The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Arsenal Round-Up

Arsenal open to adding Usmanov to board

The new day finds me in a cynical mood, enough so as to note that mere days after driving Lady Nina off the board, whose family has had long involvement in the club, the current mandarins see fit to once again reverse themselves and embrace a man they once derided and scorned as the worst of the worst. Once upon a time it was “maintaining our traditional values’ which many took, probably for good reason, as a synonym for English ownership and direction. Then Kroenke was brought in to counterbalance Usmanov; now Usmanov may be brought in to counterbalance…well, no one actually, unless you believe that inane Chinese consortium rumor that’s made the rounds. It appears instead that Usmanov somehow seems to have been magically converted by time and circumstances, which is to say money and the honeyed words it hides under, into the sort of fit and proper person who should be involved in Arsenal, at least in the eyes of the current board. More so than Lady Nina, apparently. The stench and hypocrisy of this need barely be pointed out. It was probably inevitable that Usmanov would gain a greater share and say in the club, but for the board to have savaged him in xenophobic language, demonized David Dein for involving him in the club, and now set themselves to embrace him is the sort of vacillating haphazard ad-hoc approach to the issue which renders, especially in light of the chaos in the board room, evrything they say suspect. This is now a club with major turnover in the highest levels of management, which has by turns demonized and then approved their largest shareholder, had great public rows with a forced-out boardmember, gone months on end with no CEO, and is now engaging in this silliness while a “top 4” team sinks to 5th place- just in advance of the most important week of the season with Liverpool and Aston Villa the next two games.

It may all come good; no man knows the future for certain. But this is as dangerous and trying a time as the club have seen in years, and the current trend of events is calling into question the credibility of everyone involved in the club: Usmanov for reasons a google search will reveal; the rest of the board for the Lady Nina disaster, the months without a CEO, and the wavering over Usmanov; the manager for failing to fix obvious holes in the side; the fans for the alternation between Trappist quiet and vociferous booing of players; the players themselves for being, all too frequently, a shiftless mess of work-shy arrogance.

6 hours from now, the Liverpool game begins. Nasri returns for this one, and never was he more needed by the club this year. Liverpool have not been in their best form of late (drawn 3 of last 4), and the absence of Fernando Torres gives Arsenal a chance in a game where they would, with their injury list, simply be out-manned otherwise. Much will rest on the ability of Arsenal’s defense to contain Steven Gerrard, obviously, but also on the defense which must continue the relative level of improvement shown in recent games. Robbie Keane has tortured Arsenal for years, and if he’s ever going to find his way in a Liverpool shirt this will be the game for him- Arsenal have no one able or willing to challenge him in the air, and his physical strength may be enough to muscle Djourou and Gallas off of a 50/50 ball. He’s been dropped recently, but he shoud figure in if Liverpool know what’s good for them. Those, in my opinion, will be the two most important players for Arsenal to watch today. There is a case even at home for playing a 5 man midfield in order to constrain them, and looking to nick one on the counter or through one of Robin Van Persie’s individual moments of brilliance. I wouldn’t play that way, but wouldn’t be shocked if Arsene does. A point here, at least, is essential. Especially in light of what lies ahead.

I remain astonished by the way so many people seem only to refer to Arsenal’s point gap as being between them and the title; right now the team is a full 4 points adrift of Aston Villa having already played and lost to them once this season, and needing to beat the league leaders merely to keep pace for the week with the Villains. The second meeting is less than a week away next Friday at Villa Park, and Arsenal cannot afford to enter that important fixture on a downswing. Villa are dangerous; only a fool would say he was sure they would take 4th this year, and only a worse fool would expect them to suddenly roll over and die. This season is no longer young- the second match with Villa will represent the half-way point of the league campaign for both teams, and there’s a real chance that the Birmingham side could be 3 or 4 points ahead, with a better goal differential, at kickoff of that one.

So there it sits. The board room situation has gone from confusing to merely confused; on the field, the one thing we can be sure of is that in a week we will know a great deal more about this team than we do now, for good or for ill, and we’ll have a better sense of whether January’s window is merely a good and sensible time to strengthen the team, or a full-blown emergency where the amount of revenue lost by finishing 5th is greater than the cost of the players who should and must be bought to fix the team in the event that Arsenal lose their next two. If no one at all is added to this team, then we will find out how long Arsenal fans are willing to trust the manager or their lying eyes, regardless of results. Regardless of the course events take, it will be a very bumpy ride indeed.

Prediction is for a 1-1 draw today, but here’s hoping I’m wrong (in a good way). C’mon Arsenal!

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December 21, 2008 - Posted by | The Arsenal |

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