Plenty of fall out from Manchester United's shambolic 4-0 League Cup defeat, plus thoughts on Van Persie, Arsenal strikers, Benik Afobe, Celtic and Astroturf...
There's plenty of excitement surrounding Angel Di Maria's attacking threat, but Adam Bate says he's more than just an assists machine. United are getting the full package...
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Wenger Wrong Over Fabregas
So that's that then. Despite having a week or two to come to terms with it, it managed to be worse than expected to see Cesc in a Chelsea shirt. One of my favorite players to watch playing for one of the most despicable clubs and the most despicable manager in the league. If Wenger doesn't do some serious business this summer he may not make it all the way through the first year of his new contract. I get the argument for not spending the money on him given other needs, but he's better than anyone else in our midfield besides Ozil and maybe Ramsey, and it just seems like you have to pick up that sort of quality when it becomes available. This one hurts.
...Arsenal and Wenger have made a mistake from a footballing and PR standpoint. Ozil, Wishere, Ramsey and Cazorla have displayed that they WILL miss a significant amount of games through injury, let alone Diaby. From a PR standpoint the signing would have sold season tickets and shirts and improved the feelings of many Gooner faithful. As it is it just leaves some at worst angry and at best with a quizzical raised eyebrow.
Not to mention that you have just made a direct rival stronger. It will be interesting to see how the Fabregas/Mourinho relationship develops.
...I've just seen the headlines and I am almost shaking with anger. What the hell have we done? It's about all I can do to not just write an email that is a stream of invective. I've never been in the Arsene Out camp. I can't stand reading Stewie Griffin's missives whining and complaining. But this? This, this is almost too much.
I've supported Arsenal for quite a while now, and, all through the Wenger era there has been a reality. Going right back to the joint sale of Overmars and Petit to Barca and Anelka to Madrid, our best players move elsewhere because we have to sell to raise money, for one reason or another. Players have joined us become world beaters and moved on to pastures new/bigger contracts. Arsenal fans have got used to watching our players win the biggest of trophies for other teams, mostly with a degree of understanding (for me, even RVP), the odd occasional one with a sense of resentment because of the way they gracelessly left the club (Cole, Adebayor and Nasri).
But, we were promised this would stop. We've largely paid for the new stadium, have monumental cash reserves and the signing of Ozil was supposed to usher in a new era. We could compete on a new level, no more selling to balance the books, genuine world class signings.
So what have we done this summer? We've let our first choice right-back leave because of an economic principle which, in the here and now doesn't make much sense, and, in addition, we've turned down re-signing Fabregas.
Let's let that sink in a touch. We've let the current first choice French national team right-back leave the club for nothing to (probably) join the current league holders - whilst we pay good money to sign a replacement. For the substantial encore we turned down the option we had on our former star player, captain, lover of our club, who is in the prime of his career and has won just about every trophy under the sun. And we've done it so that he can move to a 'rival' (I put this in quotation marks because Chelsea will be away and over the hill from us next season, at this rate). And, for the first time, we've done this not because we didn't have the money (understandable, if deeply frustrating) but because we just didn't want to.
The bats have left the belfry, Arsene has dropped all the sandwiches from his picnic, and has clearly stopped taking the sanity pills.
For anyone that wasn't paying attention for the whole of last season, despite Giroud being a bit 'so-so' and lacking some back-up to give him a rest, he did ok. Yes a top class striker would be lovely but did no-one else notice that our league challenge actually came off the rails when our talented-but-balsa-wood midfield all got injured? This will happen again. Arteta and Rosicky have got one more year in them (even ignoring the quality gap between them and Fabregas), two max, and Diaby isn't even worth talking about as a footballer anymore (sadly). We do actually need another midfielder! So why not sign the best guy that will be on the market for many a year. The deal was made for us.
We also needed to do it just to stop Cesc falling into someone else's hands. Fergie was the master at this. Lose the league and go out and make a statement, spend the money, rip the heart out of the opposition if you can. Buy the best player in the league. Do whatever you can to buy the star player that the other team want as well. We are just not ruthless enough. And so now we will have to put up with watching Cesc run a merry dance around the league for several years whilst we make do with Cesc-lite and his lego hair and whoever his cheap replacement is in a couple of years time. I genuinely believe that only us now going and signing Iniesta, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic or Messi will make up for this.
What's more, the renewal of the vastly expensive season tickets was two weeks ago. It's pretty sickening.
Yours in immense frustration and sadness.
Josh (no prizes for guessing where I'm from or who I support)
...So Cesc has joined Chelsea. It certainly does not take a genius to figure out that Wegner has made a big mistake.
Last season virtually all of our midfield players had anywhere from six weeks to three months out injury. Diaby did not even play a full game. So having a former captain and world class player back in the fold is a win, win situation. Yes, but not in Wenger's world. To his defence, Wenger would claim that bring Cesc back would stunt the playing growth of others such as Jack, the Ox, Diaby. However, competition for places is the real basis for winning trophies. Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd always have more world class players because it is a squad game and that is what leads to winning. In order to win titles you need players of the quality of Cesc. This is not me, as a season ticket holder, harking back to the days gone by, but wondering when is our manager going to add players of real quality to our squad. We have the cash. However, I get the impression Wenger will only add to squad if there is a crisis.
There is a real feeling of worry that we will stand still. This just weeks after winning our first trophy for a while. Wenger - it is time to get us some world-class talent that will make our first team unpredictable and truly fear. After 250,000 celebrated our win in May, some of us are now once again becoming nervous. Show us the way forward so we can really behind get back Arsenal.
Tony Laforce, Hackney, London
Wenger Right Over Fabregas
It's worth remembering Arsenal probably could have re-signed Petit from Barcelona in 2001 but opted for bringing in Edu. Back then with the players we had in midfield we didn't feel the need to bring back Petit and we went on to win the double.
Can't help but think there's a bit of deja vu about this whole Cesc situation. We don't need him either. Also Mata is the better player. This is all about Maureen's ego and him seemingly getting one over on Arsene - you haven't son.
Graham Simons, Gooner, (We've got Mesut bloody Ozil), Norf London
...I see some Gooners are losing their s*** over yesterday's events. Consequently I have compiled this list:
Players Arsenal have never replaced:
Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Sol Campbell.
Players Arsenal have more than adequately replaced:
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
I'm sure I won't be the only one to write about the refereeing in the Brazil v Croatia game, as it changed the complexion of the match entirely.
I've seen Yuichi Nishimura officiate before, and I think he's a generally solid referee; I just think that the occasion was too much for him, and he was too weak to stand up to the crowd. Leaving aside the absurd penalty decision (I know it's a cliche, but if you gave spot kicks for challenges like that we really would have 10 or 15 per game); the decision not to dismiss Neymar, which would have had huge consequences for probably the entire tournament, was clearly a bottle job. If you watch the replay you can see Neymar clocking Modric's position with a sly sideways glance, and, given he wasn't trying to jump, there was no need for his arm to be where it was at all. It was clearly violent conduct. You only have to look at Neymar's face as Nishimura races across to him to see that he feared a red card would be brandished.
Whilst I thought Croatia suffered from the bulk of the poor decisions you could also see the referee's weakness in the way he allowed five Croatian players to crowd him backwards against the advertising hoardings after the penalty decision. I'm not a massive fan of Howard Webb's but you can't imagine that happening to him.
Possibly the fault is with the organisers for having the home side play in the first match; the weight of expectation is too great. We were better served when the holders played first, and the hosts first match was just one of the first round of encounters. The pressure last night told on both the referee and Brazil, who, until the equaliser, looked nervy and off the pace. I suspect that the pressure also led to Neymar's challenge on Modric.
Still, on the plus side, it was a pretty entertaining match; lots of incident and never dull. Oh, and the Croatian 'keeper was pants; too slow and uncertain handling.
Roll on 5pm and match number two.
Tim the Tum
...I think the best thing that could happen to football would be Brazil leaving the tournament early. I have no truck with the romantic notions of a home triumph, nor do I buy into the necessity for the hosts to stay in the tournament as long as possible (based on the extraordinarily dubious refereeing from last night, it does look like a truly mediocre Brazil side are going to be there for the long haul).
My justifications for this desire are manifold - should Brazil crash out, there will be half empty stadia everywhere, providing very poor pictures for TV coverage, which will not look good for the sponsors, which will in turn, reflect badly on FIFA (can you see where this is heading?).
Should they crash out, there will be no panacea to deflect from the shocking amount of money diverted from the public purse directly into FIFA coffers and the groundswell of protest will surely become a tsunami, demonstrations and (hopefully) peaceful protests (although it does sadly appear that violent protest is the only way to predicate change) against FIFA and its corruption.
Nothing will change unless we take some simple steps - boycott the sponsors products; change credit card; eat at a different "restaurant"; watch the matches via a streaming servic; and hit FIFA where it hurts - in the profit margin. If enough of us do this, the current murmurs of discontent will become deafening and certain recent decisions could be changed, certain corpulent parasites could be removed from power and we could possibly, get our game back.
Dan - hey Fifa, leave our game alone.
Neymar: Just Like Welbeck
I was watching Neymar last night and it struck me that he is like a rich man's Danny Welbeck...
Great burst of pace; bandy-legged style; moments of brilliant skill; moments where he has the touch of Max Clifford; prefers playing centrally, but often stuck out on the left; underwhelming domestic season for European giant; Dodgy haircut.
Will see if Danny can do a Neymar on Italy.
Rex Conlon (Danny won't do a Neymar)
Swooning Over Zizou
I was glad to read Laurence's mail mentioning Zidane's godlike performance against Brazil, and his nutting of Materazzi. May I suggest reviewing this penalty after six minutes of a World Cup Final.
The inability to take a penalty will cost someone the chance at glory this World Cup, probably England, and Pirlo and others are rightly credited with their Panenkas, they take big balls. In the World Cup final Zidane faced Buffon, and put the ball over the line by about a foot and a half, via the crossbar, and meant it. He was celebrating before the ball even hit the bar. Then, he headbutted a guy for slagging his sister, thus rendering another flawless display of his 'style and arrogance' lost in the madness of what followed. He still came out of it a World Cup winner after doing the business in '98. Pure class.
Dropped A Bollock
Fun piece from Nick Miller on third choice keepers, and great line on Dominique Dropsy's nominative determinism... but totally untrue!
Baratelli was the replacement for Demanes, who smashed his back on the post. Baratelli then did ok, but failed to stop Luque's thunderb*****d, which seems a harsh reason to drop him.
Dropsy then came in for the last game, a dead rubber against Hungary. Although he did concede a goal, there wasn't much he could have done to stop it.
Not sure what Hidalgo was thinking with the keeper situation - Baratelli wore no.1, but Bernard-Demanes appeared to be first choice despite only having nine caps at the start of the tournament.
Luke (enchanted by Rakitic's smile)
With all the hype of the World Cup and Cesc Fabregas signing for Chelsea, I'd like to take a minute to reflect on the news that David Bentley has retired from football aged 29.
Another skillful, English player left by the wayside to rot. It's not everyone else's fault, the player himself had just as much to do with it. But he had all the talent in the world and its now gone to waste. Is there anything that can be done in the game to prevent people such as David falling 'out of love' with the game?
Don't worry David, I'll always remember that goal.
Willian, Oscar and Luiz singing and dancing awkwardly on that ITV intro has to be the most epic fail in recent World Cup history.
Are the Chinese taking over as the most amourous lovers on the planet? If you'd read the non-football story of the day in Mediawatch over the past week you'd be forgiven for thinking so.
Gibbo (MUFC - Down under)
Luka No Likey
What has Modric done to his hair?! He obviously didn't read the mailbox about form equating to how cool your hair looks!
Jon (Thought it was Phil Neville at first), England