Posts Tagged ‘Soccer’

Arsenal’s summer of woes

Posted: August 13, 2011 by Balaji Ramamurthy in Cartoons
Tags: , , , , , , ,


          Balaji Ramamurthy

          Editor – Football, The CouchExpert

          August 13, 2011


I am a diehard Gooner. But well, this comic strip I just created out of frustration sums up our situation right now. Enjoy.


Artist - Balaji Ramamurthy







  Balaji Ramamurthy

  Editor – Football, The CouchExpert

  August 13, 2011

Arsenal have announced the signing of Costa Rica’s teenage striker Joel Campbell. The fee and contract details are unknown as of now but most believe it to be around the £1m region. The forward will most probably be loaned out in order to gain his work permit, according to many sources. But I do not have any concrete confirmation on that front. The signing of another unproven “prodigy” comes at a time when the club have their star midfielders Cesc Fabregas (done deal according to reports) and Samir Nasri loitering around the exit doors.

New gun: Joel Campbell arrives at Arsenal

Campbell arrives from Deportivo Saprissa S.A.D., a highly successful Costa Rican top flight club. He has just played a couple of games for them before being loaned out to Puntarenas F.C., another Costa Rican club. Here again he has played a handful of games. He has no goals to his name at either club at top level in the few games he has under his belt for the duo. Where Joel Campbell has really shown his ability as a lethal striker is at the international level. He has netted 18 times in 27 games for the national team (National, U17 and U20 combined). He was the team’s highest scorer at the 2009 CONCACAF U-17 Championship with 2 goals. He also struck 6 times at the 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Championship to end up being the tournament’s top scorer. This is again another Arsene Wenger “signing for the future”. I do not see Campbell coming into the first team this season regardless of the work permit issue. And on the striking front Arsenal are in the same position as before – lose RVP to an injury and who scores? And given Chamakh’s poor form we really need to hold on to Nicklas Bendtner. This “signing for the future” is going to do nothing to placate the frustrated Arsenal fans and especially so when Fabregas and Nasri are on the verge of leaving when the new football season is almost upon us.

Arsene Wenger had his press meet yesterday where he mentioned the team having the strength in numbers and depth and that no one is leaving the club.  I had a nice chuckle, but felt sad. It was a show of defiance and Arsene was just trying his best to keep the team morale at acceptable levels ahead of today’s kickoff at St. James’ Park. But the real situation at the Emirates is far from settled as the heart of the midfield is about to be ripped in a few days. Though the Arsenal fans see Wenger’s ploy of keeping the team morale high, they are equally frustrated and angry at the situation the club is in. The fans are not angry about Cesc or Nasri leaving. The fans are angry simply because this is not the situation any team enters the kickoff day for a new season in. Arsenal’s game is on today but the fans do not know who the captain for the season is going to be. Enough said! It is not that fans cannot understand players leaving, Arsene. They are dejected simply because none of this was handled properly at all. We had a solid couple of months to make key decisions, strengthen and settle in nicely but we have a mess on the day of the new season. The impending star departures could have been handled in a swift, decisive way and an equal show of ambition could have been displayed in the transfer market as well. Instead too much time has been wasted thinking and negotiating. Arsenal fans would have be a far more satisfied lot with swift decisions and a couple of signings rather than star players leaving after the season begins. There are a further two weeks left in the transfer window and I hope Arsene fixes this ridiculous mess. Till then we just have to pray that Arsenal are able to qualify for Europe and survive league clashes against Liverpool and Manchester United with a team as unsettled as this.

 Balaji Ramamurthy

 Editor – Football, The CouchExpert

 August 13, 2011


So finally it all starts again! The English Premier League kicks off today and barring the Tottenham vs Everton game (thanks to the idiot rioters), all remaining fixtures are on. I plan to make this a regular column for the English Premier League. No in-depth analysis nothing, just pure fun predicting results on match-day. And you guys can join the fun using the comments section for your predictions. Just copy paste mine and change the scoreline to your prediction. We’ll play week by week. And here we’re going to cover the games on Saturday, Sunday and the lone mid-week game on Tuesday.

Points system:

1. A correct prediction (correct result regardless of the scoreline predicted) = 1 point.

2. An exact god-like scoreline prediction = 3 points.

3. A wrong one = 0.

Please join in! More the people, more fun we have and a mini prediction league of our own! The winner based on cumulative points accrued over the entire English top flight season will win something neat. Well if I win (I’m playing mind games already!) the prize goes to whoever finishes second, else it obviously goes to the winner 🙂

So here we go! Mine first. And yes the home team comes first in every listing.


1.  Blackburn vs Wolverhampton: 2-1

2. Fulham vs Aston Villa: 1-1

3. Liverpool vs Sunderland: 2-0

4. QPR vs Bolton Wanderers: 1-1

5. Wigan vs Norwich City: 2-2

6. Newcastle vs Arsenal: 1-2


1. Stoke City vs Chelsea: 1-2

2. West Brom vs Man United: 1-2


1. Man City vs Swansea: 3-0

So keep them coming in! Use the comments section to post your entries. The prediction league table will be displayed on the same predictions post next week. Good luck! Comments with predictions (for Sat, Sun and Tue) coming in after the first kickoff at 15:00 GMT today will not be eligible.

          Balaji Ramamurthy

          Editor – Football, The CouchExpert

          August 12, 2011

This was too hilarious and had to find its way here. A light satire on the situation at Arsenal. Sure you do have your serious moments with the team you love or hate. But sometimes we need to chill and look at the lighter funny side of life 🙂

All credits go to Mr. GilbertoSilver. For all the diehard Arsenal fans, he is better known as the author of Gunnerblog

And kudos to the good spirited Arsenal fans world over who can see the humor and appreciate good comedy.

          Balaji Ramamurthy

          Editor – Football, The CouchExpert

          August 11, 2011

When I wrote my first piece yesterday for The CouchExpert, I promised that I would be dealing with Arsenal’s midfield issues and mainly the Cesc Fabregas transfer saga in a separate article before the league kicks off. And I am going to do just that right away, a day or two sooner than I had initially planned. Using Cesc’s pre-season appearances as the basis for my hypothesis, I had reasoned that some movement looked imminent. And right now the BBC reports that Cesc Fabregas is very close to completing his move to Barcelona.

Now. I am not shocked. This is not something knocking me senseless out of nowhere. It was a known fact that one day Cesc Fabregas would move back to the club he arrived from, his boyhood club and his lifelong dream – Barcelona. But what leaves a sour taste in my mouth is the way Barcelona have conducted themselves to achieve their goal of signing the player. From what we understand, the transfer fee is supposed to be around the £35m region. This is well short of Arsenal’s valuation of the player and quite frankly when Andy Carroll goes for £35m and Fernando Torres hits the £50m mark, this is ridiculous. But yes, we all already know that. Everyone knows the fee is not up to the real value for the player that Cesc Fabregas is. Anyone who disagrees please read the following (Courtesy – OptaJoe) :

1. 466 – Over the last five PL seasons Cesc Fabregas has created a total of 466 goalscoring chances, more than any other player. Coveted.

2. 28.6 – Cesc Fabregas created a scoring chance from open play more regularly (every 28.6 mins) than any player in top 5 leagues. Coveted.

3. 60 – Cesc Fabregas has more assists in top 5 leagues in last 5 seasons than any other player, ahead of Dani Alves, Messi & Xavi. Happy.

4. 38 – Cesc Fabregas played more through-balls than any other Premier League player in 2010-11. Needle.

5. 61% – In the last three seasons, Arsenal have won 61% of Premier League games Cesc Fabregas has started and 43% when he hasn’t. Leader.

Now does anyone sane disagree? The bottom-line is this. Arsenal know that £35m is some way below the real worth Fabregas carries. Barcelona know that as well. Cesc Fabregas knows that. You know that. And I know that. But there is a reason why a move even at £35m is happening or at least reported to be close to happening. It looks pretty much like Cesc Fabregas feels it is time to leave. He has been a true professional and a champion when it has come to handling the situation in public and with the media. Never has he expressed his desire to leave Arsenal, in public. He has not pressurized the club or the manager into selling him. He has been an awesome professional where he has expressed his love and gratitude for Arsenal. Fabregas himself says that he is under contract to Arsenal, loves the club and the fans and is happy but the only club he would ever play for other than Arsenal is Barcelona. Fair enough. And he has always maintained that it was up to the Arsenal board and Arsene Wenger to decide and he would oblige. “Professional” written all over it.

Cesc Fabregas makes his Arsenal debut in 2003 at the age of 16

But the sour taste comes from Barcelona’s behavior. Ranging from Xavi talking about Cesc’s DNA setup to Pique and Puyol goofing around forcing Cesc into Barca jerseys, we even had Barcelona’s presidents (both former and present) making public statements about how the player was rightfully theirs’. I agree Arsenal took Cesc from Barcelona, but that was Cesc’s decision. He chose to play for Arsenal as he thought he would be presented with better opportunities at Arsenal. He signed a contract with Arsenal. It was not like Barcelona loaned Fabregas out to Arsenal for 8 years paying all his wages. But I guess that is what Barcelona think. They realize that Cesc though very professional about all this, wants to leave. They know that Fabregas is not an urgent signing that they need to make and hence do not make the appropriate offer. And yet they pressurize, publicly, using every single Spanish mouthpiece they can get hold of to get the player they want in the longer term, for cheap. They never match Arsenal’s valuation of the player because though Arsenal have the upper hand contractually and morally, it doesn’t make sense for Arsenal to hold out longer as the season fast approaches. An unsettled captain is the last thing any team would want to have at the beginning of a new season. And it sure looks like Arsenal are looking to move on to life without Cesc Fabregas as a deal looks imminent, though below their valuation. And the £35m or whatever needs to be directly reinvested in 2-3 new players in the areas of deficiencies that Arsenal need to address.

Now this situation can in one way impact the Samir Nasri saga. If Cesc really does leave, does Nasri get the central playmaker role that he covets so much? Does Nasri get his wage demands satisfied and become the top earning player at Arsenal? Will he sign his new contract when his demands both on-field and off-field are met? But with reports of a £185,000 per week wage offer from Manchester City, I don’t think so. Arsenal just cannot afford to throw such wages at one player and that too at someone so replaceable as Nasri. And that is where things get perplexing further. Is Arsene Wenger so doubtful of his ability to find a new quality playmaker, so much so that he is willing to lose Nasri for free next season instead of cashing in and pouncing upon the reported £22m offer from City ? Now that can be the only possible reason why Arsene has no choice but to keep Nasri this season as a direct replacement for the leaving Fabregas, but risk losing Nasri for zilch next year.

Again I may be wrong. Maybe this is all smoke and mirrors and somehow Arsene convinces Cesc to stay. Nasri, I am not so sure beyond this season. If Cesc leaves, yes it leaves us with very little time to sign a quality replacement and Arsenal would be in a situation where they have to rely on Nasri for the creative central role this season and then deal with losing him on a Bosman next season. But that is next year. My guess is Arsenal are in a very uncomfortable position because of which they are forced into dealing with things only by the day and are in no situation to think long term. Cesc’s departure looks imminent and that is the sole logical reason I see Arsene Wenger clinging on to the risky Samir Nasri situation. The ensuing few days will provide us with the answers, at least as far as Cesc Fabregas is concerned.

But my take on all this? I know I am typing off on a computer here and I agree that I know nothing about the difficulties and nuances of signing a new player. But if I were Arsenal’s manager, I would have let Nasri go right when the £22m City offer came in and would have thrown it directly along with something extra, into reinvesting for the defensive positions. And the money generated through Cesc could be aggressively thrown on a quality signing on the lines of Juan Mata. In Arsenal’s situation right now, they cannot be so stringent with money as to say “We will not pay a penny over £13m” when the asking price is say £15m. The extra £2m is nothing compared to the vulnerable position Arsenal are in. It doesn’t matter if both Cesc and Nasri stay or both leave or one of them leaves. Either sale is going to generate considerable money and that really needs to result in signings that can truly strengthen Arsenal or at least keep them at the same level. It’s simple. You lose someone in your team? Replace them properly and if possible strengthen. No point sitting on wads of cash and bargaining around in the market for the best deal when time is running out. And arguments from Arsene Wenger that he was not willing to pay that £1m more on X player and hence he called off the deal is only going to anger the already frustrated fans. More so because if you claim that you have to spend wisely and be conservative to this extent, you simply do not spend £12m+ on a raw 17 year old player while baulking at similar prices for established internationals. Let us hope Arsene Wenger still has enough magic to turn this around.