Tag Archives: wenger

Join Our Fantasy Soccer Mini-League

To Arsene Wenger’s considerable chagrin, the new Premier League season is scheduled tofantasy prem begin on August 8, the earliest kickoff date in more than 15 years. “Moving the fixture calendar forward deeply affects pre-season,” Wenger complained last May. “Where is the time for recovery?”

Wenger’s concerns about insufficient recovery time are perfectly valid: Arsenal attacker Alexis Sanchez, who played for Chile in the Copa America final on July 5, only just returned from what no sane person could possibly describe as a relaxing summer vacation.

But the real victims of the August 8 kickoff aren’t the tired, vacation-deprived players running hills at some training camp in Dubai. They are the legions of virtual coaches – the Singaporean Sir Alex, the Guangzhou Guardiola, the Jose Mourinho of southeastern Kentucky – forced to expedite their intricate preparations for the fast-approaching Fantasy Premier League season. Is it really fair to require coaches to finalize their fantasy lineups, to wager their dignity on the mental strength and physical endurance of 14 well-paid strangers, a full three weeks before the summer transfer window closes? Don’t the Premier League schedule gods understand how long it takes to analyze a color-coded Excel spreadsheet charting the complicated history of Wayne Rooney’s fish-and-chips habit? Doesn’t league executive Richard Scudamore recognize that, faced with a ludicrously tight deadline, even the calmest, most levelheaded fantasists, the Xavis and Iniestas of their chosen vocation, end up foolishly employing ill-advised strategies and misbegotten transfer policies?

Sadly, there’s nothing any of us can do about the soulless machinations of the Greatest League on Earth. So I’d like to cordially invite you all to join the In For The Hat Trick fantasy mini-league on premierleague.com. I’m going to withhold the entrance code for a few more paragraphs, however. You deserve to know what you’re signing up for.

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Why We Should All Cheer for Arsenal

In 2011, midfielder Samir Nasri left Arsenal to join Manchester City, insisting cech arsenalhe wanted to play for a club capable of winning major trophies. Outraged Arsenal fans accused Nasri of selling out, and when City visited The Emirates in November, the home crowd booed Nasri mercilessly. Months later, after City clinched the Premier League title on the final day of the season, Nasri fired back at his critics. “I hope they are watching me now,” he said. “They should celebrate their third-place achievement, and I will focus on winning titles.”

Arsenal has not won the Premier League since 2004, when Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry led the team to an unbeaten campaign. Indeed, before defeating Hull in the 2014 FA Cup final, Arsenal had gone nine seasons without winning a single tournament. Over the years, the club’s long dry spell became a social media touchstone, the easy 140-character punch line to a joke that never seemed to get old. One popular website invited fans to tweet about everything they had accomplished in their personal lives since Arsenal last claimed silverware. Special 1 TV, the satirical talk show hosted by a Jose Mourinho puppet, dedicated numerous episodes to the travails of Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger. When Arsenal finally broke the streak, the real Mourinho, who once called Wenger “a specialist in failure,” responded with his signature brand of sarcastic condescension: “In the last nine years, Arsenal won an FA Cup. That is nice for them.”

Arsenal’s trophy-less run was not just a lesson in sustained athletic humiliation. It was also a graphic demonstration of the changing economics of English soccer. The taunts flying across Twitter, however trivial they seemed, were indications of a profound power shift. The influx of billionaire owners to the Premier League has elevated clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, underperforming minnows for much of their histories, to awesome new heights, often at the expense of less wealthy competitors. Indeed, City’s newfound ability to poach star players has fundamentally destabilized Arsenal’s on-field development: Since 2009, Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure and Bacary Sagna have all left Arsenal for the stadium formerly known as Eastlands. Earlier this month, City was rumored to be monitoring Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere.

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The Real Reason Arsenal Struggles in Europe

Arsenal’s 2-0 win at Monaco wasn’t enough to overcome a 3-1 defeat in the first leg. But arsenal monacoaccording to Arsene Wenger, Monaco didn’t deserve to go through, since the away-goals rule is an outdated relic of the 1960s. “Two Premier League teams have gone out on away goals and that should be questioned,” he said. Because if a rule hurts English teams, it must be a bad rule.

But here’s the thing: Arsenal’s recent Champions League struggles – five Round-of-16 eliminations in a row – have less to do with the away-goals rule than with the team’s inability to play consistently over the course of a two-legged tie. Arsenal has a long history of capitulating in the first leg, only to mount a courageous, but ultimately futile, comeback two weeks later. In 2012, Arsenal lost 4-0 to AC Milan at the San Siro, and then won the return game 3-0. A year later, having lost the first leg 3-1, Arsenal beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in Germany. Indeed, Wenger’s team has lost just one second-leg game since 2011.

“You can’t win a tie in the first leg, but you can lose it,” or so the old cliché goes. Arsenal routinely loses its Champions League knockout ties in the first leg. And Wenger, who’s paid to motivate his players and plan the team’s tactical approach, has no one to blame but himself.

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Arsenal Crisis? It’s That Time of Year

In the weeks leading up to Premier League kick-off, fans know to expect a few things. Newspaper pullouts, gigantic fixture lists and billboard advertisements are all necessary reminders of the approaching excitement, without which we might begin to doubt the once reliable word of the kitchen calendar. But even if Sky suddenly gave up on football montages, we’d know it was August, because now there’s an even surer sign. It’s always exactly this time of year that Arsenal’s off-season rumblings become painfully audible.

Arsene Wenger must be getting a little discouraged. In 2011, he watched Arsenal’s two most dangerous players, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, join rival Champions League teams. And then, earlier this summer, Robin van Persie sensationally refused to sign a new contract.

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