Portsmouth Points Deduction Extremely Unfair

March 23, 2010

I’m probably a week late with this article, but so much has been going on that there just wasn’t time to squeeze it in. This isn’t directly relevant to Arsenal and thanks to Arsene I don’t think we will ever be in such a situation at least during my life time. Portsmouth though, might still have a say in the title race when they host Chelsea.

The reason I felt this was an important topic is that football has suffered due to the incompetence of businessmen. There is something fundamentally wrong here and it must be addressed.

Portsmouth, the club, entered administration. I believe every football club is made up of various entities that can be broadly classified into three groups – football, management, and support. Some positions are part of more than one group. For instance, Wenger controls every football related decision but he also takes the finances into consideration hence overlapping with management.

If we consider the reasons a club goes into administration, the main culprits will always be part of the management. The owners, Board of Directors, Chairman, and Chief Executive among others. The manager might also be part of this group if he knows the finances and is involved. Although, based on my limited knowledge, I do feel Arsene is a rare gem in this regard and most managers don’t really understand the financial impact in detail.

In direct contrast, when a club suffers a nine point penalty the people who suffer are mostly from the other two groups. Players, current manager, coaching staff and the fans suffer the most. The support staff pays a heavy price as we have seen from the number of lay-off’s at Pompey.

Not only does football at Portsmouth suffer, the integrity of the League itself is under threat. It is easy to say that Portsmouth players are professionals and they must do their best in every game. But we must never forget that they too are humans and have emotions of their own. If I played for Pompey I’d be gutted. I’d give immense credit to the players if they can give their all in the remaining games thus maintaining the integrity of the League.

In effect, football is suffering on multiple fronts while the real culprits walk away scot free!

How can this be fair? The owners and people like Peter Storrie are free to go and do the same to other clubs while the fans suffer the ignominy of relegation, the players take pay cuts and/or look for other career options, and the manager has a relegation on his resume.

At the very least, the businessmen involved must be banned from being part of any football club management. If it were up to me I’d also impose significant financial penalties on each individual involved in critical decision making that has led to this fiasco.

There is nothing worse than the feeling of impotency that such events evoke. I don’t know if anyone who matters really cares. Perhaps this is similar to other industries where the executives that lead a company to bankruptcy generally leave with lucrative severance packages while the ordinary workers suffer. Or is it that in a civilized world law of the jungle still applies – Might is Right.

Portsmouth 1 – 4 Arsenal: Delightful Team Work Seals Big Win

December 31, 2009

Just ten minutes before the game started I installed AVG 9 on my laptop and upon completion it asked for a restart. After the reboot, I tried to log on to the system and it logged me off immediately. I tried a few times to no avail. Even the safe mode wasn’t working and it freaked me out completely as I realized this was a serious issue.

At that moment I couldn’t quite figure out what to do. A few minutes of googling made it clear that it will take an elaborate effort to sort this out. I was quite perplexed and annoyed when the game started as I have spent a lot of effort on customizing this computer to make my life easy.

So I started watching the game in a really bad mood. It only took a minute to change. As the Arsenal players closed down Pompey I completely forgot the issues that had troubled me just a minute ago. When a ball was played over the top and in behind the Portsmouth defense with Arshavin and Eduardo chasing I knew this was going to be a day for some great football. And what a day it was.

As I have said before, when our players move around effortlessly and with the willingness to get in behind, it’s only a matter of time before the goals come. It didn’t worry me one bit that Pompey were working hard and got a couple of half chances early on.

When Diaby connected sweetly to an Eduardo cutback, I thought he scored. Unfortunately, the ball swerved a bit towards the end and it became easier for the keeper to make a save. Well, the hosts’ luck was not going to last all day. As Eduardo scored from a deflected free kick, I thought we deserve some luck considering the injuries we have been having. It’s now thrice in three games that we have scored directly from a free kick. That must certainly be a record of some sort!

The second goal was classic Arsenal as the ball started from the center, went out wide on the right and then across the six yard box to the left touchline before coming back to the center. Song played Eduardo in with a brilliant left footed lofted pass. Dudu maintained his composure and didn’t take a shot as there wasn’t a clear opening. He rolled it to Ramsey who took one slight touch before laying it for Nasri who finished with aplomb. Arshavin and I broke into spontaneous applause and I am sure many others must have had the same reaction. It’s good to see Nasri get a goal. He has been getting into good positions recently but it hasn’t worked out for him that often. It’s even better to see that there were four Arsenal players in the Portsmouth penalty box for this goal.

The third goal was all Ramsey. He made the challenge to win the ball as the hosts tried to bring it clear. The young Welshman then utilized the space to create an opening for himself with some neat footwork. And his finish was excellent giving the keeper no chance. Rambo is probably our best two footed finisher from midfield and that says a lot for one so young.

Our fourth goal was the result of Song bursting forward. He almost sneaked through but for a last moment tackle. As the ball fell to Nasri on the right, Song pulled back at the far post and the Frenchman found him with a measured cross. The finish was not easy and once again highlighted the fact that Song has a lot more to offer. Two years ago many people wrote him off, today he is a brilliant DM and a year or two later he could well be an unplayable midfield powerhouse.

In between the last two goals we managed to concede one. Surprise, surprise! I don’t want to spoil this day by talking about the negatives but it was painful to see Belhadj unmarked in our box for the cut back when we had four people back defending and Ramsey standing and watching on the edge of the box. Given the rate at which these players keep on improving, I am hoping we won’t see more of such lapses.

By the time the game was over I had this overwhelming feeling that this was truly a team performance. Everyone did their part and there was genuine belief in the team. It seems the handbrake has well and truly been lifted and this team is ready to take on all comers.

By scoring from free kicks and from outside the box on a consistent basis we have added multiple threats to our attacking potential. Teams will now think twice before getting too physical with us, especially in the defensive third. They can’t get too close and they can’t give us too much space either, that should help us open tight defenses.

We also saw some good crosses in this game. It does prove that on their day our fullbacks and wide players can put the balls in the right areas, we just need more consistency on this front. Of course, this goes hand in hand with the runs into the box.

The news on injuries is not bad either. Cesc is probably out for a couple of weeks and so is Theo. But with Rosicky coming back we won’t have that big a shortage.

Individual Performances

Almunia: Not quite there yet, but is getting back to his best.

Sagna: Worked hard, linked well and put in some decent balls

Gallas: Top performance, just what we expect

Vermaelen: Top performance, just what we expect

Traore: The best third choice left back in the world. Makes some minor mistakes but has a great future ahead of him.

Song: Solid as ever defensively, was more involved in the creative side of things and picked up a good goal.

Ramsey: Passing, tackling, shooting, dribbling, you name it. Another one whose potential is scary.

Diaby: A quiet game when compared to the last two but efficient and productive nonetheless.

Nasri: A goal and an assist are just reward for his efforts over the last few weeks. I think he can be as good offensively as Tevez has been for United and Citeh. Just has to get in the box more often as he did in this game.

Arshavin: Certainly a more hard working performance than we have seen from him recently. His presence and movement is always a threat for the opposition and opens the space for others.

Eduardo: Good to see the goal credited to him and nice to see him grow in confidence as he has a big role to play in the coming weeks.

Subs: Rosicky had some lovely touches. Eastmond had a forgettable game but one he will never forget. Vela didn’t get much time.

It took me five hours to get my laptop sorted out but I did discover a fantastic free tool in the process. In case, like me, you are not a techie person and use windows XP, you might find it useful to create a preinstalled environment for future use. Explore this free software, BartPE, it could come in handy.

A happy ending to this day on all fronts.

Portsmouth V Arsenal: Time to Show Our Strength in Depth

December 30, 2009

There hasn’t been any clear announcement from Arsenal regarding the injuries to Denilson or Cesc. It does make me wonder what’s going on. If you read my post yesterday, you’d understand that I have not felt so apprehensive at any point this season as I have over the last couple of days. The anxiety bout has lost some sting but I am not fully comfortable just yet.

This period will be a big test of our strength in depth. We can cope with injuries to the likes of Van Persie, Bendtner and Clichy, but when we lose Cesc we lose the creative fulcrum of the team. Last season we had those four scoreless draws in this period when Fabregas was missing. It’s no co-incidence, is it? There was a time when RvP pulled the team forward almost single handedly when Cesc was out. This year, with the Dutchman missing, the onus will be on Arshavin to deliver.

Nasri, Diaby, Eduardo and Rosicky are the other key men. The big issue is that except Nasri the other three are very injury prone. Come to think of it, even Nasri has not had a lot of luck with his fitness. Starting at Fratton Park, over the next fortnight, this group has the perfect opportunity to show just how strong our squad is. Some might even include Ramsey and Walcott in this list.

I feel we are at our best when our attack flows and we can keep the ball in the opposition half. By the same logic we struggle the most when we fail to get the movement and passing right. We are not a team that can sit back and soak pressure when the going gets tough. I guess Arsene expects a need will arise for a resolute defensive performance sometime soon and has been talking about the importance of maintaining a cool head. Le Boss wants the team to follow Vermaelen’s lead

Thomas is a very quiet boy, but very determined, I believe you see that in every ball he plays. He is a good mixer with commitment and relaxed focus. That is very important when you play at the back, that you never panic – because panic is something which is contagious and he always looks to master that.

To me, Vermaelen always looks like a professional assassin with his composed, strong, no-nonsense approach on the pitch and he is a clinical finisher! TV5 for Bond, anyone? Anyway, let me not digress into randomness.

Avram Grant has already spoken about the need for aggression against Arsenal. Crunching tackles, countless long balls, focus on set-pieces and a shoot on sight policy is probably the simplest way to describe the strategy the hosts will deploy. There isn’t much else they can do, if we get our game going.

That’s the key. We have to get our game going. Against Villa we showed that we can play without Cesc, but we didn’t show that we can win without El Capitan. If Denilson and Rosicky are unfit for this game, we might see Nasri move into the middle and Walcott on the wing. The other option is to give Rambo a start but I have a feeling Wenger will go for experience. Either way we are certainly good enough to get a win against the bottom of the table side as long as the players have the right attitude and belief.

I expect the starting line up to be,

Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traore; Song, Nasri, Diaby; Walcott, Eduardo, Arshavin.

I think more than any news on fitness, a convincing performance and win tomorrow will make many Gooners breathe easy. 2-0 will do just fine.

Arsene Must Rotate

August 21, 2009

There are enough cliché’s in football. “There are no easy games in the premier league” is one such. If you can, by some great inner resolve, ignore that then the first home game of the season is perhaps as easy as it can get. Portsmouth are struggling both on and off the pitch.

They are not a bad team, no pushovers certainly. So what is an easy game? I prefer to define an easy game as one where Arsenal decide the result. If we play well we win, if not then we draw or lose. Whether we draw or lose would also be down to the other team but it is contingent to us being poor on the day.

I ask myself, can our carling cup team beat this Portsmouth side? The answer is, why not. They did beat Wigan last year. That doesn’t mean Wenger should send the carling cup kids out for this game. Some members of that team aren’t available right now anyway.

But this is the kind of game where we need to show the depth in the squad. Not on paper but on the pitch. Portsmouth have started both their games with a back four of Wilson, Kabout, Distin and Belhadj supported by a midfield of Mullins, Mokoena, Diop and Krancjar. With James in goal and Piquionne upfront, 10 of the 11 players have been the same in both their games. Utaka and Vanden Borre starting one game each. If you look at their bench, there isn’t anything special there except perhaps a cameo from Kanu.

It is clear that they will be more defensively oriented than either Everton or Celtic. But they will also have lesser threat at the other end. This game will also be more physical than the previous two. So what can Le Boss do?

There are two options. First would be to go with the same starting line up as the first two games, score a couple of goals in the first half and rest three players. The problem is what happens if the goals don’t come?

The second would be to start with Cesc, RvP and Song on the bench and have Eboue, Eduardo, Diaby or Ramsey take their place. At present, the squad is light. Injuries have taken their toll and the bench doesn’t have any other options. This is also why it’s imperative to avoid any further casualties, especially, with the Celtic game and the trips to Manchester coming up.

I chose Cesc and Song because they seem to have worked the hardest. They are also the most important central players we have. Arshavin needs a strong performance after a couple of ordinary outings by his standards. Bendtner is gaining confidence and winning over the crowds. They both need to play. Unfortunately, neither of the center backs can be rested. Hopefully they will just have a relaxing stroll in the park.

In the past, I have felt that Wenger has been guilty of not rotating enough on such occasions. To some extent our injury problems are down to that as well. Let’s hope this season is different. Here’s to three well rested points…