Meet the Gooners, 1

If you're fancying joining me in watching the Arsenal-Bolton game this Wednesday on Fox Soccer Channel, here's a primer as to the majesty you'll be witnessing :- )

I only ever watched hockey during one era -- the Gretzky Oilers, with Jari Kurri, Mark Messier & the crowd.  Arsenal has a similar juggernaut of goal-scoring going on this season, with scores coming from all over the pitch.  It's a little like the Magic Johnson Lakers showtime at the Emirates Stadium these days.

Even better, Arsenal is probably the world's top ball-control team, so their passing and playmaking is coherent and fun to watch for an unseasoned Yank.  In a Bolton game at the Emirates, you can probably expect to see eight "touchdown drives" of which three or four will hit the back of the net.


A recent issue of 4-4-2 Magazine credited Arsenal with six of the world's top 100 players -- amazing considering that in Europe alone, there are 60 or 80 serious premier division teams playing from one country to the next.  And that doesn't count South America.

I challenged an English friend of mine, a soccer fanatic, to name these six players.  He guessed 10 or 12, including Nasri, Rosicky and Vermaelen, before hitting the last ones (Gallas and Eduardo).  You can imagine a Yankee fan doing the same thing -- Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal's filthy-rich franchises have more stars than the Yankees do.


Cesc Fabregas is Arsenal's playmaking midfielder, ranked 8th to 18th in the world among individual players coming into the season.

There are several kinds of midfielders.  A holding midfielder is like a 5th defender -- comparable to a strong safety in football.  When the Wanderers come on the attack and Arsenal takes the ball away at their own 30-yard line, it will likely be their holding midfielder Alex Song who does this (although Song is absent for this game and Abou Diaby plays the role right now).

Attacking midfielders, like Liverpool's superstar Englishman Steven Gerrard, are there almost as much to shoot as anything else, though of course they can pass also.


Fabregas is a pure "playmaking" midfielder, a wizard with the field vision and touch through a crowd.  He's the Premier League's version of Peyton Manning, although Chelsea fans would argue Frank Lampard for that distinction...

Playmakers like Fabregas and Lampard will perform miracles of passing on a nightly basis.

These guys can literally hit 3x3 foot targets from 30, 40 yards away, with their feet -- and they do it one-touch, without setting their feet.  They do it without looking.  They thread the ball through four defenders to hit one attacker.  They delicately loft the ball over defenders to do it.  The best of them are inhuman.

Often the midfielder launches a 25-yard pass just over the heads of the defenders to a streaking winger -- soccer's version of the fly pattern in the NFL.  Fabregas is unsurpassed in this area of the game.

Cesc has netted 10 goals also in 21 games, more than most strikers in the EPL.  (If a player is personally getting 1 goal every 2 games -- 20 in the 38-game league -- he's a superstar scorer.)  This is as if Peyton Manning rushed for 1,200 yards, or Steve Nash scored 26 points per game.  Right now Fabregas is moving from 10th-20th player in the world to serious candidate for Footballer of the Year (worldwide).


Part 2



Arsenal is such a fun club to watch.  My son has a closet full of Henri jerseys.
Fabergas grew up in the Barcelona system and was best friends forever with Messi.  Those two on the same team would be an incredibel spectacle.
My son absolutey loves Arsenal and was stoked to see you right about soccer Doc. 


We'll probly do some Arsenal stuff off and on during this treble season :- )
Pretty incredible spectacle in Barcelona already, eh?  4-4-2 had them with like 12 of the world's top 100...

OBF's picture

Interesting that Bolton quickly streaked out to the 2-0 lead, and then Arsenal finally woke up.  I see this happen a lot with teams who are heavily favored at home, they come out sluggish, and expecting t win *like the Chargers last Sunday against the Jets) and sometimes it can really bite the home team in the butt.
Luckily Arsenal snapped out of it and then preceeded to squash Bolton like a little big ;)
I didn't get to actually see the game is there a place online to see highlights?

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.