulations William, now everyone in London hates you.

One can only wonder what could've been had we sold him 2 seasons ago and kept Kolo Toure.

Gallas has said that he cannot wait to open the latest chapter of his already illustrious career after putting pen to paper on a one-year deal with the Club.

Illustrious career? If what he has had up until now has been illustrious, then he may well feel blind this season, because its hard to see roses when you're surrounded by shit.

Good riddance Willie, we'll all be laughing as you get knocked out of Europe.

What do you think of Tottenham?!?

Gooner Game/Giveaway to Start Off Your Monday

Ok Gooners, I thought we’d have a little fun and play a game…

Below are 8 anagrams made from the names of current Arsenal 1st team players. For those of you who do not know, an anagram is word or phrase formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. In this case, I’ve rearranged the names of 8 current Arsenal players.

Can you name them all? Perhaps you can come up with a few of your own.

Have fun and good luck!

Baby Audio

Cagy Chilli

Baking Bries

Do Linens

Macro Ski Toys

The Total Cow

Rascal Love

A Dormant Rear

If you should come up with some of your own post them in the comments. Send your answers to As a little incentive, we'll draw a name tomorrow from those who submit
all 8 correct and added at least one of their own anagrams to the comments. The winner will win an
Arsenal Badge Pack (pictured below). In your email make sure to include your full name, address,
and Blogger post name.


Thoughts on Liverpool, and Where Is Our Keeper?

Morning all. As I'm sure you're all aware, yesterday Emmanuel Frimpong suffered torn cruciate ligaments in his knee, and will be out for 6-9 months, effectively ending his season. It was the emergence of Frimpong in preseason that Arsene Wenger said kept him from buying a defensive midfielder to back up Alex Song, and this late in the window it would be foolish to think we will sign someone in that position now (whether we will sign anyone at all is open to debate). It is a massive blow to Arsenal, but more than anything to Emmanuel himself, as he looked primed to make the jump from youth team to senior squad member. Good luck to you Manny, we're all pulling for you.

And with that bit of bad news out of the way, on to more bad news. With Laurent Koscielny picking up a joke of a second yellow card on Sunday, he will of course be banned from playing Saturday against Blackpool. Rumor is that Johan Djourou is fit again and would presumably step into the side in Kos' place. However, once Johan gets hurt again (and it's not an "if" anymore but a virtual certainty), we are down to Havard Nordtveidt and then drafting in midfielders to play center half. And since we now only have one proper defensive midfielder (Alex Song) who's currently still out injured, this is a frightening prospect indeed. More rumors have been circulating that we have a bid in for Sevilla's Italian-sounding French defender Sebastien Squillaci, but I take these with a grain of salt. I currently have zero faith in our player personnel department getting anything resolved on the transfer fund. Perhaps Ivan Gazidis should stop worrying about the naming of the stands at Emirates (which as a bowl doesn't have true "stands" anyway) and concern himself with signing up a keeper and defender immediately. Especially after our bidding for Mark Schwarzer has apparently gone like this:

"I'll offer you 2 million for Mark Schwarzer."

"I'm sorry, but that's not enough."

"Very Well. How about 2 million then?"

"... No."

"You drive a hard bargain. Okay, 2 million, and that's my final offer!"

"Get out of my office."

Arsenal, logical as always. As for the match we have so far played, like everyone else, if you had offered me beforehand that we'd pull a point out of the match away at Anfield on Hodgson's debut, I'd have bitten your hand off. However, being that you would have omitted that we'd play like a pub team for most of the second half and that Liverpool would be with 10 men for that entire 45 minutes, I'd have bitten your other hand off as well for being a lying, jerk-faced jerk. Ya jerk.

There were a few positives to take from the match: Samir Nasri played brilliantly yet again, before leaving with an injury; Laurent Koscielny looked lively and effective in his debut before leaving with an injury (although he did return); Andrey Arshavin's subpar performance was put down to him carrying an injury, etc. Seems there's a theme developing. Anyway, we got a very good performance out of Tom Rosicky as a substitute, and Robin van Persie was fit enough to come on late as well. Another debutant, Marouane Chamakh, had a fair match, but did come through when we needed him, attacking an aerial ball into the box that the despicable Peepee (ha, I called him Peepee... it's funny because his name is really Pepe) Reina bobbled into his own net for the equalizer. It was all that the dirty bastard deserved after his role in trying to squeeze a clearly embarrassed Cesc into a Barca shirt post-word cup. So we earned a point late on, but for all the celebrating we did in the pub, it still felt a bit empty.

Okay, we've proven that this continues to be a team with a flair for the dramatic, seeming to relish waiting until the last minute to score an equalizer or winner. In this case however, it was embarrassing. Liverpool had so much of the second half possession that it was us who looked like we had 10 men. Our passing was awful, our runs were mistimed, our defense was sloppy; in short, everything we did on the pitch after haltime was done pretty poorly.

But what's done is done. Our opponents in our home opener, Blackpool, shocked the world by dismantling Wigan. Okay, it's not as though Wigan are worldbeaters themselves, but one must remember that Blackpool were projected by many to be as poor in the Premier League this season as Derby County were in 2007-2008. A 4-0 win wasn't exactly on the cards for them against anyone. We've got to hope that their win was more to do with Wigan being piss-poor than it does with Ian Holloway finding a performance-enhancing drug that grants the user not only strength and stamina but footballing ability. As mad as that man is (and he's quite mad, I assure you), it's not an impossibility. I'm actually afraid that I might have given him an idea to pursue... rats. Additionally, Arsenal will be without Samir Nasri, who underwent minor surgery on his knee that will put him out for a month. It's a bad blow to us, but it could be worse. After all, we have 2 pretty good replacements in substitutes like Tom Rosicky and Cesc Fabregas. I'm sad for Sammy, but not nearly as worried about this as I am about our defense.

The big news around Arsenal--relax, it's not a new signing--is the unveiling of the Highbury Clock inside Emirates Stadium. Many are saying they don't approve of this, which I don't understand. It's hearkening back to Arsenal's roots, continuing the "Arsenalisation" of the stadium, and in my opinion that is a good thing. Per my earlier comments, I do think we should focus some more of the club's resources in other areas *COUGHONTHEPITCHCOUGHCOUGH*, but this is done and should be celebrated. Well done.

Speaking of celebrating, we can all rejoice that our players will no longer come out to the dreaded "The Wonder of You" by Elvis, which has been roundly jeered by anyone with taste since its inception. Elvis has, indeed, left the building. Instead, this is being replaced by Fatboy Slim's "Right Here, Right Now," and I must say I approve. We used to use it sometimes at Highbury, and that album was out at a time when things were very good for Arsenal. Not that it matters what replaced Elvis; the important thing was stopping that song before it became an embarassing tradition. Like cheering for sp*rs.

And, speaking of the scum, William Gallas seems to have found another home where his own fans will hate him. Gallas is reportedly having a medical at Shite Hart Lane today, meaning that he'll pull off a rare trifecta of being hated by every team he's played for: Chelsea fans hate him for coming to Arsenal, Arsenal fans hate him for going to the scum, and for sitting down in a sulk at Birmingham, and for being a shit captain, and for constantly mouthing off in the press, and for constantly being hurt, and for many other reasons, and tottnumb supporters will hate him because he's come from Arsenal. The rarely seen triple-FAIL. Well done, William. Break a leg out there. Your own.

Arsenal (what's left of us) host Blackpool on Saturday morning. It remains to be seen how many Gooners are at Blind Pig for a match against a lacklustre opponent; nonetheless you are all expected to sing, and anyone who doesn't, Kurt is going to taser, so you have all been given fair warning. I, unfortunately, will be driving down to North Carolina's Outer Banks to lounge on the beach, fish, drink grain alcohol, and probably blow things up, so I will be incommunicado, and will have to watch a replay of the match on Sunday. Fingers crossed it's Almunia for us again, because even if he gets beaten near-post, it's still better than Fabianski chucking the ball into our net and falling over. I don't know... let's hear it in the comments section, who would you rather have in there? Remember, this is from who's available, no wishful thinking or "Joe Hart" answers.

Until next time, you stay classy, mon arsamis.

Tomas Rosicky: Arsenal's Underrated Secret Weapon

Before joining Arsenal in 2006, he’d won silverware with each of the other clubs he had played for. He has been named the footballer of the year for his county three times where he has also earned 72 caps. I’m talking of course about Tomas Rosicky.

Rosicky has earned 72 caps playing for the Czech Republic

It’s easy to overlook our “Little Mozart” given the fact he missed much of the 2007-2008 season and the entire 2008-2009 season. Add to that the fact that Le Boss treated Tomas with kid gloves last season (and rightfully so, I might add) and you can say that Rosicky has really only had one season at Arsenal, 2006-2007. When healthy (there’s the rub isn’t it?), Rosicky provides an energy, pace and intelligence to the team that few others can. He is quick thinking, attack minded and has the ability and vision to deliver sublime, defense-splitting passes. He's a great decision maker, rarely gives up the ball and is not afraid to take a crack at goal. In addition, he does not shy away from the tough tackle, getting nasty when necessary, and helping out defensively. However, most importantly, he is one of the only players out there with actual winning experience.

Tomas Rosicky has won titles with both Sparta Prague (1998-2000) & Borussia Dortmund (2001-2002)

So finally it seems as if Rosicky is healthy and if last weekend was any indication, the man looks like he's ready to prove himself to his manager, teammates and the Arsenal faithful. I for one welcome his presence. I mean, let’s face it. Rosicky’s energy sparked the team. His crosses were excellent (lead to the goal) and if it were not for a spectacular fingertip save from Reina, Rosicky would have netted one himself.

Tomas Rosicky: Out to prove the doubters wrong and the perfect partner for Fabregas.

News of Nasri’s knee surgery was certainly not welcomed. But, the gloom and doom mongers who thrive on all things negative want you to believe that all is lost, there is no one to replace Nasri, and the season is over. Nay I say! Rosicky is reportably Fabregas' best friend off the pitch and, in my opinion, the perfect attacking partner for him on the pitch. Nasri's injury will just provide the opportunity for Rosicky to demonstrate his quality.

I know I'll be wearing my #7 jersey this weekend.


Your Favorite Arsenal Kit: A Historical Observation

Greetings to all! My name is Gary and I have signed on to be (hopefully) a regular contributor to The Modern Gooner. I thought I would do something a little different as I have every confidence in the other contributors to this blog to provide thorough, expert analysis and erudite opinions regarding the state of the Arsenal, upcoming fixtures etc... and the last thing I'm sure all of you want to read is someone else coming on board, not nearly as qualified, trying to do the same.

Therefore, for my first entry, and in honor of the new 2010-2011 Arsenal kits (which are pretty darn snappy mind you), I thought I would pose the question, "Over the past 40 years, what has been your favorite Arsenal jersey?" I think the majority of Gooners out there would agree that the home jersey should be red with white sleeves, but there have been almost 20 versions that fulfill that criteria.

To help you decide, I present to you (gathered from many different websites) a pictorial history of the Arsenal Home jersey from 1970 to the present day. For the purposes of this entry, let us focus solely on the home jersey and save the away, third kits and FA Cup Final shirts for future entries.

a) 1970-1981

Definitely the "classic" jersey.

b) 1981-1982

The first Arsenal jersey with a sponsor. JVC would remain on the jersey for almost 20 years.

c) 1982-1984

A slight variation from the prior jersey. The Umbro logo has been removed and the collar has changed. Simple, straightforward...classic.

d) 1984-1986

Again, a slight variation on the collar. It should be noted that 1985 was the centenary year and a version of this jersey has that indicated by the cannon.

e) 1986-1987

Adidas takes over from Umbro.

f) 1988-1990

Adidas' second season. Note the change in sleeves.

g) 1990-1992

Adidas tries out their traditional black stripes.

h) 1992-1994

A radical change...Coincidence that this was Adidas' last jersey?

i) 1994-1996

Nike takes over from Adidas.

j) 1996-1998

A return to a more classic look. Also, I think the first Arsenal jersey to feature a polo-like collar since the 1930's.

k) 1998-1999

Nike introduces Dry Fit technology and puts white down the entire sides of the shirt offset by two thin black stripes. The last JVC jersey.

l) 1999-2000

Same as 1998-1999 but with "Dreamcast", Sega's video game console.

m) 2000-2002

Nike changes the collar, removes the white from the sides of the jersey and moves the black stripes to the shoulders, extending down the sleeve.

n) 2002-2003

O2 replaces Dreamcast, and Arsenal introduces the current crest, but I'm not quite sure what they were thinking with this design. I'd imagine the white extending down towards the torso would have a slimming effect for the more portly among us. I apologize if this one is your favorite.

o) 2003-2004

Jersey of the Invincibles!

p) 2005-2006

A totally new look. Nike seems to completely dismisses tradition and introduces the red courante jersey, though I suppose one could argue that this jersey was a return to the original Woolwich Arsenal jersey of 1913 when the jersey was solid red. I must say that I absolutely love this sharp. But, is it Arsenal?

q) 2006-2008

A new stadium, a new sponsor and a new jersey. Nike returned to the more classic look, but added two thin gold stripes down the sides.

r) 2008-2010

Nike tries to compromise between tradition and a more modern look by replacing the white sleeve with a white stripe down the sleeve and side of the jersey offset with two thin red courante stripes. Did the compromise work?

s) 2010-2011

Mustard!! The current jersey is a traditionalist's dream. Actually, it's almost identical to the 1981-1982 jersey. Of course the maker, crest and sponsor have changed, but everything else is pretty much on par.

Well, there you have 'em. 19 home jerseys over the past 40 years, so I ask you again...which jersey is your favorite? Of course, as fans, we associate memories with special jerseys. Favorite players, special matches, season results and your age all will have an effect on how you feel about any particular kit. Therefore, when sharing your favorite I'm sure the readership would love to hear the reasons why a particular jersey is your favorite.



Arsenal 2010-11 Team Overview, Part 4: *sigh* Goalkeepers

I was in a relatively good mood until I began writing this. Literally began, since the thought of what I would need to comment on has been systematically destroying my nerves for many, many months. The goalkeeping situation at Arsenal has been a dire one for a very long time, but it showed just how putrid it was last season. And while I think all Gooners expected a new arrival at the position to be on the books before now, we've made no additions, nor have we subtracted anyone from the current crop. Even worse, as of right now, Arsene has not so much as hinted at who his starting goalkeeper will be on Sunday, when we begin our season at Anfield against a Liverpool side who have added Joe Cole and who will be geared up to impress new manager Roy "Woy" Hodgson. I suppose I should look at the contenders man by man and assess what we currently have to work with.

Manuel Almunia

(2009-2010: Apps – 36; Conceded – 38; Shots Faced – 123; Saves – 85; Saves to Shot ratio – 67.7%)
LAST SEASON: Our dyed-blonde keeper has never been the most solid of keepers. On his day, he can be a brilliant shot-stopper (1st half of home leg v Barca). But he is prone to mental errors (throw leading to Chelsea goal at Stamford Bridge in 2008, etc.), his positioning is questionable at best, his kicking is just atrocious. Worst of all, through no real fault of his own, he just manages through what appears to be sheer bad luck to allow goals that shouldn't be (the ball bouncing in off his head and in at Eastlands last season). Manuel's command of his area is about as strong as his namesake's command of English:

He has made some crucial saves for us in the past, but these have been far outweighed by equally critical errors that have cost us a great many points. Not only that, but his save percentage has decreased every season since becoming the Arsenal # 1 (Courtesy of We Are Arsenal blog).
2007-2008: 87.5%; 2008-2009: 75.7%; 2009-2010: 69.1%.
We all know how Arsene feels about statistics, and he has the same numbers we have. Perhaps that's why we've seen so little of Almunia this preseason.

THIS TIME: I see no reason to expect different from Manuel this season. It's rare enough when younger outfield players make a huge leap forward in one season; for an aging keeper, it's damn near impossible. I do feel for Manuel, he seems like a very nice guy and deserves to have success somewhere; but I don't feel that Arsenal is that place. He is what he is: somewhat talented, seriously flawed, and an overall liability at the back. Still he's not as bad as...

Lukasz Fabianski
(2009-2010: Apps – 10; Conceded – 16; Saves to Shot ratio – 64.3%)
LAST SEASON: If there was a worse keeper in the top flight of any major European league last season, I didn't hear about him. Fabianski was personally responsible for any number of goals last season. Personally responsible as in, he scored the goal for the other team. His performance in the away leg of our Champions League tie with Porto was the most dismal, abject display of poor goalkeeping I have personally ever seen in 13 years following Arsenal: he threw an EASILY savable ball (and when I say easily savable, I mean I factually believe I would make that stop 10/10 times) and tossed it into his own net; then, after Sol Campbell had bailed him out with a header, he PICKED UP A BACK PASS to give Porto a free kick at the 6 yard box; THEN, to make matters worse, he immediately gave the ball to the referee before his defenders could set up, allowing Porto to walk one into the net, losing the match.

His complete ineptitude at set pieces and willingness to be bullied in his area led teams like Wigan and Blackburn to take advantage of this down the stretch. The knowledge of this particular weakness of not-so-Fab's has spread so far and wide that we saw the same sort of displays by Polish side Legia Warsaw in a preseason match. If they know this trick, you can bet that every side in England and Europe on our schedule will practice the same tactics. Additionally, you can detect a difference in the defenders when Lukasz is in goal. You can tell they have as much confidence in him as we do. His decision-making is terrible, he cannot marshal a defence and even if he could, I would doubt his reading of the game. There is not a single redeeming goalkeeping quality I can see in this man. That Arsene continues to trot him out there must be the result of the manager's hubris, or some sort of blackmail scheme cooked up by Fabianski. Those are the only two logical conclusions I can reach.

THIS TIME: I am not what you would call a religious man, but I have actually prayed to whatever divinities may be out there that Lukasz Fabianski never play for Arsenal again. So if he does make another appearance, I will at least be content in the knowledge that there is no god and the universe is indeed the result of a random collection of occurrences in chaos. So I've got that going for me... which is nice.

Seriously though, he MUST not play. And in case you needed a refresher on how impossibly poor a keeper he is, here's Lukasz in our 3-1 loss to Stoke in the FA Cup. The scoreline could've been much worse.

Vito Mannone

(2009-2010: Apps – 8; Conceded – 8; Saves to Shot ratio – 78.3%)
LAST SEASON: Was pressed into service early last season when Fabianski was mercifully still injured, due to the chest infection/shitty goalkeeping of Manuel Almunia. Taking all of his performances as a whole, I give Vito a pretty positive review. He was clearly man of the match in our 1-0 away win over Fulham, making some remarkable saves, and he was overall very good in home wins over Blackburn and Wigan, while only his debut away at Standard Liege (W 2-3) stands out as subpar. *Note* Some will list his performance in the 2-2 draw at West Ham was poor as well, but of the 2 allowed, one was a penalty, and I feel his defenders let him down a bit. Just my opinion.

THIS TIME: Vito has not seen very much action in preseason, which leads me to believe that he will be no more than 3rd-string again this season, more's the pity. I felt he was clearly the best option we had last season, and while I know he's inexperienced, so is Fabianski. Comparing the two, however, Vito's experience has been successful. Lukasz's has been... what's the opposite of successful? Yeah, that.

Wojciech Szczesny

LAST SEASON: While Wojciech did see some time in last year's preseason (and looked good, I might add), he made only one appearance in the Arsenal first team last season (Carling Cup - stats unavailable). He instead went on loan to Brentford in Coca-Cola League One, where by all accounts he was a great success. Gunnerblog posted answers from Brentford fans about Szczesny's performance last season, and they had this to say about his impact:

Huge, he must have earnt us at least 10 points last season.
Massive. In my opinion, the best keeper I have seen play for Brentford FC since I've been going, 1973, so you can see he has made a huge impact.
Massive, one of the best keepers I’ve seen here, although the impact was probably exaggerated by the fact he replaced a donkey in goal.
As everyone says he had a massive impact on the team, and the thing that struck me was that he didn’t mind going to elbow merchants like MK Dons and Wycombe on cold December nights… in fact he seemed to relish the prospect.
Huge. He helped solidify a defence that was a bit wobbly to say the least. I think he was worth at least 9 points to us, possibly more.

THIS TIME: He's seen a good bit of time in preseason, probably just less than Fabianski and equal with Almunia. What that means for where he will start the season is beyond me. After Fabianski put on his usual clown routine in goal in the first half against Legia Warsaw, Szczesny came on at halftime, and you could just see the difference. The defenders played a little looser (in a good way) and the team started to flow, particularly after Wojciech made a lovely double save when the forward should have scored twice. I do wish I could've seen him more on corners and free kicks, but from what I did see, he did not allow Legia to intimidate him or control his area, as they had done with Fabianski. If no new keeper arrives, Wojciech Szczesny will give us the best chance to win every time out.

By the numbers alone, Vito was by far our best keeper last season, statistically. In two fewer appearances, Vito conceded 8 goals to Fabianski's 16, and at least 2 of Vito's 8 were from penalties. His record in 8 games (5 Premier League starts, 3 Champions League starts), his record was 6 wins, 0 losses, 2 draws (to use a simple league play statistic, 20 pts from a possible 24, or 83% of pts earned). This is far better than either Almunia (78 of a possible 102 pts, 78%) or Fabianski (10 of a possible 30, 33%), although on a smaller scale than Manuel. While one cannot base team record solely on keeper's performance, taken with their respective save percentage, one can logically draw some conclusions about how the team tends to perform based on who is between the sticks. Based on observation, one can clearly see Vito yelling out to his defenders and organizing them in front of him. He himself is vocal and confident, which I feel (and this is again opinion, not fact) inspires confidence in his defenders. Almunia does not exude this quality and while he is occasionally vocal, his body language tells a different tale. Fabianski is not exactly vocal, allows the opponent to control the 18 yard box on set pieces, and lets himself be bullied on a consistent basis. The bottom line is, our new goalkeeping shirts with tiger stripes look stupid enough; they're going to look a whole lot fucking stupider if they're constantly picking mistake goals out of the net. Arsene, I'm begging you: Please sort this out. And by sort this out," I mean "Buy a damned goalkeeper."

On to our season opener, away at Anfield against the Scousers. I would imagine a good many Gooners are feeling mighty nervous about this trip to Liverpool, and this time it's not just about their wallets or hubcaps. In typical Arsenal fashion, we start the season with a slew of injuries (Denilson, Bendtner, Diaby, Song, Djourou, and of course Aaron Ramsey), leaving our squad depleted even before taking into account the relative fitness of our World Cup finalists (and best players) Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie. Then there's the massively stupid timing of the latest batch of USELESS friendlies scheduled by FIFA. The World Cup JUST ended. Give it a rest, huh?

What this means for Arsenal, bar fans praying for Santa to show up with magical healing potion, a defender and a goalkeeper, is that we are at bare bones. I would be shocked if Cesc and RvP start the match, but I would expect at least one to be on the bench, probably both. Denilson and Diaby will have fitness tests today or Saturday, but as neither has been in full training, neither is likely to start. I'm picturing a lineup like this:

Arshavin - Chamakh - Eboue

Wilshere/Rosicky - Nasri - Frimpong

Clichy - Vermaelen - Koscielny - Sagna


While it's certainly not the strongest lineup we've even had, it could be worse. For one thing, I believe that Frimpong is a better option at holding midfielder than Denilson would be. Then we've got the in-form Nasri, Chamakh and Eboue to trouble the Liverpool defence. Finally, we have Andrei Arshavin. At Anfield. The bottom line is, if this Arsenal team play as they are capable (are you listening, back four?) We can certainly win. After all, this is hardly the best side Liverpool have ever fielded either.

Of course, if Fabianski is in goal, all bets are off.

I'll have a more detailed look at the season ahead some time next week. Until then, get your voices ready to sing up for the Arsenal. It's a new season, we have a very good team. On Sunday, whether you're in Anfield, back in North London, in New York, LA, Indonesia, the mountains of Nepal or any point in between, cheer on the Gunners, be that 12th man. We're all connected. No matter who the manager selects, it's time to show it.

And it's Arsenal, Arsenal F.C., We're by far the greatest team, The world has ever seen...

Stay classy.

Pre-season London N5 Calling....

Pre-season N5 Calling...

So this is it we go for 10 months. Personally I can’t wait as this season represents a first for me when it comes to ‘The Arsenal’ but more on that later. The world cup in S.Africa wasn’t a classic by any means but another month of top class football at 3 games a day for the first 20 or so’d be mad to say no thanks! Well done to Cesc and commiserations to RVP but someone always has to win and someone has to lose. We now have a world cup winner (still!) in our ranks to boot.

A lot has been said about Cesc and transfers or lack thereof, Brett is in the midst of his excellent team review/preview so re-opening that whole can ‘o worms is not a good idea with the first game at Anfield so close. Again we find ourselves starting on the banks of the Mersey...but there has been football before that to discuss

AFC v Barnet – Underhill (July 17 th ’10)

So after an unbearable 6 day wait following the world cup final, I found myself on the tube up to the end of the line at High Barnet. For anyone that wants to come to a different kind of Arsenal game I thoroughly recommend Barnet in pre-season. It’s one of those really old fashioned football grounds. It’s not for stands, one per side of the pitch but in fact 7 spread around! And they all differ in age and if you can sit (or even see much in places!), the pitch isn’t close to flat either. The largest stand, being one whole side of the pitch, is terracing and where I found myself for my second Barnet trip. With friends Alex and Andy along for the day, we took our spot near the north end and not too far from the tea bar....I told you this was an old fashioned ground!

There were some problems in getting to the ground with losing Andy at Kings Cross station before leaving central London but he’ll argue Alex and I were’s my blog entry so it was his fault. Anyway, I digress...old stadium, pre-season, football...yes!

Two Arsenal fans quickly invaded the pitch before kick-off for a kick about. Funniest thing was not that they got on the field, or that one was rather fat but the fact that the stewards just watched (as did the police) leaving the rather posh stadium announcer to ask over the PA system "could the two gentlemen on the pitch please get off?!"

The stewards gave more attention to taking down a ‘f*ck u barca’ banner erected behind the north end goal, one rather geeky steward being the ring leader. This poor soul then had to endure a terraced stand of Gooners chanting “there’s only on harry potter” at him for the next 90 mins. Trip was a good sighting for Laurent K and Marouane with chants of “Chamakh! Chamakh! Chamakh!” with Jack and Manny Frimpong looking good too. Outstanding performer was TV5 but who’s surprised? Football was back.

The three of us then started our own pre-season build up...back in N5 for a few beers by 7pm turned into talking Andy into not getting his train home and staying in the pub till closing time at 12.30am.

Emirates Cup – AC Milan/Celtic – Sat July 31st & Sun Aug 1st

I have to admit, when I first saw the new home kit I wasn’t blown away. I wanted the ’71 style shirt with just the cannon logo and small emirates logo that Arseblog had back in March. But, what am I going to do..not buy the kit? I was in the club shop by 11am Saturday getting it printed up! Now as Brett and Kurt will attest to, and anyone else that has seen my kits, I don’t go for players names anymore. If you’ve seen Brett’s shirt with COMRADE on the back that was my idea, after a lot of beer though.

The new look for 10/11 is...

Wearing that for two days got alot of good banter going...and even a seal of approval from our real #52. After the Saturday games the road on which the players drive away from the stadium is right next to the Tollington (our Blind Pig). Saturday was game day for Rich and I...well done to Rich for eagle eyed-ness as he spotted Nik B pulled up 15 feet away in his Aston Martin from us. I waved at Nik but Rich spun me round and shouted “Oi Nik, look at this!” while pointing at the back of my kit. Nik looked with a curious expression only to be replaced a few seconds later with a lot of laughing, a smile and big thumbs up. I managed to turn around before he drove off and got pointed at and another thumbs up. Approval from the big dog himself! Much beer was drunk in celebration afterwards until closing....

As for Sunday, well that meant Celtic. The pub was rammed with their fans, who were in good song. They were good banter too, joking about the Eduardo penalty last year etc. No problems at all and good people all round. We done to Lou, Martin and everyone else at the Tolington for letting them in and even with security keeping the same good mood in the place...reflects the fact that the pub was voted one of the best home fan pubs for game days by readers of ‘The Gooner’ fanzine in their official fans poll for last season.

After the game, more beer and a little too much beer for one person...not me though. For the day we had Luis and Joe in the pub and Luis’ brother in law Carlos. Carlos likes his beer, a lot, so imagine the Spanish/Portuguese version of Brett in looks and beer consumption...i’m not joking!

After 8 hours of beer and a donner kebab, Carlos had a rather curious encounter with some Norwegian Gooners in the pub post game who made him try tobacco that you stick under your top lip like how a hamster stores food in its cheeks. Carlos wanted more, so they gave him more then it all caught up with him and the beer reappeared... the rest you can fill in.

Despite the fact it was meant to be a quiet day for our Iberian visitor he left happy for his train home with Luis and Joe. Plans made for a big day on aug 21st to see the new season in at home and good to see the new clock in the stadium too...will be started at home game v Blackpool.

Sat 21st means back to Saturday at the game, back in the pub and my little brother Tom’s 22nd birthday... another closing time drinking effort! Another first for me as the promised land has finally been reached. After 7 years on the waiting list, being kicked off it, the re-added, then 3 weeks later getting the call asking “do you want one?” this came in the post this week...

This is it Gooners...10 more months and just like the start of every season since I was 9 years old, I can’t wait

Keep the faith Gooners. Arsene always knows.

- Gareth

Arsenal 2010-11 Team Overview, Part 3: Defenders

I've felt pretty good while writing the Forward and Midfield sections of this team overview. But now, we enter a dark place, full of mystery and danger. I'm talking of course about the Arsenal defense. Join me, won't you... if you dare...

OUT: William Gallas (Contract Expired); Sol Campbell (Bosman Free Transfer, Newcastle); Mikael Silvestre (Contract Mercifully Expired); Philippe Senderos (Bosman Free Transfer, Fulham).
IN: Laurent Koscielny (Undisclosed Fee, FC Lorient - Ligue 1)

Thomas Vermaelen

LAST SEASON: We brought over the as-yet-unknown Vermaelen from Ajax, and while we desperately needed reinforcements, no one knew what to make of the Belgian. "He's too short," some said. "He has no experience," others chimed. Fans can be forgiven for being a bit hasty; after all, Le Boss has had a spotty history with signing defenders *COUGHSTEPANOVSCOUGHCOUGH* in the past. Nevertheless, in this instance he struck gold. Vermaelen started off like a house on fire, scoring in his league debut against Everton and showing that it didn't matter that he wasn't super tall, since he could leap tall buildings in a single bound. Vermaelen quickly became our defensive superman, a hard-nosed player who would tangle with opposing forwards and just as easily bomb forward and score. It's no coincidence that our defense fell apart once Vermaelen went out with an injury. Here's hoping he can stay fit for every match, as we're rather thin right now.

THIS TIME: No longer an unknown quantity, Vermaelen enters the season a fan favorite and an acknowledged leader of the team, a lieutenant to Cesc. He is a player that his teammates, coaches and fans all respect and trust to do the job. But while last season the Verminator was able to break into the lineup alongside the temperamental but very talented and experienced William Gallas, he will now find himself breaking in a new partner in central defense (although no one is sure just who that is, exactly). Tommy's season may hinge as much on his partner as on himself.

Laurent Koscielny

LAST SEASON: Played in Ligue 1 last season for FC Lorient, and in Ligue 2 the season before. I had never seen him play, much less heard of him, before this summer. I was actually shocked that he was on FIFA 10.

THIS TIME: The main complaint surrounding this signing is that he has the upper body of a 12 year old boy. Rail-thin center backs do not inspire much confidence once you realize that they'll have to go up against the likes of Drogba, Rooney, even Kevin Davies: big, strong forwards who have and will continue to use physical force to get by defenders and score. And we've seen those same forwards do the same to Arsenal defenders for several years, so my own nerves have been on edge about this since he was introduced wearing what appeared to be a boys size Small shirt. Please don't get me wrong; I hope sincerely that the Kos is everything Wenger thinks he will be, fast, strong with a knack for breaking up attacks and putting himself right in the attackers' way. He did so effectively in our preseason fixtures, but once things went beyond the having-a-run-out pace and Legia really started going for it, Koscielny was exposed. Even without the OG he knocked in, he had an exceptionally poor match in a 6-5 win in Poland. Wenger seems convinced he's the real deal; I'm reserving my judgment, but I don't have a very good feeling.

Bacary Sagna

LAST SEASON: Sagna went through his third season at Arsenal rather uneventfully; there were no goals against Chelsea or dramatic bicycle goal-line clearances. In fact, his most memorable contribution was probably a cross to RvP to score against the scum. But unlike forwards, nondescript is not necessarily terrible for a defender. It denotes consistency, which is perhaps the most misunderstood part of Sagna's game. He does everything pretty well, nothing too poor. Sure his crossing isn't the greatest, but then no one on Arsenal can whip in a decent cross, so it's difficult for me to hold fault with him there.

THIS TIME: More of the same if you please, Bacary. While we're certainly more attacking when Eboue is in at fullback, Sagna also provides defensive assurance, which is in short enough supply at Arsenal. He's steady and ever-present, and I love him for it. Give me Sagna over just about any right back.

Gael Clichy

LAST SEASON: Same story as many of our top players, Gael spent large chunks of last season out with injuries. While our immediate backup was also hurt, we were down to our third-choice left back for a long spell. Upon returning, Clichy needed a few weeks to settle back in, but once he did so, played pretty well, I thought. He'll always be compared to Cashley since he was the one who replaced him, and I suspect that's where the criticism of his crossing comes in. That and the fact that he can't cross. He's still liable to make a mental error or over-pursue an attacker, but on the whole was pretty solid.

THIS TIME: Tough to say. He's obviously our first-choice left fullback when healthy, but it would not surprise me to see him encounter competition from his young backups. It seems fairly certain that the 2007-08 season, when Clichy was regarded as the best left back in England, will never be recreated, but Gael can still certainly do the job. Perhaps competition will cause him to focus on his game and see some improvement, although I wouldn't exactly hold my breath.

Emmanuel Eboue

LAST SEASON: Eboue went from the fans' most hated list to the top of the most beloved last season. Gone were the theatrical displays of falling down, diving for fouls and cards which alienated him from the average Arsenal fan. His industry and work rate continued to be phenomenal, certainly one of the hardest working players in an Arsenal shirt, and he finally seemed to figure out his wide midfield role enough to feature prominently for us in away fixtures. He's a cult hero and seems a genuinely good guy.

THIS TIME: I decided before writing this section to include Eboue as a defender because there are fewer of them. Then his fantastic display against Warsaw on Saturday went down and I immediately regretted that decision. Eboue, who is the subject of so many Arsenal songs, is also our best right-winger right now, especially with the underwhelming play of Theo Walcott this preseason (Capello must've chosen him to keep him from crying, because it certainly can't be based on his football). He's likely to start there at Anfield on Sunday, and deservedly so. Some of us come to watch Cesc, some for Arshavin. Me, I only come to see Eboue.

Kieran Gibbs

LAST SEASON: Was cut down early on last season, recovered from that injury for I think one match, and broke a foot in that same match, effectively ending his season.

THIS TIME: The highly-touted Gibbs has looked very good in preseason, and I do believe he will push Clichy very hard for the starting left back position over the course of this season, which is no bad thing. He also just got his first England call-up, so no doubt Capello has noticed his form as well. If I sound like a broken record, it's because I am: all of this depends on whether he can stay healthy. If he can, Cashley might be seeing Gibbs in his rear-view mirror just as like Clichy. He's very talented and is our biggest offensive threat from fullback, in my opinion. Where he may fall short is in the amazing lung-busting runs up and down the flank of which Clichy seems capable for 90 minutes. Perhaps we'll see enough of him this season to know for certain.

Johan Djourou

LAST SEASON: Managed to break Samir Nasri's leg in preseason training before injuring his own knee and going down for the season. Otherwise we saw nothing of Johan except for the odd appearance on Arsenal TV Online.

THIS TIME: He's like a new signing *chorus of boos* Okay, okay, settle down. He wasn't around, now we have him, that's all I'm saying. Okay, maybe I neglected to mention that the Swiss is constantly crocked, and that it is a virtual certainty that he will spend significant time out injured this season. Like he seems to do every season. It's not his level of play (generally good) that makes me crazy when it comes to Djourou. It's his inability to play more than a few weeks in a row before something else goes wrong. He will never be able to lay claim to a starting role in defense so long as he keeps himself sidelined with odd knocks.

Armand Traore

LAST SEASON: Played significant minutes in the winter months while both Clichy and Gibbs were injured, to mixed reviews. His first few matches showed a composed, athletic fullback who do a great many things and was capable of shutting down an opponent's wing. That high level initially evaporated as his performances became gradually spottier, culminating in an abject display hosting Villa when Landon Donovan absolutely tore him apart. Mercifully, as his gaffes became worthy of our keepers, Traore was replaced by the returning Clichy. Some good from Traore, some not-so-good, but he's back again this season.

THIS TIME: Will we see him push both Gibbs and Clichy? Perhaps. It's a tall ladder for Traore though, and a healthy Gibbs might put paid his chances. Given Clichy and Gibbs both have injury histories however, I don't see us selling him, especially since we lost valuable backup in the departing Silvestre (hahaha... valuable and Silvestre in the same sentence... I slay me). Hopefully for Arsenal, we won't need to see much of Traore. Tough luck Armand.

Havard Nordtveidt

LAST SEASON: Spent last year and the year before on loan with Nurnberg in the Bundesliga. Overall favorably reviewed, although it's all secondhand information to me, since I didn't watch a single Nurnberg match the last 2 seasons. Played a great deal of defensive midfield during his loan spell.

THIS TIME: After coming over as a youth player a few seasons ago, Havard finally has his chance to make an impact on the first team. He played exclusively at right fullback in preseason and looked pretty good, but we've never seen him in truly live competitive football. He looks to have good pace and size, goes forward as well as he defends. His positioning could use some work, but again, this is all that I've noticed over a few preseason matches. We'll know more if we see him for the first team. And if it's not in Carling Cup, then we know the worst has happened and we have no more center halves.

That's really the one question that needs to be asked of this preview: Where's the rest of it? If we do the math, 4 defenders out and 1 coming in is -3, for those of you scoring at home. To be fair, Silvestre leaving is sort of addition by subtraction, Senderos hasn't played for the club (except one carling cup match last season) in 2 years, so we can't really count him. That leaves Sol and Gallas leaving, with Koscielny coming in. So we're one less than we were last season.

Which is nice and all, until we remember that we were short a center back going into last season from the season before as well. It seems we have fewer every season. Is it some plot by Arsene to get rid of all defenders in football? While the "Arsenal fans" writing at Le Grove would have you believe it is, I can assure you it is not. Writers with sources at the club are saying that Le Boss is holding off because players on the market are all overpriced. It's a nice theory and all, but we were burned by this nonsense a couple of seasons ago when we failed last minute with a bid for Xabi Alonso. Not only do we have to worry about failing to get anyone, but if we wait until the end of August and drop a number of points in the meantime, whoever we sign will join us as we're clawing our way back up instead of joining a full side in preseason, ready to ride roughshod over the league.

Not that you or I could do anything about that. In any case, let's just hope that the Boss can straighten us out. The fourth and final overview, the Goalkeepers, is coming up on Friday as a prelude to my overall season preview.

Until next time, you stay classy, Mon Arsamis.