The Biggest Arsenal Event Ever Held in America

Through the tireless efforts of the NYC Arsenal Supporters’ president (and now vice-president of Arsenal America), Kurtis Powers, the biggest Arsenal event ever held in America, in conjunction with Red Bull New York, will take place in NYC on the weekend of September 10-12. The highlight of the weekend will be a trip to Red Bull Arena on Saturday afternoon/evening for an “interactive session” with our all-time leading goalscorer, Thierry Henry, following Red Bull New York’s match with the Colorado Rapids.

From NYCAS: “We will have our own section for this match on the lower level. More importantly, when the match ends, they will clear the stadium, except for us, and will allow us a one on one Question and Answer session with the Arsenal legend. We are the first supporters’ group, or any group for that matter (not even Red Bulls fans have gotten this opportunity), that have access to Henry in this capacity. We will have the stadium and Henry all to ourselves! This is sure to be a classic.”

Also, everyone attending the match will be given a free raffle ticket as Red Bull New York have generously donated a number of Henry-signed shirts and footballs to give away to us.

Some other activties are being planned as well including a Gooner meet-and-greet on the Friday evening followed by the Arsenal-Bolton match on Saturday morning at our new pub headquarters, The Blind Pig, in Manhattan. The Red Bull match is at 4pm and the “interactive session” with Henry will begin about 7pm. There is also a football event being planned for the next Sunday morning.

Any Gooner from anywhere is welcome to come and enjoy this special weekend with us. Because tickets are being secured at a group rate, we must have a full count before the club determines the final ticket price, which will be between $25 and $50. Once we have the final ticket count, the club will note the price and an e-mail will be sent with the ticket cost and payment processing information. All ticket monies must be paid via PayPal though there is a 4.5% fee.

If you are certain you would like to attend the match and session with Henry, please send an email including your name, email address, and the number of tickets you would like to NewYorkRoadTrip@arsenalamerica.com. For further updates, join the group’s Facebook page. Even if you are not attending the match, you are more than welcome to come out to the other events of the weekend with your fellow Gooners. Up the Arsenal!!!

To My Fellow Arsenal Supporters: Don’t Fall For Their Tricks

Since Arsenal Station’s return from summer hiatus, I have tried to avoid commenting on the whole Cesc/Barca soap opera that developed both before and all through the World Cup. However, I can no longer remain silent on this farcical affair. It is clear that there is much more to Barcelona’s actions, intentions, and motivations than simply acquiring Cesc as a player, and that is what I’d like to discuss. I’d like to beg my readers’ forgiveness ahead of time for the length of this post but it has been building up all summer and I’d rather just spew it now than let it drag on and on. Anyway, here we go…

I don’t think many, except delusional Barca fans, would deny that what has been going on since June is a systematic media campaign by Barcelona involving both their front office and players. It is a media campaign that would make any P.R. firm on Madison Avenue proud. To me, it seems that Barcelona has three objectives in mind:

1) They are trying to turn Arsenal supporters against Cesc.

2) They are trying to get Cesc to hand in a transfer request and thereby get him for far less than he’s worth.

3) The new regime is trying to placate their own supporters.

Don’t let #1 happen. Don’t let the machinations of a club with no integrity or self-respect turn us against our captain, the player they more than willingly let go and whom we have been supporting unfailingly since he was 16 years old. Now, I realize that Cesc has not come out in the media to make his usual statements, or at least not for some time. One can only imagine how confusing this all must be to Cesc himself.

Like everyone else, I wish he had just stated his desire to remain at the club right off the bat. That didn’t happen. And no one can fault him for considering his options. However, his delay now appears to be the prudent thing to have done as the situation at Barcelona has become clearer in the past few weeks.

Both Barcelona’s management and players know the supporter’s attachment to Cesc and his attachment to us. It is a special relationship borne by supporting a young player and watching that support pay off as he turns into one of the world’s best players. This is evidenced by recent quotes from Iniesta. A key to getting Cesc to leave Arsenal without consideration is to destroy the relationship between the player and supporters.

On one side, there is the club and fans who have been nothing but loyal and honest with him. On the other side, is his boyhood club, to which he’d eventually like to return, whose players are constantly saying how much they want him, but the real noise from the club is that they “won’t go crazy” to sign him. And, now, to further complicate matters for Cesc, the club’s very bleak financial situation has come to light.

Back when the shirt didn't have to be forced on him.

Apparently, the Barca players want Cesc more than the club does. If I was Cesc, I would be insulted at Barcelona’s pitiful valuation of him, especially considering they spent more than that on David Villa despite having already spent even more than that to bring in Ibrahimovic the previous summer. What does all this mean?

It means they are hoping for #2. The media campaign is also aimed at getting Cesc to turn in a transfer request so the club would be forced to sell him for whatever Barcelona offers. There is no doubt that many in Spain are dumbfounded that he has not done this yet.

Luckily for us, however, Cesc seems to have stalled when it comes to this option. I imagine that Wenger told Cesc that it is one thing to move from the club, but it is another thing to leave in a manner which means the club, which turned him into the footballer he is today, is not fully compensated. It appears that Cesc wants to move but he does not want Arsenal to get shortchanged in the process.

More funnily, Barcelona claims that “Arsenal won’t negotiate.” But who can blame them? Here we have a club that has not yet finished paying for previous transfers from Arsenal and whose financial woes are all over the papers and internet. The main fact that dominates this entire campaign by Barcelona for Cesc is this:

Barcelona neither need nor are able to afford Cesc Fabregas.

That is it. That is what it comes down to. Obviously, the World Cup had given Cesc a bit of pause as he sat on the bench behind Barca’s midfield. Then, as soon as the World Cup is over, it is revealed that Barcelona lost £64m last season, are carrying a debt bigger than Arsenal, and were forced to take a loan of €155m just to pay their players and staff last month. (See Tony Atwood’s fantastic post on Barcelona, and other club’s, precarious situation).

Transfer fees are not paid up front, but over a period of time in installments, usually. With Barcelona already in the red, and them continuing to sign big-money transfers on big-money wages, their financial situation is not likely to improve any time soon without some kind of fire sale. Why wouldn’t Arsenal be wary of making a big-money transfer with a club who doesn’t look likely to be able to pay it?

Barcelona is not some footballing monolith, as they would have the world believe. It wasn’t very long ago when Barcelona had gone twice as long without a trophy as Arsenal have now. And that was when the club wasn’t in the precarious financial state they now find themselves in and which could cause them to repeat such a run. Because no matter all the talk about Barca’s youth system, they have always spent big money bringing in big players.

And all this above is only focusing on the media campaign and not the questionable legality of Barca’s behind-the-scenes tapping-up. Multiple sources have confirmed that Barcelona has contacted Cesc without Arsenal’s approval. That much is obvious. That FIFA knows something is wrong was evidenced last week when FIFA.com carried a story with quotes about Cesc from Barcelona players only to pull it from the website a few hours later when their error (complicity?) was pointed out to them.

The most disappointing part of the whole thing is that after last summer, Cesc came back as captain with a seemingly renewed sense of dedication to the club and the cause. However, quite justifiably, the disappointing tie with Barcelona and subsequent finish to the league season, likely caused a bit of reflection. Then comes the Barcelona media barrage and probably non-stop “harassment” during the World Cup only to further exacerbate the situation.

Also, don’t let the Barcelona management fool you, the new regime knew exactly where the club was financially when they took over. It doesn’t take financial geniuses to see the club is spending far more than it makes. Certainly, they hoped their financial situation would remain hidden so as not to reveal their motives for making Cesc hand in a transfer request.

Barca completely expected to end this media campaign with the upper hand. Instead, they have insulted and alienated Arsenal, shown their true character and undervaluation of the player, and also had their financial difficulties made public partly as a result. Their entire plan has backfired and their final hope rests on turning us, the supporters, against the player in order to make it easier for him to force the club to let him go on the cheap.

Nevertheless, if Cesc really was determined to go to Barcelona this summer, he could have handed in the transfer request or told Arsene to make the deal. This does not appear to be the case and so, just as we urge the club not to be swayed or affected by the ramblings of the self-important Catalonians, neither should we, the supporters. It is, after all, like Arsene said, “just noise.”

The Questions That Nag Me As An Arsenal Supporter

With the silence of Arsenal transfers growing to deafening proportions, I find myself being nagged by numerous questions as the Emirates Cup and the Premier League season proper grow nearer with each breath. I long ago ceased being one of those supporters infatuated and enthralled by every summer transfer rumor no matter how ridiculous. What does that leave for a supporter like me to do during the summer, then? Well, this summer, like many I assume, I am mostly just worrying about the following questions:

1. Where’s the defence?

This question is not number one by random. One cannot help but wonder how it is already almost the beginning of August and Vermaelen has no partner in the center. For me, the thing that separated us from United and Chelsea last season, and for the last couple of years, is both are much stronger defensively than we are and concede far less goals than we do. Even considering that we conceded a bunch of goals last season late in games when we were leading by 2, 3, or 4 goals, we continue to allow alarmingly soft goals far too regularly. Even bringing in a new signing will mean time for a true partnership to develop. Koscielny is not the answer. I can’t believe that the Boss has bought him thinking he will play regularly this season. I am willing to wait and see with Koscielny but close your eyes and picture him up against Drogba… What do you see? Scary, innit? Djourou is the in-house option, but, after almost an entire year off the pitch, who knows how he will return or how well he will partner with Vermaelen.

2. Who’s the keeper?

Almunia appears to be on the outs and Fabianski has turned into our very own version of David James. Szczesny has a lot of potential and performed well on-loan last season but is he ready to be the number one at a club challenging for the Premier League? I don’t think so. Arsene obviously realizes the problem as he had made numerous attempts to pry Schwarzer from Fulham, but, at 37, Arsene would only be using him as a stop-gap solution until either Fabianski or Szczesny are ready? We could not win the Premier League with a keeper of Almunia’s quality and neither Fabianski or Szczesny are much better, at this point. This question could almost bundle up with #1. Since Lehmann left, we have not had a real physical presence in goal and the same goes for the central defense. Weaker teams have targeted our weaknesses here and have been successful enough to keep us from winning anything.

3. Even if Cesc stays, will his heart be in it?

I read alot of people saying, “I hope we get at least one more year out of him.” And, don’t get me wrong, I want Cesc to stay as much as anyone. But, there can be no doubt that if he does stay, Barca will only ramp up their player-driven, management-sponsored media campaign next summer. If Cesc comes back knowing he will leave the following summer, how will that affect his performances? It’s especially disappointing as just one year ago, Cesc came back from the summer break rejuvenated in his desire to win something for the club and turned in an almost-heroic season as captain, i.e. winning the crucial Villa match single-handedly as an already injured substitute. Fast-forward 12 months and it appears his attitude and commitment have changed. Now, I know Cesc is never one to just play on auto-pilot, but how will it affect the team as well knowing that their captain, and what Americans call a “franchise player,” is likely to leave at the end of the season?

4. Will Ramsey suffer from “Eduardo Syndrome?”

In the long-run, this question is probably even more worrisome than the previous question. When Cesc leaves, his job would likely fall to Nasri and/or Ramsey. Or should I say “would have fallen?” Will Ramsey come back without the reticence that seemed to plague Eduardo upon his return? Even worse, will he be subject to the same little niggling injuries that are unrelated to the break but inevitable after such a long lay-off? Personally, I believe that Ramsey’s youth will be on his side. I think it is easier for a younger player to return from an injury like that without the mental and physical baggage that accumulated in Eduardo. But, we cannot know for sure yet, and it likely will remain a viable question until a few months into the season.

5. Is Arsene ready to give Wilshere and Vela the minutes they need to develop and contribute?

Arsene’s reluctance to let Wilshere go back to Bolton is a good sign that Wilshere may finally get a run of real league minutes. One can only hope the same is in store for Carlos Vela. Vela played a full season as a regular starter in La Liga and turned in some promising (and some absolutely stunning) performances in his first Carling Cup matches. But his League starts have been few and far between (3 out of 25 appearances). For me, Vela is just as promising a player as Wilhsere but he needs minutes. It is the only way for him to realize his potential. Obviously, his forays with the Mexican National Team have not helped his situation at the club, but I believe underusing him or, even worse, eventually losing him due to underuse, will prove to be highly regrettable a few years on.

6. Is this team really capable of winning the league?

No. The team we have RIGHT NOW, with only 3 CBs and no real keeper, likely cannot win the league. If Arsene adds the CB and keeper we desperately need, then a re-assessment would be in order. With even just a solid keeper and CB added, I believe we will once-again be in the mix come March. Just as big a factor in our potential title chances, will be injuries. I firmly believe that if van Persie had not been injured on international duty last season we could have carried our challenge even further and perhaps to a different conclusion. But, the injuries have plagued us for years now and I don’t see any reason to believe that things will be different this year. However, should it all come together and we actually get through a campaign without any long-term injuries to key players, this could also put us in a position to make a push for the title. In other words, at the moment, it appears that the stars will need to align just right, if we are to carry a title challenge to fruition this season.

There is also a sense that we are playing on borrowed time before another £250m buys City a League title and more profligate billionaires invade the game. I have always been a staunch supporter of Wenger and his youth and transfer policies. However, the dynamic of the league and football in general have changed significantly in the four or five years of Wenger’s youth project. I don’t see how, with other sides continuing to spend, we will be able to continue to compete as we have without making some changes to our approach. I firmly believe that if Arsene and the Board would only loosen their grip on the purse-strings a little bit, we could make the push that we need. When you take the amount Arsenal have spent on transfers in the last 5 years and subtract their sales of players, we are over £30m in the black. Surely, a real title challenge is worth spending £30-40m in a summer when your club has two glaring deficiencies. For once, I would love to see a little aggression (but not Barca-style aggression) in the transfer market. We should recognize that Chelsea and City have created a dynamic in the last five years which means spending is no longer just important but necessary to maintain and improve our chances. Why not spend he £25-30m it would take to bring in, say, Mertesacker and Akinfeev, two proven players in positions which need filling?

Overall, I am hopeful but cautious about the upcoming season.