28 March 2015

Welbz gives advice to Harry "the Hurra" Kane...

WEMBLEY STADIUM—London, England: After a well-earned victory in which the Three Lions earned yet another three points on their way to qualifying for Euro 2016, there was palpable tension in the locker room. After all, each goal came courtesy of a player who represents one of as many clubs vying for Prem glory—in order on the table: Welbeck, Rooney, Sterling, and Kane. With Rooney having cemented his status and Sterling still a bit out of sorts, it came down to the two North London rivals to sort out their affairs. The ice was already thin, and, ultimately, it came down to the man in the right shade of red to break that ice...

26 March 2015

Eight matches to go. Where does Arsenal stand in the Prem?

We return to a regular column in which we figure out That, and Moe had already killed the original Alfafa. In more-relevant news, the weekend was a tantalizing one in which we very nearly saw Chelsea drop points (thanks for nothing, McGregor…), all but killing off the debate over Arsenal reeling in the Blues, at least for a few weeks. Then again, the symptoms of interlullitis do include delusions of grandeur, so steel yourselves and stock up on vitamins. Everyone else in the top four found ways of winning to varying degrees, leaving the table unchanged until 4 April. Let’s have a look at where things stand, then…

25 March 2015

Prince Podolski and Lord Bendtner remind us of what we're missing...

The interlull is well and truly upon us, and you might therefore be suffering from acute symptoms—withdrawal from meaningful news, propensity to believe transfer-rumours, a pervasive fear that someone will will suffer a life-threatening if not career-ending injury whilst playing out the final minutes of a 13-0 win over San Marino, among others—but interlullitis, for all of its pernicious aches and pains, is not without its potential benefits. For one, we saw our own Mesut Özil elevated to captain of the German squad against the Socceroos. For another, two cult-favorites showed just enough of what they're occasionally capable of to make us perhaps a bit wistful for the salad days. Lukas Podolski netted late on to equalise against Australia, and Lord Bendter notched a hat-trick against your correspondent's home-country in a 3-2 win for Denmark. It's almost enough to make us wish we'd never bid either one farewell...or lebewohl...or farvel...

24 March 2015

Arsenal set to lose mid-field Maestro?

The 34-year old Tomáš Rosický has made just eight starts in all competitions, coming on as a sub some 13 other times, usually in mop-up duty, and so the uncomfortable question nags: what kind of future, if any, does he have with the club? With his contract expiring in 2016, and with a roster chock-full of younger if not hungrier midfielders such as Cazorla, Wilshere, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Alexis, among others, it seems more and more evident that the Little Maestro is seeing the sunset of his career. While he may not have quite reached "legend" status during his time with the club, he's done more than enough to achieve a certain "cult-favorite" status. In either case, however, we might see Rosický "retire" to the United States' MLS—hopefully, in your correspondent's opinion—to the Chicago Fire.

Chicago is, after all, home to the largest concentration of Czechs outside of the Czech Republic itself, and our humble Chicago Fire can boast of one other Czech footballer, Luboš Kubík, who played for the club in the late 1990s. In the case of Rosický, it's probably too much to ask of the man to continue to ride the bench only to come on in the last 15-20 minutes of a match, not to make the most of his own skills and assets necessarily, but to give some other player a rest in match whose outcome appears all but settled.

It's a fine comeuppance indeed for a player variously dubbed Rozza and The Little Maestro to have to settle for such scraps. Not only is he the squad's longest-serving member; he represents the last remaining link to the most-recent era of pure glory in the club's history. Having joined the club in July 2006, he did play alongside none other than Thierry Henry before that legend left for Barcelona. However, Rosický represents far more than that kind of asterisk in Arsenal history. Yes, his is a story of "what might have been" rather than "what was", but injuries have a way of undermining the best-laid plans of mice and men. Had Rosický been fully fit during his time with the club, he might very well have established his bona fides thoroughly enough to claim a place in the pantheon. As it currently stands, however, he might have to settle for that "cult-hero" status.

More's the pity for a player who's delivered more than his share of truly-memorable moments, whether it was a stunning, game-changing goal in a North London Derby, a winner at Anfield in the FA Cup, or any number of other, dramatic, jaw-dropping goals. At the risk of getting a bit overwrought, is there any player in the last decade who has played for Arsenal with the passion or pure joy that Rosický has brought to the pitch? Sure, we've seen a fair-few players kiss the badge or proclaim their fealty, but it would be hard to suggest that any of them meant it at a deeper level than Rosický has.

At his worst, he represents Arsenal at its best: laden with talent, hobbled by injury, but still capable of conjuring moments of breath-taking beauty. Like him, had the club risen to its potential for any sustained period, we would we talking of the man and the club in much-breathier tones.

In a recent interview with the Czech outlet iSport, Rosický flirted with the idea of leaving Arsenal in the January transfer-window and admitted to being open to the possibility of leaving this coming summer—although he sounded more pragmatist than privateer, saying the following:
We talked about [leaving in January] in past meetings in September, October. Then the transfer market closed, I could not do anything. When I did not play a single game in December and the market then opens, it’s obviously a very live issue. Then you start to think about whether it is time to leave. It was no exception for me, it was very vivid.But Arsenal said that I stay and that was it. The rest of the season will go very fast, then we will solve it. Arsenal and me is still an option for next season, they have everything in their hands. When I get back from the national team, we begin to deal with it.
In other words, Rosický has done more than flirt with the idea of leaving; he's actively deliberated and discussed it with Arsène, perhaps coming as close as a Boxing Day goal against QPR from leaving. Had he not appeared, had he not scored, would he have left us in January? There were rumours a-plenty of him joing FC Wolfsburg throughout that window.

We've seen quite a few players play for Arsenal over the last decade or so; it's no hyperbole to suggest that Rosický alone has bled for the badge far more than any other. Should he decide that it's time to retire to MLS, so to speak, yours truly hopes he'll have more than a chance or two at hoisting a pint of Pilsner Urquell.

It's too early to talk of memories, per se, but what's been your favorite Rosický-an moment?

Add your two cents in the comments-section, and don't be afraid of a shout-out via the twitter, reddit, or facebook links below. In any case, thanks for stopping by! 'Til next time...

23 March 2015

One issue's settled: Giroud's the best striker in the Prem. Done. Dusted.

After bagging a brace against Newcastle this weekend, Olivier Giroud has surely laid to rest any arguments about who is the premier goal-scorer in the Prem. Sure, a few others have scored more goals, but before we dive into the statistics, a quick joke is in order:
  • Three hunters go off into the woods to hunt for deer.
  • The first sees a rabbit and fires his rifle but misses by a meter to the left.
  • The second sees a fox and fires his rifle but misses by a meter to the right.
  • The third does some quick calculations, finds the average, and shouts, "we got him!"
So it goes. In other words, I've not invited you here to examine goals-per-minute or chances created. Considering the differing systems our rivals play, and the wide-ranging roles his counterparts occupy, we can't really make a meaningful, direct comparison, at least not based on statistics. Instead, we're here to appreciate the idea that the much-maligned Frenchman may have finally made good on his promise, even if it comes a year later than his schedule, such as it were...