Thursday, 20 May 2010

Wenger, Gerrard & Ungrateful fans

Now, of course I have the Liverpool fc perspective on the ungrateful fans issue with the recent abuse that our great Captain Mr Steven Gerrard has had to endure from a few supposed Liverpool supporters recently. It was brought to my attention that certain Liverpool supporters were chastizing Steven Gerrard after an errant backpass against Chelsea and I for one was appalled by the way some people had the temerity to turn on Stevie G.

Admittedly 2009/2010 hasn't been Mr Gerrard's best season in a Liverpool shirt (the defeat away to Wigan was probably the worst i've ever seen him play) but let's not have this short memory stupidness that some seem to have. Criticism is fine as everyone makes mistakes and no-one is perfect, just take top level referee's as an example of this, but think about what Steven has done for Liverpool over the years, remember the F.A Cup final in 2006 aka the Gerrard final (and it wasn't called that because Gerrard sat back and watch proceedings pass him by), remember who started the scoring in Istanbul, remember who scored the critical 3rd goal against Olympiakos that was the beginning of us getting there in the 1st place.

When I saw the mistake by Stevie G I turned around to a friend of mine who I watched that match with and said 'you know what, after everything he's done for the club, I can't be pissed at him for doing that'. I had the same reaction when he did the same thing which presented Thierry Henry with a goal back in 2004/2005 at Highbury after he had carried our team for that whole season. My message is simple, have your opinion by all means, but remember what Steven Gerrard has done for our club before you start calling him shit, or a twat or any other defamatory name, otherwise i might have to start quoting Didier Drogba & calling you a fucking disgrace, because thats what turncoat fans are.

I'm Straight Shootin' LJA & thats my opinion

Liam Aka LJA

To my surprise I picked up the Daily Mirror about a week back and read an article, which stated that a minuscule fraction of Arsenal glory hunters (the new wave of fans whom talk absolute nonsense) were so unhappy that they decided to disrespect Arsene Wenger by parading a banner which read “Sign ins or Sign off”. If I were Arsene Wenger (who is one of Arsenal’s most successful managers) I would be absolutely disgusted. Especially after the tuff season he and his players endured; a squad hit by niggling injuries, a back biting board; a couple loose lipped players and pundits talking and slurring around every corner. However he still managed to ensure we finished in the top four above our rivals spurs...

I just can’t understand the nerve of these so called Arsenal fans, how can the call into question Arsene Wengers ability to manage when his consistency with in the league is second to only Alex Ferguson, he has not finished outside the top four in his tenure at the club, and it was not until the billionaires entered the premiership that he was finishing no lower than the top three. Also Wenger was the first ever overseas manager to win the premier league back in 1997/1998 this was topped up with a Fa cup victory the same year, since then he has won 2 more leagues in 2002 and 2004, plus 3 more Fa Cups in 2002, 2003 and 2005, and he remains the most successful overseas manager to manage an English club to this date.

Fan’s have been hitting out at Wenger for the trophy baron spell since our FA Cup win in 05, however if you ask me Arsene Wenger has been pulling off some of the grandest master strokes. What many of these egotistical Arsenal fans don’t realize is Arsene Wenger has given more to Arsenal than he most likely expected. He has literally put in over 13 years of his life contributing to all areas of the club set up, introducing a new health regime; a new style of play; a youth academy second to none; assisting in the design of the new stadium and winning trophies (He must also be merited with having an unbeaten squad over the course of one season), where all this criticism comes from I do not know.

To sum up, Arsenal fans should more than appreciate Mr Wenger for his achievements; they should praise him at least three times a day, rather than begrudge him for a few seasons of hard times. Wenger has been loyal to Arsenal, helping us to grow as a club both on and off the pitch. The past 4 seasons have seen him working with the bare minimum to create a top four team, any other manager would have walked as the task is almost impossible for all other clubs to do, what he has done. Nope! Not Wenger he stayed believing he could create a team within the means of the club that could compete at the top, Wenger has stuck to his guns to ensure Arsenals future and i think us Arsenal fan at least owe him the same level of respect to ensure his!!!

In Arsene I Trust

G.C.Henry aka Gman

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Gooner be a Good Season or Bad Season (May 2010)

At the end of the 2004/2005 season we saw Captain Patrick Viera (now of Manchester City) lift the FA cup. In what was a tightly contested match Arsenal were fortunate to out whit Manchester united 5-4 on penalties. Many Arsenal supporters at the time including myself saw this victory as the start of good things to come. 5 years on and another season has passed us by, yet again Arsenal have nothing to show for it; No trophy, no final and not even a big player signing. The only glimpse of excitement beaming out of the Arsenal camp at the moment is the battle between board room multi millionaires Stan Kronke VS Alisher Usmanov.
In terms this seasons outcome, I'm pretty sure my fellow Arsenal fans will see this as another wasted one; a season that promised so much joy but delivered nothing but pain. In all honesty I felt there may have been a chance of something special being achieved for 2010. Even though critics and pundits alike were adamant at the start of the campaign that Arsenal were not good enough for the title challenge; were not up for the champions league battle and some even claimed the 'Young Guns' would struggle to finish in the top four. How wrong were they on the latter!!!

I guess the biggest concern for all us Arsenal fans has to be the trophy cabinet at the Emirates, which hasn’t seen any action since the stadium opened. In fact it’s probably seen more cobwebs than it has noticeable accolades, the closest the Gooners have come to having any sort of glory was in 2007, when Chelsea’s vastly expensive and expierenced team came back from one goal down to dispose of the cheaply constructed teenage Arsenal team who had been wooing home and the neutral supporters throughout the knockout stages of the competition, defeating West Brom, Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham. Yet 3 years down the line the Gooners have failed to build on this momentum. WHY!!
Project Ashburton Grove aka the Emirates Stadium, was desperately needed. The development of the 60’000 seated stadium has ensured we are now able to compete with the United’s and Chelsea’s, in all areas of the game (Signings, contracts, marketing etc). However in doing so Arsene Wenger has paid the price heavily, yet Wenger being the wizard he is, has done a marvellous job. Sustaining Arsenal rights to calling themselves a top four giant, this is at the least required to quench the first of glory hungry fans.

Wenger has been working from a shoe string of finances and resources, and up until now has been unable to battle with the big money men of the premiership, reduced to dipping into the youth setup or finding cheap deals across the world. He was not helped by the fact David Dein, one of his closet allies at the club, chose to part ways with the Arsenal board (2007) due to conflicting views over the direction the club. This inevertedly introduced us to now Arsenals largest share holder Stan Kronke, whom at the current moment is in a power struggle with the Russian billionaire owner Alisher Usmanov, who’s ‘Red & White holdings’ was being chaired by David Dein up until 2008.

Wenger being a lateral thinker, shrewd business man and tactical genius has overcome such financial restraints & board squabbling by helping to guide his flock of young talent helping them to concentrate on the on field battles rather than the distracting pot shots that are happening within the board room.The Past 5 years has seen Wenger build a squad of young and upcoming stars. He has trusted his youth policy and continued give the next flock of talent the chance to flex their developing muscles. The likes of Cesc Fabregas, Abou Diaby, Alex song & Jack Wilkshere are proof of Wenger's theory that youth players can play an important role in sustaining Arsenals & Arsene Wenger rich legacy of entertaining football of the highest quality. Arsene is convinced this current crop of players if kept as a tight unit will be able to overturn the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea and when looking how this season has turned out, this claim is not far from the truth.

Arsenal was being ridiculed at the beginning of the season for their lack of spending. Wenger had a pre season clear out, releasing the likes of Adebayour and Toure to Manchester City for a joint fee of around £25m, his only signing during the august transfer window was 10 million signing of Thomas Vermaelen. Most of Wenger’s peers saw this as him being defiant and once again naive for trusting the same talent to take him into another premier league campaign.

The Campaign started weirdly, there was the case of a 6-1 victory away to Everton (whom to be honest were very wobbly, due to an early season injury crisis), we then went on to beat Portsmouth, only then to be defeated by both Manchester’s with in a space of a week, after the defeat to city we were already being written out of the of the race for the title. However from September – November we garnered a 9 game premier league non losing streak, winning 8 of the nine games. It wasn’t until we came up against another of our top four competitors that we came unstuck beaten 3-0 by Chelsea, a superb hat trick from Didier Drogba. The losses to United and Chelsea were indicators for the pundits that Arsenal had still a long way to go before being ready to compete with the biggest.

We then went on another 12 game none losing streak applying the pressure on both Chelsea and Untied only to be beaten again by the two. But when the chips were down, we bounced back to trounce FC Porto 5-0 at the Emirates in the Champions League. Only to find out we would face the spectacle known as Barcelona. This was being tipped as the match of Total Football. However in the premiership the momentum was slowly pleating away, pressure and injuries was taking its tool.

The season effectively came to an end after Barcelona dumped us out of the champion League with two terrific displays, one of which Argentina’s whiz kids Lionel Messi called all the shots (Literally). In the premiership our greatest rivals ended our challenge totally beating us 2-1 in a must win match, credit to Harry Redknapps Spurs.

Now with the season finished Arsenal lay 3rd in the table and with such a young squad, i believe this is a wonderful testament to Arsene Wenger's youth policy, Allan Hansen once said, “You can’t win anything with kids...” However I would like to point out in a 38 game season, Arsenal has won 23 matches to finish in the top four, ensuring they’ve qualified for the champion’s league once again; exited the quarter finals stage of the champions league, beaten by arguably the world’s best; the youth were knocked out of the Carling Cup by a very strong Manchester City side, who gave Man Utd a run for their money in the Semi’s.

So I conclude even though trophies are not heading towards the Emirates this term, all is not lost. I believe all gooners should be able to feel proud about the outcome of this season and positive about the next one, if Arsene Wenger manages to introduce a few new faces for next term, preferably a New Goalie, two Defenders and two Strikers then Arsenal will be a stronger and more resilient outfit. We have the stadium, we have the history and we have the talent!

These views have been brought to you by

Gavin C Henry aka Da G-Man

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Future Of Rafael Benitez & Liverpool Football Club

Well, as a Liverpool supporter this is an issue close to my heart and after the last 2 defeats (to Chelsea & Atletico Madrid) as I write this my team have virtually no chance of finishing anywhere above 6th, which for a great club like Liverpool is in all honesty a disgrace. This season may have further rammifications on the future than most people realize. This looks like equalling or at least coming close to being our worst season since 1998/1999 when we had the co-managers (Houllier & Evans) finished 7th in the league.

It is clear that mistakes have been made, and huge ones at that, but in my view there are a few entities that need to be blamed. Of course the manager is one of those who has to be held accountable. Mr Benitez has claimed recently that he hasn't had the financial backing of our owners Gillette & Hicks, although we must remember that Fernando Torres (currently one of the best strikers we've had since Robbie Fowler) was brought in during their tenure and also over Rafa's 6 years in charge he has spent around £200m. Buying the right players is crucial in this day and age as people expect progress instantly, and that includes chairmen and owners. The manager is the person who sorts out the tactics and is under immense pressure to get things right, but thats why he's paid good money to do what he does, and in Rafa's case this rings especially true after he negotiated a very lucrative 5 year deal for himself by basically holding the owners to ransom. Now, in my view, if you guarantee things (for example 4th place, which Rafa did guarantee), you have to put up or shut up and this season for what ever reason, whether it be poor man management, poor tactics or poor motivational skills, Rafa has not delivered. Lets take a step back in time, the Gareth Barry saga. It was a disgrace when we had a centre midfielder as good as Xabi Alonso and Rafa was trying to go for Barry who in my view isn't anywhere near as good. Letting Alonso go along with Arbeloa (both of whom were standout players last season) was a huge mistake. You can't build a successful team by selling off your best players, and in retrospect it looks even worse. Glen Johnson is a quality right back, no doubt, but if we'd had him and Arbeloa, we would have been so much stronger at the back this season, and considering we've been blighted by injuries at the back this season, it would have been fantastic to have that calibre of cover. Alberto Aquilani, for me, the jury is still out on him as we've seen flashes of brilliance from him at times when he's played, but a combination of injury and Rafa playing him intermittently when he was fit has made £20m look like somewhat of a waste of money, again, the manager has to take responsibility for this. A manager lives and dies by the decisions he makes and the players he buys but this season when changes needed to be made, our manager seemed like he didn't have the balls to do it. In games such as against Wolves away (0-0), Stoke away (1-1 draw), Wigan away (1-0 defeat) we needed more attacking impetus but we seemed toothless upfront and Rafa seemed like he didn't want to gamble anything to try and get the win, which is frustrating at best. What strikes me as most weird is the fact that we did so well last year (2008/2009) and we've done so badly this year which brings me nicely onto the players.

The players have a huge cross to bear for how things go out on the pitch as they are the ones who perform on it. A lot of our players have underperformed this season, Gerrard being one, Babel being another until his twitter outburst which resulted in him being transfer listed, which then resulted in him picking up his game, Carragher looked poor in the 1st half of the season and Insua has been shocking at times (vs Man United at Old Trafford being the most glaring example) but in general this season it's been poor. Strength in depth is a problem for us, but the players at the club have to give 100% and a lot of players look like they haven't been doing that. Injury has had it's part to play but is not entirely an excuse. On the flipside as mentioned Babel picked up his game in the 2nd half of the season and Kyrgiakos has been a bargain for £1.5m, but my player of the season, and this is a worrying indictment of how poor our season has been, but my player of the season has been Lucas Leiva. In previous seasons he's been shockingly bad but over the course of this season he seems to have improved immensely. Against Wigan at the DW stadium the team was shockingly bad and as much as i love Steven Gerrard as a player, it was probably the worst performance from him that i've seen in a Liverpool shirt. A lot of people say we are a 2 man team but that would be disrespectful to Pepe Reina as he is a world class goalkeeper. Players are paid thousands of pounds to perform and we've paid millions of pounds for these players and they need their performances to match their price tags and in the case of guys like Ryan Babel, they need to perform well and live up to the potential they have. Rafa is right that we need 5 new quality players to compete, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that we could do with a new left back, right back, 2 natural wingers and a quality striker.

The owners, now, these guys do have some responsibility for what goes on out on the pitch as they provide the funds to buy players, but it seems like these two haven't done much more than break promises on a constant basis and run the club into £270m of debt. Currently, and it hurts me to say this, but we have a clown show upstairs, and with the turmoil in the boardroom with offers being made for the club and the owners squabbling with each other does not help anything, and another thing that doesn't help is way in which the owners have let these squabbles go public which is distracting to the players, and if you are distracted playing football, you won't be playing at full capacity.

The sale of Liverpool needs to happen quickly and the mistakes of last time need to be learned. We have to sell to someone who loves the club and doesn't just see it as a catalyst for profit. Gillette and Hicks have shown on numerous occasions that neither they nor their immediate family love the club (especially one of their sons after the clash with the Spirit of Shankly group). On a personal note, i'm glad Martin Broughton has been brought in by Christian Purslow to help sell the club, Broughton (from what i've read up about him) is a shrwed businessman and does not make stupid or ill informed fiscal decisions and the fact that he has been a Chelsea supporter for most of his life will have conspiracy theorists rubbing their hands with glee, but he wasn't brought in because of his footballing allegiances, he was brought in for his fiscal savvy. As stated previously this sale needs to happen quickly as the quicker new owners are found, then the quicker we can earmark potential transfer targets and the quicker we can get other things done, such as tying down important players down to new contracts, and if Rafa decideds to leave, then the quicker we can find a good quality replacement for him.

In closing i'd like to end with a quote which i believe that Liverpool fc must take heed of, 'Those who don't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it'

I'm The Straight Shootin' One, And thats my opinion!!!

Straight Shootin' LJA