Oh dear. I really thought we had it in the bag with another narrow win when Samir Nasri slotted home about ten minutes from time on Saturday. Courtesy of our persistent inability to close down the opposition and another poor piece of goalkeeping from Manual Almunia the Brummies managed a late equaliser.
Arsčne Wenger also lost the plot in the post-match press conference which was less than dignified. I don’t attach too much criticism to him for that. I certainly lose it from time to time, as do the people with the most sanguine of temperaments. We’re simply going to have to find ourselves a top of the line goalkeeper however. Manuel, nice bloke that he appears to be from all I know, simply isn’t good enough.
We’re really clinging on by our fingernails to any chance of taking the title now. I think that disappears completely if either United or Chelsea take three points from next week’s clash between the two at Old Trafford. A draw in that game is our only chance I believe. Assuming we can beat Wolves at home that would put us a point behind Chelsea and two behind United all having played 33 games. We’d still need United and Chelsea to pick up three less points than us in the remaining five games. Our goal difference is so far behind (thirteen points back from Chelsea and eleven from United) it’s all but impossible for us to catch up now. Doesn’t seem very likely, does it? Still all we can do is try and get back on the horse as quickly as possible. Throwing in the towel should never be an option.
I think we’ve fallen into the trap once again of worrying about the next game rather than the current one. The players appeared less than completely focused. I’m convinced that both Samir Nasri and Andrey Arshavin would have started if we weren’t playing Barcelona on Wednesday. Now we’re going into a crucial Champions League game with our momentum and confidence significantly diminished.
We MUST push all that to one side now though until Thursday morning. We need to focus on Barcelona now. The time for inquests is at the end of the season. With our defensive frailties we need to work hard not to concede a goal to Barcelona at the Grove. The best way to do that for us is to play as much of the game as possible in their half and to guard possession jealously. Inviting them on to us is inviting disaster. As harper – a regular poster to this blog – has correctly observed Barcelona work much harder when they don’t have the ball than we do in closing down and pressing the opposition. We need to do that on Wednesday. Barcelona can be exposed at the back IF we can get at them. Partly it’s a matter of confidence and belief. Partly of tactical discipline. We’ll need both.
I was one of those who was deeply disappointed with our goaless draw at home to Milan a couple of seasons ago. Our visit to the San Siro in the return leg turned out to be one of our great European nights. I think we need at least a 2-0 lead to take to the Nou Camp. A goal over there would mean them having to score four which starts to look realistic. It would also immediately rule out extra time and penalties. Whether we’re capable of not conceding at home is another issue of course. Frankly I doubt it, but you have to believe. We need to do our part and turn the Grove into a cauldron on Wednesday night.
We’ll certainly have good support in the Nou Camp. We’ve sold our entire allocation of 4,600. I only hope that those Gooners who’ll be there (I won’t be one unfortunately. Too skint by half at the moment) have a night to remember for all the right reasons. It looks like Cesc Fàbregas might miss the home leg on Wednesday night due to a knock on the knee picked up on Saturday. Not what we wanted to hear. Let’s hope the injury clears up in time for him to play against his old club.
There’s also some news on the ownership front. Notification was made to the market last Friday that that Stan Kroenke has acquired a further seven Arsenal Holdings shares yesterday at £8,500 a pop, taking him to 18,656 shares in total, just nine short of the thirty percent compulsory bid threshold. I’d guess he’ll get to one share short then stop for a while. I don’t think he wants to find the money for a full bid at the moment.
Forty shares have also changed hands for prices between £9,000-£10,070 in the last two weeks according to the PLUS market. I assume all these shares have been bought by Alisher Usmanov’s Red & White Holdings Ltd as Stan Kroenke has set an effective “ceiling” on what he’ll pay at £8.5 k at the moment. As Usmanov isn’t a director he only has to notify the market every time his holding goes up or down by one percent or more. Because Kroenke is a director he has to notify every movement in his holding no matter how small. That means his holding gets more attention.
Usmanov’s last notification was on 11 December 2009 at which point he was 26.07% or 16,223 shares. On top of the 40 bought in the last two weeks I estimate from the PLUS market trading records that he’s bought another 222. Assuming all these shares have indeed been bought by Usmanov then he’s at around 16,485 or approximately 26.5%, if I’m right he’s put on half a percent in the last three months or so.
Assuming those trades do all belong to Usmanov then we now have 29.9% of our club owned by a company registered in the American state of Delaware (chosen by many companies for its business laws which allow companies registered there to reveal next to nothing), with 26.5% registered in the offshore tax haven of Jersey. A total of 56.4 percent of our club is owned by companies registered overseas or in a tax haven. Great.
All that is for the future however. At the moment let’s concentrate on Wednesday night.
Keep the faith!

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