Author Archives: norbyafc

Wenger Needs to Rest Players in the Champions League

With the loss at Stoke on Saturday the league campaign is once again slipping away. I cant see us maintaining a challenge to finish top. Chelsea seem to be bang in form and with City winning the C1C it’ll give them added momentum to move through the gears and start putting the pressure on to Chelsea. It will be a 2 horse race IMO.

We gave a huge effort against Bayern Munich in the first leg and with 11 players on the pitch the game could have taken a different turn. Had we deservedly gone 1-0 up in the first 10 minutes we would have been confident enough to get the win but it didn’t happen like that and now we have the prospect of going out to Munich 3 days after a massive quarter final against Everton in a competition we have a real chance of winning.

Off target: Mesut Ozil missed from the spot in Arsenal's 2-0 defeat against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night

We need to be selective over the game we choose to be more important and ultimately play a weaker side in the game we deem to be less important. Last season Wenger played a weaker than usual side against Blackburn on a Saturday in the FA Cup, as we were due to play Munich at home on the Tuesday after. This ended in disaster with us losing to Blackburn and then going out against Munich. We should have chosen the more important game and gone all out to win it rather than to try and win both, which was beyond us.
Don’t get me wrong, the team we put out against Blackburn should have won comfortably but they didn’t and so you look at the changes made as the reason why. Squad players that came in were Coquelin, Ox, Diaby and Rosicky I think, and Wenger made a total of 7 changes to the team from the previous game.

If we look at the current situation we need to choose the FA Cup game as the one to win and we need to play a strong side which means playing squad players out in Munich. We are fading in the league, top 4 should still be a formality but a title challenge is becoming more and more distant. Being 2-0 down to Munich is a hard result to overturn especially in their own back yard, yes we did beat them last season 2-0 but I can’t see us doing that again. We have Everton in the FA Cup quarter final in a game we can possibly win. If we get through we have a Semi Final at Wembley with a shot at the final. This has to be the game we target.

It raises the question of the fans. Fans that have paid good money to go out to Munich to follow them and support them, if they saw a weakened side they wouldn’t be happy which is understandable. My Step Dad is one of those fans going out there and he has stated the opposite, he would happily go and support the squad players so long as we play full strength in the cup against Everton. I’m not sure if this opinion is across the board with fans going out to Munich, maybe you could let me know your thoughts.

We have a chance of a trophy and we need to do everything we can to get to that final to win it. Id be disappointed if on Saturday we see changes and players rested for the Munich game. Our squad is not the deepest and its too much to ask to be at full strength for both games.
I truly hope Wenger sees it this way and does the right thing!

Cheers for reading

Norby

Trip to London Colney – Arsenal Training Ground

My Tour of the Training Ground

Wednesday 12th February me and my Step Dad were invited to London Colney for a private tour in a group of around 20 people of Arsenal’s training ground. It was for a corporate event and the players were not going to be there because of the United game that evening but it was still something I was massively looking forward to as, like most other fans, the only training ground I had seen was in the pictures on Arsenal.com taken by Stuart McFarlane.

We got there early doors, arriving at 8am and was introduced to Sean, the training ground manager in a meeting type room where everyone gathered before being taken around the site. A lot of other Gooners there and we got talking to a man who had arrived with his dad all the way up from the south coast!

Sean ran threw what we would be doing, a tour of the place including changing rooms and boot room which was unusual for tours, they normally don’t visit these rooms, then a sit down with Sammy Nelson and they would even feed us before sending us on our way.

We headed down to the main reception of the training centre and all had to put on red shoe covers whilst walking in and around the facilities. It was something Mr Wenger asked for, (Sean calls him Mr Wenger throughout the tour), to show respect for the site, something which AW must have picked up in Japan. In the main reception are also loads of pigeon holes containing all the players mail and various other items, shoes and gifts etc. Players receive letters from China daily and we are, according to Sean, the biggest supported club in China which was something everyone was quite surprised by given Man United, Chelsea and even Bayern Munich’s status worldwide.Changing Room

We then went into the main changing room area, the area you see the photos in players tweets taken from. Every player has a locker room with his possessions in it, many have left clothes and other items in there. We were asked not to take close up pictures of the lockers to avoid invading their privacy. The lockers ran from squad numbers low to high with everyone having their set place. The only player to ever change position was Robert Pires who sat next to Thierry Henry in the corner, they apparently had a sign up describing the corner as “Café Bistro”, it was their own little corner of France.

Training KitNext we went through into an open space which I think was the exit to the pitches outside. It had pegs on for all of the players and had their training tops and trousers hanging up ready, also in this space was doors which led into the boot room. Big windows let you see out to the pitches outside and it was a nice area to warm up in or do some stretching, I’m sure the players must use the space for something, I just wasn’t sure what it was. The boot room was fantastic, as soon as you walked into it you got that smell, it was a typical boot room smell. The amount of boots in there were colossal, each player had about 6 pegs I think, so many different boots, so many colours. The boots in there were all player issue, nothing like we could get in the shops. Sean took a couple off the pegs so we could feel them, the weight is almost like holding a feather, no wonder players get so many injuries. Podolski’s in particular were so light, it was ridiculous how little they weighed! Szczesny had his old match gloves in there which were a little worn and so now were his training gloves, Wenger had a plain black pair as you would expect. Picked up Jacks which had stitching of his two children on them, ultimately its always pretty cool to see a football clubs boot room, just one of those places which are quite special and this was no different.Boots

We walked back through the centre and passed through the swimming pool. It has a moveable floor so it can adapt to whatever player is in it, if its Per they can lower the floor, if its Theo they can bring it up. In the bottom of the pool, in the walls were windows where the coaching and medical staff can go downstairs to watch the players run or walk to make sure they were running true and not with a limp. They can assess a player just by watching through this small window in the swimming pool. Also in the room was an ice bath and Jacuzzi, the hot and cold routine which so many different sports use for recovery work. There was also another great big window out to the pitch area, it’s a constant reminder to the players to where they want to get to and why they are working out and going through rehab.

On again and we walk into the medical room, massage tables laid out with various diagrams of the Massage Tableshuman anatomy on the walls like an old school Science room. Sean tackles the question of why Arsenal seem to have more injuries than other clubs without it being asked. His reason is simple, we play football whilst a lot of other teams do not. City, Chelsea and United all have bigger squads so their injuries are not as noticed as ours are. I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure I quite agreed with that view but Sean is an Arsenal man, an Arsenal employee and he truly believes our medical staff are doing everything correct, using modern technologies to keep players fit and get them back onto the pitch when they’re injured. They use GPS trackers to see when players are fading, and have new modern ways of recovering the muscles quicker. He shows an ice pack which runs from a battery, a strapping goes around the leg and when plugged in cold water and ice are sent around the tubes in the strapping. This can be used on the coach back from an away game faster recovering a player and getting him ready for the next match.

We walked out of the medical room and back out to the reception where the players walked in. Once you pass through reception there are 2 corridors, one going to the left and one to the right. The one to the left is the reserves and academy players corridor where their dressing rooms are located, to the right is the 1st team. The furthest door away in the left corridor was for the scholars and academy, then closer was the for the U21, with the 1st team having all their space on the right. It gives a mental image of literally moving up for the youngsters who join us, they move from dressing room to dressing room with the ultimate goal being to end up with the 1st team. There are a lot of these kind of things around the site with the players able to see a goal for themselves and move up within the squad to eventually be in the 1st team.Gym

By the reception is the entrance to the gym, it’s a huge gym for the 1st team, there are other gyms around the place for the U21 and academy as well. The most stand out thing about it was the huge glass windows looking outside. There is a river that runs underneath the room giving the players to work out and see the outside, again another goal for them to set themselves as that’s where they want to get back to being.

We were then taken out to the pitches, to be honest a training pitch is a field of grass and once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. What struck me though is what a nice place it was, it felt like a nice place to be. Hills and fields in the distance and to be able to walk out onto that pitch every morning and play football, it’s the best job in the world, surely!

The land was bought off a Hungarian farmer I think Sean told us who used to use it as a cornfield, for £4 million, its now worth in upwards of £30 million and the farmer regularly visits the site and jokes that he sold it for not enough! All the trees and bushes surrounding the pitches were planted by Arsenal and they have 17 grounds men working 7 days a week on the site, they all have under soil heating as well so training can go on no matter the weather.

Youth PitchThe reserve pitches are around the corner behind the bushes from the 1st team, the pitch where they play their matches has all the sponsorship boarding’s around it and the camera scaffolding set up for Arsenal TV. Sean tells us that the reserve and academy pitches cost about the same as most Premier League clubs outside of the top 6/7 and are maybe even better than some Premier League clubs have, just remember this is only our reserve pitches! Wenger sometimes takes groups of about 3 or 4 reserve team players and gets them training with the 1st team, he wants them to see what its like to play with the 1st team, he wants them to have that hunger to aim for that goal to be training on that pitch every day. Another one of those carrots being dangled. We walked back past the pitches and to an indoor AstroTurf for indoor training and workouts.

Sean shows us the area they want to develop, it currently holds all the machinery and vehicles for the grounds men and has a couple of temporary structures for the academy to work out in. They are in the process of drawing up plans to build something new for the reserves and academy players to move in to.

Upstairs above the indoor AstroTurf arena is a sport science gym with yoga and Pilates machinery, it also a 0% gravity running machine to aid in recovery. It lets players run without feeling any down force as they can set their own weight to be much less than what it really is. A player could run on it Invinciblesand set his weight to be only 5% or 10% of his true weight, it lets them run without causing issues on any joints.

We went back into the first room we met in, and Sammy Nelson came in for a answer and question session. I wont go on to much about every question but let me say this, if you ever get the chance to have a chat or meet Sammy then do it. He is a very funny man with a lot of stories. He is an excellent talker and I believe he represents the club at various functions at the stadium with Charlie George, we can all be happy that they are both entertaining whoever is put in front of them. We were also treated to lunch! Steak, roast potatoes and veg, it was lovely if I do say so myself!

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my trip, the players weren’t there and I can only imagine how good it must be to be on site with the training sessions going ahead and players walking around. I want Sean O’Connor’s job!

Cheers for reading

Norby

 

8 Years – The 8th and Final Season…Hopefully

2012-13

This is the last season, season 8 of no trophies.

I think last season was a turn around for us, overall it was another disappointing campaign. Scraping into the top 4 with the infamous 1-1 draw at St James Park, (yes I know it was 1-0 to us) pipping our rivals to the 4th spot again.

Tottenham's unfounded celebration

I say turnaround as there was a clear and memorable game which seemed to change things for us, Munich away. Wenger dropped our club captain and goalkeeper for possibly the hardest game of the season against possibly the best club in Europe and we won, and not only won but nearly got through after the disappointment in the first leg. We played well and won well, left it a bit late to get a third but we came away with a big win which instilled much confidence into the team and we overcame another gap between us and Spurs to finish 4th.

In other turn-arounds our long term serving assistant manager and true legend of the club in player and coaching roles, Pat Rice, retired meaning Steve Bould took over as Wenger’s assistant.
Also Peter Hill-Wood moved away from the Chairman position he had held for many years due to ill health and Sir Chips Keswick took over.

PAT RICE 1508021a Some Christmas cheer! Arsenal legend Pat Rice has seen a marked improvement in his health

In player movement we lost another captain who had lost passion for the cause and wanted to move on to more money, sorry I meant to win things. RVP went to Man United and followed the dreams of the little boy screaming inside of him, the same little boy who was once pictured sitting in his bedroom with Arsenal possessions surrounding him. Fuck him, let him go, we are a better team without him, well I think so anyway.
Alex Song followed him out of the door, pretty swiftly actually after he decided to pick a fight with Steve Bould. Not the wisest decision he’s ever had and again fuck him, glad he’s gone, we’re better off without him.
Almunia was released and join Watford. 13 youth players left the club as well.

New Arsenal signing Lukas Podolski poses in his new kit

We brought in 4 experienced players who would be able to offer something to the team rather than youngsters we had been focussing on previously. Giroud from Montpellier, Santi Cazorla became our biggest signing from Malaga and fan favourite Lukas Podolski joined from Koln. Monreal joined in January after a Kieran Gibbs injury forced us to bring forward the deal which was rumoured to have already been agreed.

Arsenal Transfers: Why Santi Cazorla May Be Arsene Wenger's Greatest Signing

Our first 3 games of the season we didn’t concede a goal and the press started hyping up the impact Bouldy had on the team. It didn’t last and the backlash came at Man City when our zonal system was blamed for Lescotts goal. We should have beaten City that day with Gervinho being clean through late on I remember, he missed and we drew.

We then lost to Chelsea, Norwich and United and by 10 games we were 7th. A stand out result at home to Spurs was the highlight of the next couple of months really. We won 5-2 AGAIN. Adebayor was sent off within 20 minutes and being honest if he had stayed on we would have been in trouble. They started much better than us and went 1-0 up. The red card came and we finished the half 3-1 ahead.

Walcott scored a fantastic hat-trick against Newcastle in a 7-3 win in the Xmas fixtures and in January we lost twice against City and Chelsea within 2 weeks, it was another season we had failed to beat any of the other teams in the top 4. We finished strongly after the Bayern result and got enough momentum in the season to finish where we needed to.

We actually only finished 2 points off 3rd and 5 off 2nd place, it makes you look back at silly results where we could have come away with 3 points or even a point and we would have been in with a chance of challenging. Games like away to Norwich, home to Swansea where we lost, or silly draws like the first day at home to Sunderland, away to Stoke, home to Fulham or away at Villa. Its about consistency again and we need to have that to be in with any chance.

Olivier Giroud Arsenal

I’ve written about Europe and especially the Bayern game above, our group stage was disappointing, we made hard work of an average group and should have finished top. Looking back I’m glad we had the game in Munich though as it transformed us.

Domestic cups were just as disappointing and forgettable. Being put out to Bradford and Blackburn was beyond disastrous. It wasn’t acceptable.

The Blackburn game came 3 days before the Munich game, 1st leg at home. I cant remember the line ups but I think we went with a weaker team in that game trying to prepare for Munich and ultimately shit out at both games.

So that’s the short reviews of the 8 barren seasons finished.

In my own opinion it has been a big period of transition for the club. We have a new stadium which came with a lot of cost. We have had to manage our new debt without affecting anything the football club does which has been difficult, a lot of fans would say we have failed on that front, I disagree. We have broken even in the finance dept for several seasons using player sales and property sales to bump up our income.

We have sold a lot of our best players and tried to go down the youth recruitment path which failed. We have been shopping in a level below the top clubs meaning players who have not been good enough for the club have come in, some have worked out, some haven’t.

We reached a Champions League Final, challenged for the league twice before falling away, reached 2 Carling Cup Finals losing both and a FA Cup Semi Final, we have finished in the top 4 each season since leaving Highbury, another Carling Cup semi appearance ended against Spurs and a semi final in the Champions League against United.

Yes we haven’t won anything for 8 seasons but it annoys me to the core when people say that without knowing exactly what we have done in those 8 years. Yes we should be aiming higher and those semi finals need to turn into finals, and the losses in the final need to turn into wins, but consider what we have done as a club. We have left a smaller stadium and built our own 60,000 stadium in the middle of London, paying for it ourselves! To get the money to pay for it we had to negotiate commercial deals to help us in the primary costs of it which means money has been tight. We are getting to the end of that now with the Puma deal coming in, a new Emirates deal has been penned which could have been for more I think, plus there is a new Premier League deal which has rocketed our income up. We have one of the highest match day incomes in Europe and the mortgage payments have settled and our debt is now manageable. There is now no excuse and it shows the club has changed if you look at our summer. We were in no danger of losing our top players, and we brought in a proven world class player for a club record value. We now seem to be competing and if you take this season as our first as a club with money I think you will see something happen soon. I’m not saying forget the 8 seasons but class them as the transition, our club has gone for more seasons in its history without winning anything, 8 is a drop in the ocean really.
Also I ask you to remember the trouble other clubs are having to build a new ground, Spurs are failing miserably and asking the council to pay more and more for them, Liverpool have been trying to do it for years and that’s in Liverpool where you can buy a street of terraced houses for £8.67! West Ham have had to move into an Olympic ground which isn’t suited to football thus how desperate these clubs are for a new bigger stadium, we done it ourselves, with our own money, with all your ST money and not some sugar daddy coming in to bank roll us. Our club needs us as fans whereas Chelsea and City only need one fan. This isn’t to say I’m happy with 3% rise but that’s a different matter for a different blog.
Support the players, support the club, this is our Arsenal.

File:Arsenal FC logo (art deco).svg

Lets hope I’m not doing one of these reviews for this season!

Cheers for reading

 Norby