Oh Gunners… the Future Looks Different This Year…

Arsenal fans needn’t worry about another season of climbing to the top of the Premier League, only to find themselves short of oxygen near the summit — I guarantee you today, folks, the same will not happen this season.

With less than a week to go until the beginning of this year’s league, the big question remains unanswered: will Cesc Fabregas leave Arsenal and join his prior club, Barcelona?  Okay, yes, there are other questions as well, such as Nasri’s destination, and whether or not the gunners will sign new players besides Jenkinsen and Gervinho.  Regardless, at this point in the (pre) season, it looks as though Arsenal will not be a contender for the title.

“Why”, do you ask?  Here are my reasons:

One – Cesc Fabregas.  It is more likely than not that he will leave prior to 31 August, and if he doesn’t, how much effort are we going to see from the Spaniard?  Lord knows he won’t be motivated – he’s made it more than clear that his intention is to join his compadres at Barcelona.  Am I the only one who’s seen this story before? (i.e. Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, and uh… Cesc Fabregas last year)  Furthermore, his fitness level is a big unknown — Arsenal without a healthy Fabregas are slightly better than a mid-table side — on a good day.

Two – Summer transfer window.  Ignoring the whole Fabregas debacle, we’re left with Samir Nasri’s likely departure, and the somewhat-expected lack of summer signings.  The 24-year-old French midfielder is probably to feature for one of the Manchester clubs in the next few weeks, though Chelsea and Inter have also expressed interest.  Gervinho showed promise in the preseason, and the match against Benfica showed a player who is already Arsenal-ready;  his style of play complements that of his teammates – he is lightning-fast, deceptive, and has a good touch on the ball – but he is not enough, especially if Cesc and Samir leave the club.

Three – The competition.  The Manchester boys have spent good, smart money this off-season: City have picked up Kun Aguero — arguably one of the hottest strikers in the game at the moment — to add to their impressive lineup, and United chose to invest in the future, with the signings of de Gea, Ashley Young and Phil Jones.  Pay attention, Mr. Wenger: this is how you build a squad – you add young talent to an experienced base squad of… previous young talent.  I don’t think Chelsea and Spurs will pose a challenge for the title this year, but they sure might cost the gunners some points.

Four – The calendar.  August will make or break Arsenal.  On the 13th, they open the season at Newcastle – you think that 4-4 result last season is still on the minds of Wenger’s boys?  Three days later, on the 16th, they face off against Udinese for the Champions League qualifier.  The Italians are probably weaker than last season after losing Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona, but they will still be a side to be reckoned with this early in the season.  A mere four days after that, on the 20th, they take on a motivated Liverpool side, who ended the season on a high.  On the 24th, they travel to Italy for the 2nd leg of the CL qualifier, and it all comes to a head on the 28th at Old Trafford, versus the defending Champions Manchester United.  I think you can expect a couple of bad results this month, and at least one of Wenger’s goals for the season might be compromised before September comes along.

Five – Arsene Wenger.  I am predicting it now, folks: the Frenchman will not spend Christmas in London – and I am not referring to his vacation plans.  The fans are tired of the same lame excuses, and I think it’s only a matter of time and a few bad results (see Four, above) until the executives feel the same way.  I mean, honestly folks… how many times in August are we gonna hear the following?

– “This team is young, and I feel it will deliver.”

– “We showed good character, but we were unlucky today.”

– “We showed good togetherness and spirit.”

– “The pitch was bad.”

– “The referee was bad.”

– “We were not sharp enough.”

Come Christmas, Arsenal will not be in the top four, and will probably not feature there all season.  So, as I said earlier, there will be no huge letdown at the end, because these gunners simply won’t make it very high to begin with.

And so it begins…

Famous Football Quote of the Day:

“At one point in the match, we felt like we were at the edge of a cliff.  But we managed to do the right thing and stepped forward.”
– João Pinto, former F.C. Porto defender

Related Video: Benfica vs. Arsenal – Eusébio Cup Highlights

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It’s All Fun and Games: MLS All-Stars vs. Manchester United

Your Upper 90 Studios staff had the privilege of attending the football match between the MLS All-Stars and Manchester United this past July 27, 2011, at Red Bull Arena in NJ!

We got 4th-row seats in section 107 behind the MLS All-Star bench, and we had a great time on a night with great atmosphere!

United brought all its stars, though Chicharito was not fit to play (I believe he had been struck in the head in training earlier in the week and there were concerns about his well-being at the time).  On the MLS All Stars side, all but one very important omission:  Landon Donovan, the face of US Soccer.  A bit disappointing, but the game went on to provide us with some great entertainment.

A couple of take-aways from this match:

  • The Red Bull fans are loud!  They provided us with some great entertainment – we were delightfully surprised!
  • Growing up in Lisbon, Portugal, we were regulars at Benfica home games.  Watching Manchester United in person just highlighted for us how impressive these modern players are – everything was magnified in person (vs what you see on television)!  Berbatov is tall, and strong;  Rooney is the hardest-working forward in the business; Phil Jones is deceptively fast!  David Beckham was in another class as compared to some of the other MLS All-Stars;  Henry, however, was disappointing.

Without further ado, here are some of the pics we took.  Just click the image below for the slideshow!  Enjoy!

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