Den and dusted

Adeus Denilson. Ta-da for now (though I am prepared to wager that the ‘for now’ part will become ‘for good’).

Denilson’s departure reminded me that this summer was as much about clearing out some deadwood as it was about bringing in some alivewood [find a new word – Ed]. He’s the first of the exclusive gang to go – though who is in that gang is subjective and ebbs and flows accordingly.

Poor old Denilson was – along perhaps with Bendtner & Almunia, though it wasn’t an exclusive triumvirate – the butt of things last season. Personally, as I have said before, I think Bendtner got it a bit hard. He was shoved on the wing for the most part – nuts really – and his goalscoring ratio was not that bad.

But Denilson, well Denilson was in part a victim of the emergence of the staggeringly good Wilshere and the returning Ramsey. But it was only in part: Denilson was shorn of confidence, while Wilshere brims with it. He was too timid, where Wilshere exudes forward threat. He half-tackled, half-tracked. He just never seemed to do enough. So this loan has hardly slapped us in the face. He played 153 times for Arsenal but his 51 appearances in 2008-9 seem a long time ago now.

So who’s next? We were told pre-Asia that Almunia and Bendtner were negotiating moving-on deals (they’ve clearly been imbued with the same glacial negotiating tactics favoured by the club).

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Eboue go, too (if someone will have him – a foster club?) In a moment of sleeplessness the other night, I tried to name a few starting XIs across the years, and attempted to recall the line-up of the 2006 Champions League final. Eboue was right-back then (no, it didn’t help me get back to sleep). But what is he now? A jobbing fill-in. Sad but true. You can’t push an opponent over in your own box in the 102nd minute of a 90-minute game and carry on as normal. Or can you?

As for the rest, well I can’t see much doing unless we sign a new centre-half. If we do get in Garris Samhill, I can see us ditching a centre-back (even for balsawood Arsenal, five seems a bit greedy). The Squill would be the obvious victim there, though I’m afraid we’ve now entered the realm of pure conjecture.

So anyway, good luck Denilson. I hope you come good. You need to play.

Seaside succour / Silent Stan swoops

Blackpool 1-3 Arsenal

What a day: A hard-fought and much-needed away win at Blackpool gave way to the momentous news that Stan Kroenke is on the verge of an Arsenal takeover. Oh, and somewhere in the mix was a first team return for mad Jens, aged 41 and a bit. Yep, it was quite a day alright.

On the pitch

No complaints from me. If you want to pick holes in our 3-1 win then you could with reason point at our shaky start to both halves, a defence that rode its luck a bit and our profligacy in front of goal, but overall it was a very good win and one with bags of energy and dynamism – just what many of us were looking for as a response. At times in the first half we were quite superb, slicing Blackpool apart time and again. How it was only 2-0 when the whistle below at half time is one of life’s mysteries – at least it would be if it wasn’t Arsenal we were talking about. Time and again we profited from the home side’s kamikaze defending, scoring twice and missing what seems with the blur of time to have been about five one-on-ones.

The goals were scored by two of the founding cast of The Great Maligned, namely Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue. The former had the kind of game he could put on his CV. He drove forward with pace, passed neatly, won the ball well and scored, and he kept it up all game. Why doesn’t he do this more often? Why do you never see baby pigeons? Fair play to him though. I don’t know whether words had been said to some of the players this week, but he certainly was approaching the kind Diaby we read about in the manufacterer’s blurb.

Eboue got a little sloppy in the second half but his goal was a thing of beauty, a neat one-two with Jack Wilshere that led to a hydraulic left foot drive rasper.

Of course, I’m doing things out of order here. The big pre-game news was that Jens Lehmann was in thanks to an Almunia knee injury. For Manuel, it never rains these days – it comes down in buckets. Jens had one hairy moment, which led with some relief to Blackpool’s goal. Had it not done, he might have been facing the ignominy of a red card. Luckily, it never came to that, and otherwise he did remarkably well for a retired goalkeeper. The reception he got at the end from the travelling fans was raucous. “They haven’t forgotten me”, he said afterwards.

At 2-1 prospects did look a bit in the balance – we’re very used to self-narrowing our leads these days – but Walcott crossed one in for the otherwise misfiring van Persie to repair the two-goal cushion and that was that.

It was just the medicine this side needed, and in the time honoured fashion, taking one game at a time, we move on to the next must-win game. As much as it was a big relief, it was also a reminder to me of how my own mood has been affected in recent weeks by our slump in form. Three points can be wonderfully restorative for a fan as much as a team.

Off the pitch

Of course, overshadowing all this, post-match, was the momentous news that Stan Kroenke is on the verge of taking the club over. He’s agreed to buy Fiszman’s and Bracewell-Smith’s shares, taking him to 62% of the club. He is now obliged to make an offer for all the shares.

It really is the end of an era for Arsenal. The dynasties and individuals that have owned or controlled the club for so, so long are finally handing the reins over, and it’s hard to overestimate the significance of that. Not just in historical terms either. Personally, I think the board of old ran the club well, in a hands-off way – a very understated, Arsenal way.

At this stage we have no reason to believe that Kroenke will not do the same. He doesn’t open his trap every weekend and leak to the press, he has no history of whispering in his manager’s ear that he wants this player or that player to play. The board have got to know him, clearly they trust him, and if you had to have your club taken over by anyone, he seems a good fit. More on him and his intentions from the Swiss Rambler here.

I reserve my judgement though, as we all should. It’s a huge step-change for Arsenal. Personally, I would rather Arsenal was not 100% owned by one person. Plurality of ownership guarantees a certain accountability, even if one of those owners is an overseas investor we know even less about. So it will be interesting what Usmanov does, and what Kroenke’s position is with the army of small shareholders – though the Guardian says he was a prime mover in the establishment of Fanshare. Worth keeping a check on the AST for that.

And how is he paying for it? A leveraged buy-out is the last thing this club needs when already saddled with repaying the debt on the stadium. He has no history of doing things this way, but Arsenal is an expensive purchase.

It’s also another club to be controlled by overseas investors. It’s a shame we’re so eager to sell our football clubs lock, stock and barrel, but it’s no use getting misty eyed about local, Arsenal-supporting businessmen getting together to buy the club. Those days are gone. We can lament all we like the lack of full-scale fan ownership – like in Germany or Spain – but we have no history of doing that in England. As I said, I’ll be interested to know how much of the shares he intends to hoover up, what his future approach is to Fanshare, and what his overall plans are.

Questions, questions, questions. Hopefully some of them will be answered over the next few days.

Video: Eboue gives his shirt away

Arsenal 2-0 West Ham

No time for a match report this morning, but I did want to share this with you. I took it yesterday, at the end of the game, just as Eboue was about to do his now customary salute to the fans.

If anyone has been under a rock these last few months and does not realise the incredible turnaround not only in Eboue’s form but also in his relationship with the fans, then watch this. It’s PR genius from Eboue – and note that he ends up giving his shirt to a little boy. Eboue, I salute you – that is class.

Building up a head of steam

Arsenal 3-1 Birmingham City

I suppose football is the popular game that it is partly because, while money, good management and history will always bubble to the top over the course of a season, so much still relies on the vagaries of the human mind.

So it was yesterday. We started the game as we meant to carry on, besieging the Birmingham goal, and once van Persie’s opener had been supplemented by Diaby’s smart finish, the game looked to all intents and purposes to be over.

But one error, and the complexion of a game can change entirely. Having been as comfortable as can possibly be, Arsenal were suddenly only a goal away from dropping two points, and despite creating chances, so long as that was the case, then it promised a nervous ending.

While Birmingham equalising would have been larceny on a grand scale (or should it be Larssony?), the fact is that football is not quite as scientific and predictable as all that.

Fortunately for us, Arshavin did finally put the game to bed with a smart, curved right-foot slot-in, but because we spent 30 minutes with just a slender advantage, yesterday’s game never felt quite as safe as it could have been.

The fact is though, we played well, Mannone’s handling error notwithstanding. It’s hard to pick a single performance out, because it wasn’t that kind of game, but of the less cemented starters, Eboue had a fine game, Diaby looked dangerous and Gibbs assured.

Birmingham were better than I thought they would be. Not up front, where they lacked punch, but generally speaking their work ethic was admirable, they defended and passed pretty well and their heads never dropped.

Of course, we’ve been greatly helped by three of our rivals dropping all or most of their points this weekend. It leaves us in a strong position, but intriguingly, the top of the league is looking really competitive. On current form, there are probably seven sides who think they’ve got a chance of being in the top four come May.

It’s certainly building up nicely for what could be a rumbustious north London derby on Hallowe’en.

Data forget

I know this has little to do with footall per se, but it’s a subject close to my heart. Strolling over the north bridge into the ground yesterday, my cousin took his iPhone from his pocket and stated: “First thing I do when coming here is switch 3G off”. I can’t speak for any other networks, but trying to get a data connection via O2 within gargling shot of the Grove is basically a non-starter. Even switching 3G off – the old fail-safe – makes almost no difference anymore.

But yesterday took things to a new level. Not only was web access almost impossible, but I couldn’t listen to voicemail either, and it was a full hour after the game when I got the rat-tat-tat of text messages that had been sent to me during the game, but which had simply never arrived.

I know I’m not the only one who grumbles about this.

Not very good, is it?

Another week of transfer fluff

Here we are again, another week on, and the transfer market has hardly broken its moorings as yet. Yes, we’ve seen Man Utd buy two players, Liverpool one, but really, you’re left with the suspicion that there’s a lot more to come.

We’ve got the whole of July before the real pre-season stuff begins, and another month after that for transfers to be done, so clearly, these really are the early stages of squad rebuilding.

That Milan would consider giving us Flamini back to smooth a deal for Adebayor, or that any deal for Melo would be contingent on us giving them Eboue in return is testament to the state of the tabloids at the moment. Bottom line: If it’s too good to be true, then it’s not true.

Since I last passed comment, Arsenal have launched yet another strip – this one white and grey in homage to – erm – post-war austerity?

In homage, of course, to the need to make money. Now, if you feel strongly about these things, try Fork Handles’ shirt boycott. I must confess – and it’s been said before – that I don’t mind the blue shirt. I finally saw someone wearing one today when I took one of the miniature RotorGoats for a spin in the park, and it didn’t melt my eyes. I understand that it’s not Arsenal colours and all that but the bottom line is, I suspect, that for all its tradition, yellow shirts do not sell well and more neutral colours do. We all wear blue and white in day-to-day life, but unless we are stuck in a 1985 timewarp, we tend not to wear yellow shirts. So our new away shirts are what they are in order to sell as many as possible.

Since Arsenal don’t give a fig how many shirts we now have, perhaps we should now bring out a fourth shirt – in deference to the position in the league we have made our own?